Nokia’s hardware division may have been sold to Microsoft, but it seems the Finnish company’s spun-off technologies group isn’t done with the mobile space. Today they’re announcing their first new project since the acquisition closed, a homescreen launcher for Android phones called Z Launcher.
The team is pitching it as “the fastest way to access everything on your phone”. Similar to third-party launchers like Cover, which was recently acquired by Twitter, Z Launcher rethinks the Android home screenby showing contextually-relevant app shortcuts instead of a static grid of icons.
Across the top of the screen are the time, date and one upcoming calendar event -- which can be tapped to launch their respective default app -- while your phone’s standard row of apps stay the same on the bottom.
The rest of the screen is occupied by a list of shortcuts to frequently used apps, contacts and websites. The promise is that Z Launcher will will learn your preferences over time and show the content you’re most likely to use based on time of day, location or who you’ve been talking to.
The app is constantly learning and evolving based on your usage patterns. For all other apps not shown on this list, Z Launcher supports swipe-based character recognition, so you can scribble an ’S’ with your finger and shortcuts to installed apps like Spotify, Skype, SoundHound and others will show up. You can jot one or more letters together to find what you’re looking for.
Z Launcher is still in a "pre-beta”phase and will be scaling gradually. Brook Eaton, the lead product manager of Nokia's emerging platforms group, told The Verge they want to get the product out there and learn from user feedback. Moreover, he says this will hopefully be just the first of many new consumer-facing projects from Nokia.