Entering an already crowded category of apps with not one but two distinctleaders can be a tough task. And when you actually go head-to-head and pull away a noticeable chunk of the leaders’ market share, it speaks volumes about the developers’ creativity and commitment to the cause.
The Go Dev team members have time and again proven in the last year that they can prove disruptive in pretty much any category they choose to release an app in, and Go Launcher Ex was the app that really established them.
I have to admit, it was the first launcher I gave a serious look. But even after multiple attempts to try the others out, I’ve found myself coming back to and sticking with Go Launcher Ex.
Go Launcher Ex Menu & Homescreen Thumbnails
There is hardly a feature I can think of that Go Launcher Ex does not have. A ridiculously active development cycle ensures that any attempt to list all the features now is going to be rendered obsolete with their next release in a matter of days. So I’m going to instead focus on what I consider Go Launcher’s most important features and attempt to keep the list short enough to fit this page. Here goes:
A ‘Running Apps’ tab in the app drawer that lets you see all the apps currently running and lets you kill them individually or all at once. Bye bye dedicated task management apps!
A scrollable dock with up to three pages, which means you can have up to 15 (actually 30 – see the next point) of your most used app icons in the dock.
Gestures on the dock icons, letting you select an action on swiping over a dock icon. For example, I have my app drawer icon set to open the Settings menu when I swipe upwards over it.
Intuitive homescreen editing UI that shows live thumbnails of all screens and lets you add, remove or rearrange them visually. When you drag an icon or a widget to the side of a screen, the thumbnail view kicks in again letting you drop the element into any of the other screens available.
A wide and interesting selection of transitions for navigating between home screens or between pages in the app drawer.
The ability to add app drawer folders on the home screen which automatically sync when you add applications to the folder in the app drawer.
Ability to change the columns and rows in the homescreen grid, letting you cram in many more icons and widgets than your phone natively supports.
Resizable widgets – not just the ones specific to the launcher, but any widget you add to your homescreen can be resized.
The Cube (inside) transition & Task Manager
One thing I have to note is that in spite of all the features and power, the launcher is still extremely fast and doesn’t bog down the phone at all. I’ve been running it on a lowly LG Optimus One with a 600 Mhz processor and 256 MB of RAM – clearly the lowest end of Android smartphones you can get – and yet it runs beautifully on the phone with no noticeable lag or slowness. That I have it installed on top of Cyanogenmod 7 now helps, but I never had any problems with it on the stock ROM either.
Powerful Widget System
Like any Android Launcher worth its name, Go Launcher Ex comes with the ability to install a wide variety of widgets specifically built to take advantage of the launcher’s capabilities. Any widget – not just those specific to Go Launcher Ex – can be resized. Unlike the regular widgets though, GO Launcher Widgets can contain scrollable areas within them, making it possible to go through long lists directly from the home screen. This works particularly well in the Facebook and Twitter widgets. One of my favorite Go Widget is the full-screen SMS widget that makes your text messages appear in a ticket-strip view with 3D folds.
Some of the Go Widgets
Available widgets cover a wide variety of functions – from clocks, weather and control bar widgets to sms, twitter and facebook. As with everything else in Go Launcher Ex, widgets are customizable too. Skins can be downloaded for the widgets from the Google Play store or from the in-app Go Store, which is the Go Dev Team’s own marketplace for their apps and app addons.
Themes That Don’t Suck
No self-respecting Android launcher can be complete without the ability to theme. Go Launcher Ex scores on this front as well with a wide variety of free and paid themes available that customize pretty much every aspect of your home screen.
Themes Gallery and a preview
Unlike some launchers that limit their theming abilities to icon packs or subtle color variations, Go Launcher Ex can be customized to look entirely different from theme to theme while at the same time maintaining your personal setup of homescreens, widgets and icons. I won’t go into too much detail on the available themes – we’ve covered them in separateroundups – but it suffices to say that Go Launcher Ex comes with some of the best looking themes on Android today.
I know I probably sound like a crazed Go Launcher fanboy by now (and maybe that’s not so far off the mark…), but having spent a good year with the launcher on my phone in spite of repeated attempts to try other options, I can safely say that I consider Go Launcher Ex the best Android Launcher on the planet.
With an amazing combination of features and speed, a crazy variety of excellent themes and widgets, and non-stop active development with a new release every week, it’s hard not to love it. And did I mention the app is entirely free (as in no ads and no needless crap, free)?
Given how often the app goes through changes, it is quite possible that some more features have been added to the app between the time I wrote this review and the time you’re reading it. The best place to check would be the What’s New tab in the Google Play Store page for the app.