Nokia puts Z Launcher on Google Play, without Lollipop support

Nokia launches its Z Launcher on Google Play and says it was the inspiration for the surprise N1 tablet it unveiled today.

Nokia has released its experimental Z Launcher on the Google Play store, expanding its previously limited distribution.

Nokia's Z Launcher app has been available since June under an early 'alpha' program, and offers a way of dealing with cluttered homescreens. So, instead of swiping through home screens to find an app, the user would scribble the letter and the Z Launcher would surface apps, contacts, and messages that start with that letter.

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A major feature of the Z Launcher is its ability to guess what users want and one of the most recent additions to the launcher is a prediction algorithm, according to Nokia. As the company notes, the app should improve as it's used more frequently and if users want to see what popular actions it's learning, they can inspect the Z Launcher's data insights in its settings.

The app launched today on Google Play, and joins dozens of other launchers such as Google Now and Nova. The Z Launcher on Google Play includes some of the features that early users have recommended and fixes that Nokia has addressed in the past few months. This includes optimising its performance for specific handsets and fixing what Nokia has called "obscure things" like finger tracking latency.

Other recent updates include improvements to the recognition and response time when users scribble on their screens, and support for rooted devices.

While the Z Launcher will ship with Nokia's N1 tablet, which runs on Android 5.0, the version of the launcher available on Play today does not support Lollipop. It's listed on Play as supporting Android versions 4.1 to 4.4.

According to Nokia, part of the reason for the N1's recent launch was that the company believed the launcher needed its own hardware — perhaps to showcase its potential for OEMs, which Nokia hopes will pay for licenses to use the Launcher in their own branded or Nokia-branded devices. The Z Launcher initially only supported the Nexus 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S3, S4, and S5.

"The [N1] tablet was purposefully designed around the simple features and ease-of-use of Z Launcher. The idea of the tablet came about when the teams at Nokia unanimously agreed that Z Launcher deserved its own device — and that a natural fit would be a tablet," Nokia said

ZDNet has asked Nokia whether an update will add support for Lollipop in future, and we'll update the story if we receive a response. 

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