Nokia's simple yet smart Android launcher reaches Google Play

If you've been eager to put Nokia's adaptive Z Launcher home screen on your Android phone, you'll be glad to hear that you don't have to jump through quite so many hoops to give it a try. The ex-phone maker has released a free beta version of Z Launcher on Google Play. You'll need to live in the right region to give it a shot, but you no longer have to sign up for a testing spot and hope you get lucky. This edition should work with many phones running Android 4.1 or later, although Nokia is still promising full support only for the Nexus 5 and recent Galaxy S phones.

The experience will be very familiar if you've used the alpha or an early beta. It surfaces your most frequently used apps and your next calendar appointment, with an option to scribble the name of an app or contact you're looking for instead of wading through the app drawer. It's simple (you can learn everything about it in seconds), but it could be very appealing if you tend to use only a handful of apps and aren't worried about widgets and other customizations. The biggest improvements in the Google Play version are under the hood -- both the launcher and scribbling are faster, and you can now run Z Launcher on a rooted device. It's probably not your cup of tea if you're the sort who installs power user tools like Action Launcher as soon as you get a new phone, but it won't hurt to give this a try.