You may recall back when Nokia was acquired by Microsoft, a lot of disappointed faces ensued. Some of them were (still are) working for Nokia. The team that was not acquired by Microsoft was Nokia’s technologies group. They have helped Nokia with numerous software and hardware updates, but until now, they did not have anything to call their own. Before we get to that, we must remind you that there are tonnes of launchers out there for Android, Google’s Now, Buzz Launcher, Terrain Home, so on and so forth. It comes as a complete surprise that the name Nokia would venture so directly into Android territory. Nokia technologies have released the Z Launcher for Android. It has elements of their once promising, now 10 year old 7710 phone, it has elements of Maemo and Meego, yet it maintains its own identity
At first launch, the Z launcher gives you a tutorial/walkthrough of all you can do. As with all good ideas, the Z Launcher keeps it simple. The wallpaper stays the same as the one you had on your default launcher (Google Now, in the test case) and it retains your icon placement in the launch bar. The rest, is different, but not intrusive.
The launcher checks your call history and your most frequently used apps to populate a quick launch list. The best part is that the launcher learns over time to show an increasingly accurate quick launch list. It goes a step further and learns your preferences by time of the day. I.e: You will have a different quick launch during office hours and a separate one during off-time.
Your reflex will be to swipe at the screen to see what else it can do, only to find that a line is drawn where you swiped. This is where the Z launcher went off the reserve. You can access almost any feature of your phone, by hand writing an alphabet of either an app, or a contact, or an email address, just about anything.
This was a touch confusing at first, because of long persistent swiping habits. Once you overcome those, you will notice that this is actually very well done. You write a letter and the launcher searches the phone for anything that matches, the more letters you add, the more specific it gets. It’s like Google’s predictive search.
The character recognition was pretty spot on. You can write multiple letters in one go, or you can write letter by letter, in case you want to refine your search. Pressing back will take you to the original quick launch options and you can search anew if need be. If you want to manually scroll through your apps, simply press the menu button and you will be taken to a Windows Phone like alphabetized app list.
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This is definitely a fresh approach to launchers. There is tremendous promise in the idea that a launcher learns from you while enabling quick access with but a gesture. At first it seems inefficient, but once you get over the initial hump, you can appreciate the idea for how unique it is. We are now very interested in what else Nokia Technologies have planned. I personally enjoy this non-pro-windows phone approach that they’re taking, they have some seriously good ideas. The Z Launcher is still in beta phases, it is not yet perfected (e.g: try writing C and L together) but it is said to be on its way to completion.
Get Z Launcher (G+ Sign up required)