The Nothing Launcher Beta Is Nothing to Write Home About

The Nothing Launcher Beta Is Nothing to Write Home About

Being an Android user can be fun when you get to try out new apps, launchers, and even the next version of the operating system before they’re ready for showtime. But what’s not fun is taking advantage of that perk and realising that what you’re playing with is nothing.

Nothing’s Nothing Launcher is available as a beta in the Play Store today, for anyone who wants to cosplay like they have an unreleased Nothing smartphone in hand. The brand is the brainchild of former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, who tweeted today about the launcher’s availability.

There’s nothing to the launcher right now, and I’m struggling to determine if that’s the point. Once installed, it’s not available in the app drawer, and you’ll have to manually enable it through the Android settings panel to get the launcher set up. Head to Settings > Apps > Default Apps, and select Home to swap launchers.

The Nothing launcher is pretty minimalist in terms of launchers. It pairs nicely with Android 12’s Material You engine, though there are no Material-style icons or widgets to pair with the rest of the interface.

Nothing’s “bespoke” widgets are cyber futuristic, I suppose? They come off that way with the pixels-and-digits motif. It’s creepy-looking when paired with the perforated hand on the default background, which looks like it’s styled after that scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Is the Nothing default wallpaper supposed to scare me into buying one of these smartphones?

Screenshots of the Nothing Launcher installed on a Pixel 5 with Android 12. (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)
Screenshots of the Nothing Launcher installed on a Pixel 5 with Android 12. (Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

The launcher is not an adequate preview of what’s to come from a Nothing smartphone. It gives us no indication about the hardware or its camera and processing abilities. It tells us little about the overall user experience, except that it attempts to dial down on Android’s busyness. That would be fine, but there are plenty of apps that already help with that.

The perks of Nothing

The Nothing Launcher has one neat feature that you wouldn’t get through the stock Pixel one. Nothing lets you swap custom icon packs, which is neat, and the lead photo you see above includes a third-party pack called Verticons. However, it takes a second to get to the Wallpaper & Style menu; you can only access Nothing’s settings by long-pressing on the Home screen. You can’t change it from the default Android settings panel, as you would on any other Android smartphone.

The Nothing Launcher beta works on the Google Pixel 5 and higher and also on the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22 series. OnePlus is glaringly missing from the roster, though support is coming soon. You can grab wallpapers and ringtones from a Dropbox folder to pair with the launcher. I’m surprised these weren’t included from the get-go.

Pei mentioned a Discord for folks to join if they want to leave feedback for the Nothing Launcher beta. So far, the biggest complaints are that there is no Google Discover feed when swiping to the left and that Material You isn’t properly integrated into it. If you’re particularly invested in the Nothing smartphone, I’d suggest you hop in there and start offering some feedback.