Ever since Nothing began life in 2020, its movements have been closely tracked. The UK-based company was founded by Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, and released its first product last year – the Ear (1).

These affordable earbuds were generally well-received, but it always felt like a smartphone was the product Nothing was building towards. That became a reality with the official announcement of the Phone (1), which is scheduled to arrive this summer.

Plenty of questions surround the device’s hardware, but Nothing is already giving us a taste of the software experience. As of 28 April, a beta of its Android launcher is now available, and you can try it out if you have a compatible device. Here’s everything you need to know.

Is my phone compatible with the Nothing launcher?

At release, the company stated that its launcher would only work on a handful of phones; namely the last two generations of Galaxy S phones, and Google's Pixel 5 and 6 series.

Thankfully, after a couple of weeks of exclusivity on the aforementioned devices, fans initially feeling left out in the cold now have a far greater chance of being able to download the launcher and test it out; with the company confirming that the "Nothing Launcher (Beta) is now available for all devices with Android 11 and higher" as of 9 May.

Support for OnePlus phones was originally teased as “coming soon”, however, this latest move is completely brand agnostic meaning a great swathe of OnePlus phones suddenly supports the launcher, as do devices from a host of other manufacturers.

How to install the Nothing Launcher

Trying out the Nothing Launcher is just as simple as switching to any other Android launcher. We’ve installed it on a Pixel 5 running Android 12, but the process is very similar on most other phones:

  1. Open the Google Play Store and search for ‘Nothing launcher’ – or just click here
  2. Tap the relevant result, then choose ‘Install’
  3. Once installed, open Settings > Apps > Default apps > Home app
  4. Tap on ‘Nothing Launcher' to switch

Note: First-time users should be presented with an additional 'How to Set Up' screen, if installing the launcher after its 9 May update.

  1. Nothing launcher install

Head back to the home screen and you’ll see the Nothing Launcher is now running. If you’d prefer the tutorial in video format, the first 26 seconds of the clip below shows you how it’s done:

How to go back to your own launcher

Trying the Nothing Launcher doesn’t commit you to anything – quite the opposite. It couldn’t be easier to switch back to your usual launcher (or something else):

  1. Open Settings again and go back to Apps > Default apps
  2. Within ‘Default home app’, tap on your usual launcher - if you haven't changed launchers before, there should only be one to choose from
  3. Head back to the home screen and everything will be restored to normal

What’s the Nothing Launcher like?

As Carl Pei teased when announcing the Phone (1), Nothing’s launcher looks quite different to the traditional software experience found on your average Galaxy or Pixel.

The futuristic design includes a new wallpaper along with a choice of three widgets, offering two styles of clock (analogue or digital) and the weather – all in the distinct Nothing aesthetic.

There are further wallpapers and ringtones available too, though they're not packaged with the Launcher. You can download them from a Nothing-owned Dropbox folder, which following its 9 May update is also accessible from the launcher's own settings menu.

Nothing launcher design

As you can see from the screenshots above, it's possible to increase the size of app icons and folders on the home screen. You can also choose a custom icon pack after downloading it from the Play Store - that's a feature you won't find on the Pixel launcher.

But the current iteration of the Nothing Launcher also has some notable shortcomings. Android 12’s ‘Material You’ design is only applied in some areas, and the launcher limits you to a single home screen, so you can't set more apps on a second screen to the right. There’s no Google Discover feed to the left.

Nothing is encouraging early adopters to submit feedback via Discord. Hopefully, the version that ships with the Phone (1) this summer will have more features worth talking about.