Last spring saw Facebook release its Facebook Home for Android, an alternate launcher that placed the company’s social interactions at the core of a user’s smartphone experience. Quite ambitious, Home ultimately failed to convince a lot of people to replace their default launchers, and the Home-running HTC First similarly struggled to find an audience. In spite of those failures, we just couldn’t shake the idea: were alternate launchers about to spread beyond the circles of ROM hackers and serious Android tinkerers, and start arriving from major commercial names? Not a ton of progress has been made over the course of the past year, but today a surprising new development is unfurling, as Nokia reveals its own Z Launcher.
But Microsoft! Windows Phone! What’s with more Android from Nokia, especially now that the deal is done? Z Launcher comes from one of those Nokia arms that didn’t get bundled-up in Microsoft’s acquisition, Nokia’s technologies group.
The core functionality of Z Launcher is about cutting through all the crap on your phone to give you a clear, short list of relevant apps, contacts, and reminders, all right on your home screen. The list will be contextually aware, changing based on your activities as well as things like the time of day, and is supposed to get better about predicting your needs over time.
For getting to apps and people that don’t make that short list, Z Launcher integrates some basic handwriting recognition – simply trace the first letter or two of what you’re looking for on the screen, and Z Launcher will pull up a list of matching results. Draw an “S,” tap “Spotify,” and you’re set.
Nokia is releasing Z Launcher today as a “pre-beta” (so… alpha?) supporting “newer model top selling phones” on Android 4.1 or later. Availability is limited, and spots are filling up quickly, so if you’re curious to see what Nokia’s managed to assemble here, you’ll want to visit the Z Launcher page from your phone to get a download link while they’re still available.
We’re already putting together our own hands-on video look at Z Launcher for you; check back for that a little later on today.
Via: The Verge