Nothing Launcher Beta is not something to write home about

An image of Nothing Launcher on a Pixel 5

Nothing Launcher is not for right now.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

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

Nothing’s Nothing Launcher is available as a beta in Toy store Today, for anyone who wants to cosplay as if they have an unreleased No smartphone in the hand. The brand was conceived by former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, who tweeted Today about the launcher’s availability.

There is nothing to the launcher right now, and I’m struggling to decide if that’s the point. Once installed, it is not available in the app drawer and you have to manually activate it via the Android settings panel to get the launcher set up. Go to Settings > Apps > Standard appsand select Home to replace launchers.

Nothing launcher is quite 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 ‘tailor-made’ widgets are cyber-futuristic, I suppose? They come out that way with the pixel-and-digit motif. It looks creepy when paired with the perforated hand on the standard background, which looks like it’s styled after that scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Should the Nothing standard wallpaper scare me into buying one of these smartphones?

Three screenshots of Nothing Launcher

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

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

The benefits of nothing

Nothing Launcher has a smart feature that you would not get through the regular Pixel one. Nothing lets you swap custom icon packs, which is nice, and the lead image you see above includes a third-party pack called Vertikons. However, it takes a second to get to Wallpaper & Style menu; you can only access Nothing’s settings by long pressing on the home screen. You can not change it from the default settings panel for Android as you would on any other Android smartphone.

The Nothing Launcher beta works on Google Pixel 5 and later and also on Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22 series. OnePlus is obviously missing from the list, though support is coming soon. You can grab wallpapers and ringtones from one Dropbox folder to pair with the launcher. I’m surprised these were not included from the start.

Pei mentioned one Disagreement for people to join if they want to provide feedback for the Nothing Launcher beta. So far, the biggest complaints are that there is no Google Discover feed when you swipe left and that Material you are not properly integrated into it. If you are particularly invested in the Nothing smartphone, I would suggest you jump in and start giving feedback.