If you thought the Nothing ear (1) marketing campaign was annoying, then you are going to be in for a bad time with the Nothing phone (1).
Most companies keep things quiet until a few months or weeks out from launch, and then things “accidentally” start leaking.
Not Nothing, they will be sending out weekly news items for months in advance, revealing the smallest of tidbits about the upcoming phone.
The first is the launch of Nothing Launcher (Beta). This is supposed to give us a taste of Nothing OS.
Nothing Launcher (Beta) lets Android users preview the unified design language of the OS, and has features like: Max Icons and Max Folders, bespoke Clock & Weather widgets and Nothing Wallpaper & Style.
Sounds impressive. In reality, it feels like a clone of the Pixel launcher with features removed.
Phones compatible with Nothing Launcher (Beta)
At the moment, there are a small number of phones that can run Nothing Launcher (Beta):
- Samsung Galaxy S21 series
- Samsung Galaxy S22 series
- Google Pixel 5 / 5a
- Pixel 6 / 6 Pro
Ironically, Carl Pei's former company OnePlus, is not supported yet, but is coming soon.
How to install Nothing Launcher (Beta) on the Pixel 6
I have been using the standard Pixel launcher since I got my Pixel 6, and it wasn't immediately obvious how to switch launchers. With gestures, there is no home button which would normally bring up the home launcher choice.
Unlike Nova, there is no app or anything in your draw, and when you install it, you can click open from the Play Store.
It is easy enough to do, though:
- Install the Nothing Launcher from the Play Store
- Go to setting
- Search for home
- Select Default home app
- Choose Nothing
The stand out feature of the Nothing Launcher is the lack of features. It is Beta software, though. It doesn't feel like a great deal of work has been done to get it here. It is basically just the stock/Pixel launcher with some minor tweaks and a bunch of stuff removed. If it wasn't for the change of the wallpaper, you might think the launcher hasn't changed at all.
It feels snappy, it's easy to use, and I have not found it glitchy, which are perhaps the most important features of a launcher.
You have just three custom widgets. Analogue and digital time then a weather widget. These all have the Nothing style branding. At first, I thought I was impressed with how quick it was to find a widget but then I realised the widget menu is basically identical to the Pixel launcher.
The only other feature I can think of is the ability to resize app icons. A long hold on the icon brings up additional options, and you can click the expand icon size, which quadruples the size. It looks a bit dumb to me, but it might be useful for someone that struggles with small icons.
You can also enlarge folders. I can see a bit more use with this one. The first three apps you add can be launched by directly clicking on them. The bottom left corner of the folder then groups up all the other apps, when you click on this, it opens up the full app folder. For me, I have a smart home folder, but there are probably 2 or 3 main apps within this folder that I use regularly. This would provide quicker access. Of course, on a normal launcher, I could have those three apps outside of the folder, so it is not a massive difference.
The is a woeful lack of settings and customisation within the home settings. Again, this is probably just because it is beta software. Nova has the opposite problem, I think there are probably too many settings, though I do love tweaking things.
Currently, there is no Google Now integration.
Finally, the app drawer is identical to the Pixel. Which is not a bad thing, it is simple and it works.
I think I am largely indifferent to launchers in general. I use so many phones that it doesn't make that much difference if I am using Android 12 on the Pixel, OxygenOS, ColorOS, MIUI or anything else. I even find Redmagic 5.0 bearable, unlike many users.
Therefore I have no particularly strong feelings towards the Nothing Launcher. It feels snappy, and the overall user experience doesn't feel that different to the Pixel launcher, which I guess is a good thing but hardly innovative.
The only problem I had with it was the weird UI for removing widgets and accessing their settings; the icons are barely readable. Its almost the same as the Pixel 6 UI, but it is somehow worse. I think its just the dark blue text against that Nothing wallpaper.
There is not really much else going on with it. Having the option to increase an app icon size feels a bit pointless to me; it could be maybe helpful from some usability perspective, though.
The three Nothing Launcher widgets are mostly forgettable for me. It's just time and weather with some Nothing branding. I'd like a full-width widget with both time and weather.
I might come across as being overly harsh, but it looks like the Play Store reviews agree with me, and Reddit doesn't seem particularly impressed either.
This is, of course, beta software, and it will improve a lot before the launch of the Nothing phone (1).