Microsoft may have acquired Nokia‘s handset business, but a special technologies group which runs separately from the phone business has been developing a homescreen launcher for Android phones. The Z Launcher as it is called, is currently available in a limited pre-beta release.
As you know, Nokia’s handset portfolio has been primarily Windows Phone-based, and a handful being on the Asha platform. Nokia of course did roll out Nokia X, it’s customised, Android-based platform targeted at the entry-level smartphone market.
So why an Android launcher you ask?
Because Nokia thinks that the smartphone experience should be more personalised, more intelligent and more contextual. In short, it wants your smartphone to actually be useful for real life.
The Z Launcher seems to be somewhat inspired by Nokia’s own Asha platform where its quick-access Fastlane homescreen intelligently remembers all your recent activity. From most used apps to favourite contacts, recent pictures and text messages.
Z Launcher works pretty much on a similar basis. Based on how you use your phone throughout the day, the launcher dynamically changes your homescreen to present most frequent apps, contacts and websites that you access. And it gets better at it as you go.
That’s not all. Instead of infinitely scrolling, swiping to look for your apps, the Z Launcher introduces a feature called Scribble. It works just like its namesake. You draw or ‘scribble’ the first letter of what you’re looking for right on your screen and Z Launcher will present the results to you instanteously. Less tapping, quicker access.
While the system supports more than one letter for Scribble, it works best with single letters.
So how do you get Z Launcher?
The launcher is currently in limited pre-beta release, so head to the Z Launcher website, sign in with Google+ and follow the instructions. You’ll need allow non-Google Play apps to be installed on your device. Once downloaded to your phone, you can simply click and install the .apk file.
Z Launcher is currently optimised for Samsung GALAXY S3, S4, S5 and Nexus 5 running Android 4.1 or higher. The launcher is not optimised for tablet usage.
I’ve got it installed on a GALAXY S5 and it’s working quite well so far. Go try it out and tell me what you think.