Install and navigate the Nokia Z Launcher for Android

Nokia has released its first custom launcher for Android devices, complete with a unique 'Scribble' feature.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

Jason Cipriani/CNET

On Wednesday Nokia announced the limited release of an Android launcher called Z Launcher (yes, you read that right).

For those unfamiliar with launchers on Android: a launcher takes over your home screen and app grid, providing a customized experience beyond that of what the device manufacturer pre-installed on your device.

Nokia's new launcher is designed to minimize the clutter and random app shortcuts on your home screen, providing you with the exact apps and contacts you need, when you need them.

By learning your habits and other indicators such as location, time of day, and what you're doing, Z Launcher will constantly evolve and customize itself to better fit your needs.

At least, that's how it's going to work once it's finished. Right now, it's in a "limited number of downloads" or what the company calls a "pre-beta."

There's no clear indication on how many downloads are going to be allowed, so if you're on the fence about trying it, I suggest downloading it right now.

Nokia Z Launcher on Android (photos)

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There's a few things you'll need to do in order to get the app installed on your Android device. The first is ensure your device is supported. The current list of devices the app is optimized for includes the Nexus 5; Galaxy S5, S4, and S3; Moto X; HTC One; and Sony Xperia Z1.

Keep in mind, the keyword here is optimize; meaning it may very well work on other devices, but then again, it may not.

After you've done that, head on over the the Z Launcher website from your Android device to download the app. If this is the first time you've installed an app outside of the Play Store, you'll need to enable installing apps from Unknown Sources. We have a guide to walk you through how to enable that, or you can follow the instructions laid out on the Z Launcher download page.

Upon downloading the app, tap the file name in your notification try and install it. A brief tutorial will walk you through the basics of your new launcher, then set you free to roam about your new home screen.

Some quick tips for the Z Launcher:

  • On any screen within the launcher (home or app listing) you can "scribble" or write a letter with your finger. The launcher will then return both app and contact results for that letter. As you write more letters, the results will become more precise. After four letters, the search turns into a Google search, going outside of only what's stored on your device.

An example of Scribble on the Z Launcher. Jason Cipriani/CNET

  • The main screen's list of apps and contacts is going to randomly change on you. It's supposed to. Again, as the app learns more about you and your usage habits, it's going to tailor the experience.
  • You can change settings for the launcher as well as check for updates in the launcher's settings. To access its settings, open your app listing and tap on the settings cog in the top-right corner.
  • The four main icons along the bottom of your screen are carried over from your previous launcher. In order to change them, you'll need to revert back to your original launcher (Settings > Home), edit what apps are your favorites, and then go back to Z Launcher.

Are you taking part of the pre-beta? If so, what's your experience been like so far?