Launchers offer yet another layer of customization for Android, and there are many different solutions available. Launchers essentially replace your home screen, most of the time with stock Android. For instance, when company’s put promotions in their news aggregators, it’s an easy process to fix by simply picking up a launcher..
What launcher is right for you, though? What are some quality options over the flurry of launchers that are available? We’re going to walk you through that, but first, what is a launcher, exactly?
Launchers are a much safer option for an alternative Android experience. While they don’t have nearly as many features as ROMs, they do have a lot of their own options and features for better customization.
Many launchers are free, but will sometimes cost a few bucks to give you access to the fully featured version. If you don’t mind missing out on some of the features, all of the basic functionality is usually available at no cost.
So, what launchers are good to use? We’ve listed five of our favorites.
Nova Launcher is probably the most popular of the launchers available today, and it just recently came out of beta. It’s also one of the few launchers that gives you a pure, unaltered Android experience. One of the unique things about this launcher is that it has endless amounts of customization.
Between widget customization, app drawer customization, color options, and much more, this is as close to a ROM as it gets. Not only that, but it looks beautiful. And if you want even more features (gestures, more effects) and better support, it only costs $4.99 for the Pro version.
Action Launcher 3 is another fan favorite, opting to be the best launcher as far as design goes. Much like the Nova Launcher, Action Launcher 3 will bring you as close to stock Android as it gets, but it’s much more than that.
Chris Lacy’s Action Launcher 3 lets you take control of your home screen, customizing it any way imaginable. There’s no constriction on staying with the same, old stock Android UI. You can lay everything out differently, making the home screen truly yours, and yours only. And boy, it looks gorgeous.
It’s a magnificent option in a sea of launchers, and is one of the best you can get your hands.
Smart Launcher 3 is a fun option, although it doesn’t offer the stock Android UI as our past two options do. It’s a unique and innovative launcher, following Google’s Material Design guidelines, but favors a more organized and seamless approach to the UI.
As for features, one thing that makes it stand out is its integrated lock screen, something that you would have to install separately with other launchers. Furthermore, the amount of resources it uses is significantly low, saving more hardware power for yourself. Also, if you’re not a fan of what Smart Launcher 3 offers up front, there’s tons of options for themes, icon packs, and etc. You’re not locked into a preset UI design.
It’s a fun and free launcher, but also sports a Pro version, which touts better features, support, and faster updates.
As far as performance and speed goes, Apex Launcher is your best bet. It offers unmatched speed, even with the cluster of features it offers. The launcher allows you to customize a lot, coming with its own advanced theme engine. From icons to themes, Apex Launcher has a lot of flexibility.
Apex Launcher, like many of our favorite launchers, features a Pro version, which unlocks another collection of features, such enhanced folder support, more gesture options, more transition options and more. Probably one of the best features of the Apex Launcher is its backup options, which allows you to backup and restore system settings and important data.
Finally on our list is Google’s very own Google Now Launcher. As the name implies, Google Now is at the center of this launcher, giving your smartphone an upgrade in contextual information. And with the changes to Google Now announced at I/O 2015, it’s bound to get better.
As you might expect with a Google Launcher, it employs the pure Android experience. The only downside is that Google’s launcher is severely limited as far as customization goes. If you want a truly customizable launcher, it’s best to go with one of the other options, as this particular launcher is focused on contextual data over the freedom of customization.
There are a lot of launchers available, and many of you switch through an array of different options. We’re bound to have left a few fan favorites out, so we’re opening the discussion up to you. What is your favorite launcher? And what do you favor more, the unique design options of Smart Launcher 3 or the wide variety of customization features in the Nova Launcher?