Samsung, Nokia Field Their Own Android Launchers
Samsung and Nokia have both recently made available launchers for Android devices that serve as alternatives to their normal approach for home screen behavior. Terrain (pictured) comes from a Samsung-sponsored developer and is free to download from the Google Play Store. It features a customizable sidebar that can be used to house all the owner's favorites, including apps, web sites, contacts, and so on. The launcher includes interchangeable cards that can hold separate apps, shortcuts, and data. Terrain also includes a phone search tool that it claims is faster for finding things stored on the device. Terrain's main goal is to help Android users personalize their handset in ways the stock Android tools don't allow for, while streamlining the experience and making it quicker to reach apps and services. Terrain was built using HTML5 and the company is offering developers an API so they can contribute their own cards to a Terrain-backed store, which will launch later this year. Similarly, Nokia released Z Launcher as a limited beta. (Nokia offers several Android handsets, which are now being sold by Microsoft.) Z Launcher is a learning launcher that adjusts what it shows the phone owner on the home screen throughout the day depending on their pattern of behavior. For example, in the morning Z Launcher will present apps such as email and the calendar, while in the evening it will present apps such as Facebook and Spotify. Nokia says Z Launcher improves its predictions over time. Further, Z Launcher includes a gesture search tool that lets users initiate searches from the home screen by tracing letters on the glass. Z Launcher can be downloaded directly from Nokia.