The great thing about Android (as opposed to, say, iOS) is the level of control and customization you have across the OS. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be said for a clean, consistent, and beautiful interface like Apple provides, but it’s also nice to mix thing up from time to time. The most radical way you can customize your experience on Android, of course, is by installing a new Launcher. The Launcher on Android is generally referred to as the start or home screen where you interact with your apps and widgets. While the stock and custom launchers (like Samsung’s) pre-installed on Android devices will suffice for most users, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten coolest third-party launchers we’ve found in 2015 if you want to mix it up a bit on your smartphone.
ADW is the launcher for this of you who want control over every aspect of your device. It literally allows you to change the minutest detail–from the color of Gmail’s red icon to desktop indicators to gestures. It also features support for thousands of skins and themes.
Buzz is one of the simpler launchers on this list, but it’s also one of the most visually customizable. Matter of fact, the biggest feature of Buzz is that it not only allows you to change the look of your launcher, it comes with over 500,000 downloadable themes and widgets that allows you to radically alter the look off everything on your device. If you want to make everything look art deco on your Android, Buzz is how you do it. Want to make your icons look like books on a bookshelf? Buzz is the way to go. It’s also got some simplified gesture navigations that are an added plus.
The concept behind EverythingMe is that a launcher should learn about you and rearrange itself to meet your current needs. The creators say the algorithms in EverythingMr combine machine learning, statistical modeling, and domain knowledge expertise to identify specific life scenarios, which in turn allows the launcher to know what you’re doing, where you are and the most likely apps you’ll need at any given moment. EverythingMe then presents suggest apps and folders full of apps to you throughout the day. It’s also got a great minimalist design.
The Google Now Launcher is the official launcher from Google. It enables you to access Google Now button free—just by using your voice. Of course, that does mean Google is always listening to you–so take from that what you will. The launcher also offers translucent status and navigation bars and easy access to your favorite Google products and services, including Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.
Next Launcher 3D Shell is the only paid launcher on this list, but it made it because it's a launcher with guts, I tell you, guts! That’s because this launcher allows you to operate in 3D space. It has beautiful interactive 3D graphics and transitions. Matter of fact Next looks like the launcher that was created by Hollywood graphic designers solely to look cool for a five second spot in a movie. But while the launcher gets major props for its “wow” factor be away using this is going to chew through your battery life like nothing else--and will probably be virtually unusable on all but the fastest, most powerful handsets.
Getting back down to earth, Nova Launcher is a more practical launcher that will appeal to those Android users who don’t like to stray too far from the default launchers installed on their devices. That’s not to say Nova isn’t highly customizable, it just looks like a “typical” launcher more than some of the previous ones in this list do. Some excellent features of Nova include a scrollable dock, infinite scroll of home screen pages (they loop back on one another), and (thank Nova) the ability to backup and restore all the customizations you’ve made to the launcher should you need to restore your phone. Nova also embraces Android’s Material Design philosophy throughout, so it’s a great choice for Android purists.
Smart Launcher 3 made this list because it simply damn beautiful. The main screen is made of a ring of icons with your most frequently used apps and then on the app screen all of your apps are listed in a beautiful list. The launcher also offers landscape mode and a ton of customizability, but since Smart is designed and arranged so well, chances are you aren’t going to want to change a thing.
Start is a launcher that looks a lot like Smart Launcher 3 (above), which is why I like it so much. It’s design is tailored to give you quick access to the services you use most on your Android. A list of minimalist icons cascade down the left side of your screen. Simply slide on out to launch the app or service you need to use. Then tap the ring in the center bottom of the screen and slide it to a category icon to access more apps that are grouped together based on what they do (email and messaging, photo sharing, etc). Beautiful launcher.
It seems these days Yahoo is desperately trying to find where it fits--and if its still relevant--in the tech world. So the company has created its own Android launcher--and it’s actually not bad. Aviate is another launcher that organizes itself around your day and location. For example in the morning it will make it easy for you to quickly access traffic conditions on your way to work and--a really cool feature--when you plug in your headphones it will reorganize itself to give you access to all the apps, such as music, dialer, and messaging--that you might use with headphones. And despite Yahoo falling behind the likes of Google and Facebook, the company does have some excellent designers. Aviate looks beautiful.
Not be be left out by the likes of Google and Yahoo, Nokia also has its own official launcher–the Z Launcher. Like Yahoo’s Aviate it organizes your device by learning your habits and taking into account your location and time of day. But the really cool thing we like about this launcher is that it allows you to use your finger to draw the first letter of an app you are searching for on the screen to see a list of those apps that begin with that letter. Tap an app from the list to launch it.