For as long as I’ve used Android, I’ve used third party launchers. From Nova to Apex to Aviate to Google’s own Now Launcher. My little geeky heart loved the process of trying new launchers, customizing them, changing fonts, icons, layouts, widgets, etc. The screenshots of some of my oldest setups still live on Dropbox (automatic photo backups FTW!).
But as I grow older, I want the launcher to be a place from where I, you know, launch stuff. Apps, actions, anything. It’s not a thing I want to stare at to admire or figure out where I want go next. This why I love SpringBoard on iOS (yes, I own an iPhone as well, we dual users do exist).
Another thing I love in iOS is the Spotlight search. It’s a pulldown gesture away and lets me search through more than 100 apps on my phone, email, songs and a lot more. This means I don’t need to arrange things just so. Searching in Spotlight will do the trick. And because it’s fast, it’s not frustrating.
How does all this tie into why you should be using the Z Launcher? Patience, grasshopper. Actually, on second thought, no. Let’s do this fast, like Z Launcher.
If you’ve not heard about Nokia’s Z Launcher, here’s the pitch. It’s a contextually aware launcher that has only one screen and doesn’t support widgets (Blasphemy, I hear you scream, but hold on).
Z Launcher’s deal is that it lets you scribble letters on your screen and from that, searches your phone for related stuff. This can be apps, contacts, or a place you once visited.
The Android snob in me (we can’t really outgrow that guy) wants to point out that this thing was possible since at least 2010 with Google’s own Gesture Search app. I used the app at that time and frankly, it sucked. It just converted your gestures to text and put it through Google Search, that’s it. Z Launcher is much better.
Because it’s fast and accurate. Say I want to call my friend Joe, a totally real person whom I talk to all the time. I scribble “J” on the screen and up comes his phone number that I can tap to call. Unfortunately there’s no text option yet. But you do get a Contacts entry.
More often than not, Z Launcher works. I don’t need to scribble more than 2-3 letters to get to where I need to go. Swipe to the right is Space and swipe to the left is Backspace.
And Z Launcher’s screen defaults to some combination of your most used and recent searches. So if you open Facebook or WhatsApp a lot, it will likely be on that list. It’s same for contacts. You’ll find your inner circle in there somewhere.
It’s Limited, But That’s Good
Z Launcher is really limited. There is only one screen, there are no widgets, the only gesture is the one that lets you scribble letters and the list populated by Z Launcher is not scrollable. So at any given time you’re limited to 5 results. This non-scrolling thing showcases Nokia’s confidence on delivering the correct results and its commitment to simplicity.
The Android snob in me thinks that this is also Z Launcher’s biggest downside. Why can’t it do more? Why can’t I have an option to WhatsApp a contact, maybe using a special operator or a special gesture prefix?
But then I remember that’s not what this app is made for.
Use Z Launcher To Get Things Done
You’re using your Android phone to get things done. The “thing” can be trolling your friends on WhatsApp groups, posting selfies to Instagram, scheduling tasks for the day or clearing out your overflowing inbox.
A note about the gestures: You need to make them big. While Z Launcher is pretty good at distingushing 2 from a K and I from 1, it helps when you’re drawing large gestures (this is especially true when you’re talking about lowercase letters). The rule is that if you can clearly make out the letter on screen, so can Z Launcher. Now let’s just hope your scribblings are not as bad as your handwriting.
Use Z Launcher to quickly launch apps instead of wandering aimlessly through the app drawer. To quickly call people instead of scrolling through the Recent tab in dialer app.
If You’re The Uber Organized Kind, Z Launcher Might Not Be For You
If you’re one of those people who has Nova Launcher set up in an 8 by 8 grid, showing all your most useful apps, with widgets for your most frequent contacts, Z Launcher might actually feel like more work for you.
Z Launcher is for the rest of us. The ones who don’t really use widgets. Ones who don’t have apps sorted by folders.
Z Launcher will help the lazy and unorganized get better at using their Android phone.
Is It For You?
Have you tried Z Launcher yet? Did you like it? Was it helpful or did it feel slow compared to your current setup? Let us know in the comments below.