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 things up from time to time. And 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 in case you want to mix it up a bit.
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 also comes with over 500,000 downloadable themes and widgets that allows you to radically alter the look of 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 EverythingMe 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.
GO Launcher EX made this list simply for the way it looks. I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful Android launchers I’ve ever seen--thanks to the new UI and UX in version 5. Matter of fact, I think a lot of users feel that way. GO Launcher EX has been downloaded over 200 million times. GO includes over 10,000 themes, 25 slick animated transitions, and 15 free widgets. It’s also got some great gestures that allow you to launch individual apps.
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.
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 aware, using it will likely chew through your battery life; there’s a lot of GPU intensive stuff going on inside it.
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 (thanks Nova) the ability to backup and restore all the customizations you’ve made to the launcher should you need to restore your phone.
Smart Launcher 2 made this list because it’s so 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 presented 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 (above), which is why I like it so much. Its design is tailored to give you quick access to the services you use most on your Android, which is done in the minimalist list of icons that cascade down the left side of your screen.
Simply slide one out to launch the app or service you need to use. Then tap the ring in the centre 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.
Like Buzz, Themer’s primary feature is to quickly change the way your entire device looks. The launcher has hundreds of themes that allow you to tweak each one individually. Each also comes with its own widgets, icons, and settings.
Other nice features include auto-categorization of your apps and app icon gestures. If you want to play around with themes, Themer is a great choice.
It seems these days Yahoo is desperately trying to find where it fits – and if it’s still relevant, at all – 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, dialler, 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.
The last on this list made it because it doesn’t require the most powerful Android devices to run well. Matter of fact Zeam was built for one purpose: to run well on all Android devices no matter how old or underpowered. It’s a simple launcher with a nice folder layout and some customizability.
And because it’s optimized for even the “lowest” Android devices it’s not going to drain your battery. Sadly, Zeam is no longer in development so download it while you can.