Review Z Launcher
An interesting launcher that tries to predict your habits
Author: Brandon Girod
Date: 02 Jun 2017, tested on HTC One M8
Unique "writing" based app search on the homescreen, accurate predictions when searching for apps
Predictions based on time and location seemed largely irrelevant
Z Launcher Beta for Android is Nokia’s attempt at making a smart launcher - one that learns your habits and adapts to them. It’s an interesting concept, and one that hopefully doesn’t end with your phone going rogue and trying to play out the old rogue AI trope.
This particular launcher does a lot of interesting things - some that it does well, and others… not so well. It definitely takes some getting used to, but I was able to make using it a habit after about a day of use.
When you first launch it, it completely takes over your homescreen, and there isn’t really much you can do to customize it. There are two parts to the overall “widget”. The top portion will allow you to swipe through information like the time, weather, and appointments. The bottom part, which is the majority, is populated by a list of apps it thinks you would be most likely to use given the context.
To be honest, I don’t have any real smartphone habits. For instance, I don’t check Reddit every day at 2:45. So, my list ended up being full of apps that I had just recently used. In other words, I could get the same kind of functionality from the multitasking button that’s already on my phone.
One cool thing you can do on the homescreen is draw. You can draw out the first letter of an app you want to use and it’ll pop up in the list so you can use it. I found it to be surprisingly accurate here because while I don’t use apps at specific times, I do use specific apps quite a bit.
While I enjoyed using Z Launcher Beta, it wasn’t the kind of experience I was looking for from my smartphone. If I wanted something to predict my behavior and adapt to it, I want it to be in the form of something like Google Now where all the info is being pulled subtly and is presented when I actually need it. That idea aside, it is surprisingly accurate in predicting what app I’m searching for. I’m just not convinced that your launcher is what needs to be automated, at least not in this format.