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Nokia unveils Z Launcher, intelligent home screen for Android

Microsoft bought Nokia – we're sure you hadn't forgotten – but Redmond didn't swallow all of the Finnish company's phone expertise, and there are still staff there who are working on new mobile technologies.

One of them being the Z Launcher, which offers a new Android home screen that helps you organise all your app icons in a more efficient manner – or that's the idea, anyway.

The Z Launcher goes with a minimalist motif, offering just five icons along the bottom, and six entries above that arranged vertically (see the screenshot above). Those six main entries will be intelligently filled by the apps or functions (calls, websites, etc) you most commonly use depending on the time of day, and what you're doing.

So, again looking at the example image above, if you call your mum in the evening (the phone pictured on the right), that call shortcut will pop up at the appropriate time. The more you use the system, the more it learns your habits and becomes more accurate in the functions it surfaces on the home screen.

Should whatever you need not be on the home screen, then Z Launcher allows you to find apps, contacts or whatever using a search system called Scribble: You simply draw the first letter of what you want on the screen. No more rooting through folders, or as the Z Launcher Lead Product Manager Brook Eaton puts it: "Less tapping, more apping".

There's a (limited) pre-beta version of the Z Launcher available now – you can sign up for it here – which will doubtless be a bit quirky still, and Eaton notes: "We're releasing the first version of Z Launcher with a limited number of downloads initially, to see how it works and learn from your feedback. In the next few months we'll provide updates on new versions, features and availability."

Nokia is no stranger to Android, as while it jumped on board the Windows Phone train when that left the station (thanks to a hefty bung from Microsoft), the firm eventually turned to Android with the Nokia X that debuted at this year's MWC (and indeed an X2 is expected post-Microsoft acquisition).

If it had just gone straight from Symbian to Android in the first place, we might be looking at a very different mobile phone landscape these days.