After selling off its unprofitable smartphone business to Microsoft, the last thing we would have expected from Nokia was a homescreen launcher app for Android. But with Z Launcher, a launcher app is exactly what the Finnish company has launched (no pun intended), as a “more intelligent and personal mobile experience that’s better suited for real life.”
Sound familiar? Like Aviate, or the more recent Terrain Home launcher from a Samsung-backed startup, Z Launcher aims to quickly let you access what you’re looking for, though Nokia is focusing mainly on apps and contacts. The default homescreen in Z Launcher is simply a list of app names and their icons, with a clock and calendar widget on top and a standard shortcuts dock at the bottom.
By learning your usage patterns, the launcher will try to detect what apps or contacts you might want to access at a particular moment, and present them on the screen. While that feature is enough to warrant the existence of Z Launcher (hey, just because Aviate is already there doesn’t mean we will say no to an alternative), Nokia has gone a step further by adding support for gestures.
By simply drawing out the first letter of an app you are looking for on the screen, Z Launcher will bring up a list of apps starting with that letter. This should be rather useful, as you won’t have to scroll through your installed apps list as you would do on standard launchers, theoretically saving you some time in your day-to-day smartphone usage.
Z Launcher doesn’t support widgets at the moment, but that probably isn’t surprising considering the app is in pre-beta right now. To download it, you will need to open the Z Launcher website on your phone and then tap the Download button to grab the APK.
Access to the pre-beta is limited, so if you can’t get in, you can download the APK from this link. It’s optimized for the Nexus 5, Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Moto X, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z1, and needs Android 4.1 and above, though rooted devices aren’t welcome at the moment.