Nokia's Z Launcher is a launcher with a purpose. Unlike most launchers, its mission is solely focused on making your Android device faster and easier to use, rather than just giving it a fancy new look.
Z Launcher's two main selling points are its intelligent predictive usage technology, which brings the apps and tasks you use most at the forefront of your device; and its Scribble feature, which lets you get to apps, web sites, searches, and contacts in seconds.
What makes Z Launcher special?
Z Launcher learns how you use your phone, and changes the layout of the operating system accordingly. It recognizes what you do most often with your phone at different times of the day, and displays these in a list of options on the home screen.
So say, for example, you normally use social media apps during the morning, Z Launcher might display shortcuts to the Facebook and Twitter apps as one of the six featured options on the home screen. If in the evenings you take a lot of photos or you always call your Mom, Z Launcher could change these links to shortcuts to Instagram and 'Call Mom'. It's an intelligent bit of tech that seems to work well. The more you use your device with Z Launcher installed, the more helpful its recommendations become.
The Scribble feature makes finding stuff on your phone much easier. You simply draw letters on the screen and as you spell out the word or words you'll get suggestions of apps, web searches, contacts, etc. in real time. This is great for finding apps, though the web search predictions that come up aren't always useful.
I had very few character recognition problems when drawing letters with Z Launcher, and it's easy to delete a letter with a simple left swipe.
A new home for your phone
Z Launcher redesigns your Android front-end in a complete and innovative way. Instead of having multiple home screens full of icons, there's only one. The list of most-used apps, searches, contacts, etc. takes up the majority of the screen space, then there's a five-icon dock at the foot of the screen. The central icon opens the apps drawer, and the other four are linked to apps. These apps are chosen automatically and you have no control over what appears in the dock.
The app drawer in Z Launcher is less of a drawer and more of a list, displaying a alphabetical run-down of all the applications you have installed. If you have a lot of apps installed this can be cumbersome, especially since the letter scribbling function doesn't work in the app drawer.
For better or worse, there's no widget support in Nokia Z Launcher. The closest thing you get is an elegant slideable bar at the top of the home screen that shows you at-a-glance the time and date, calendar entries, and latest weather based on your current location. Unfortunately these can't be customized or tied to specific apps or services (i.e. the Clock and Calendar and tied to the default Google apps, and the Weather is run through Nokia's service).
Perfect for some, frustrating for others
Customization is almost non-existent in Nokia Z Launcher. There are no themes, you can't set which apps appear as icons, and you can't change the behavior of the home screen.
If you can live with that without getting frustrated then Z Launcher is well worth trying out since it offers an innovative new way to use your phone. It could be great for seniors or less tech savvy users since it keeps everything dead simple.