Any regular Android home screen app looks and behaves almost exactly like Google’s Pixel Launcher. It’s the trendsetter, like the Nexus Launcher before it. But if all your options are modeled on the same thing, that really gets the “custom” out of the “custom launcher”.
The nine apps below seem to go against that trend for the most part. These are launchers that either have minimal installs or are brand new to the market in 2020 or 2021. Features range from auto sorting of apps to abundant gestures, so hopefully you’ll find something new you like.
Ratio divides your home screen into three sections: Widgets, Tiles, and Hello. The leftmost page contains a vertically scrolling list of your widgets, many of which are custom made. The center page is home to your apps, which can be automatically categorized in the same way as Apple’s new App Library feature.
There is a steep learning curve, especially at the very beginning when you set everything up, but the “Onboarding” option in the settings can help. I also note that the “Hello” feature only works with a handful of messaging apps at this point, but it holds great promise as a centralized hub for all your messaging needs.
- Play Store Link: Ratio (Free)
App 2: Minimal Calendar Launcher
If your workflow starts with a schedule or calendar, Minimal Calendar Launcher is worth checking out. “Minimal” is also almost an understatement – there is almost nothing to worry about. Just a calendar card with an expandable schedule view and a vertically scrolling app drawer. Oh, and an optional search bar.
App 3: AIO Launcher
AIO is the oldest app on this list, but it’s certainly still fresh. In fact, it might be the most viable home screen rethink we’ve seen in recent years.
Aside from a weather icon, search button, and some colorful button backgrounds, AIO is completely text-based. The vertically scrolling main page is full of text widgets provided by AIO themselves – just log in to your accounts to fill in the information. These two factors together make information density the main attraction of AIO.
App 4: ZENIT Launcher
If you’ve ever used an iPhone, ZENIT Launcher will feel pretty familiar. It’s essentially an iOS home screen clone, complete with widgets in a vertically scrolling format on the left-most screen. The twist? Your home screen icons don’t just have to be divided into horizontal pages – they can scroll vertically like a standard Android app drawer, or you can even switch to a colorful “map” view.
App 5: Factor Launcher
This one is so new that it isn’t in the Play Store yet, which means you have to sideload it from GitHub. Right now, it’s a pretty basic Windows Phone style launcher, but development seems to be pretty active, so who knows what the future holds.
App 6: Ruthless Launcher
This is a Pixel Launcher inspired app, and it is an open-source fork of the popular Shade Launcher. Shade’s goal was to provide a fast, lightweight alternative to Nova Launcher and the like, and Ruthless carries that mantra forward, but with more customization options.
App 7: Letters Launcher
Letters Launcher’s goal is to get you into your apps with no more than two taps. So you start with a grid of letters: tap the first letter of the app you want to open and select it from the pop-up menu that appears. There are minimal customization options, such as a favorites page where you can place quickly accessible apps and a layout manager for the letters.
App 8: Revolution Launcher
Revolution Launcher’s main menu consists of a fingerprint icon with arrows coming out, along with a quick link to your phone app and a search function. Tap the fingerprint and the arrows will now show your five “hot seat” apps. After customizing the layout of these apps and remembering their positions, you can swipe out from the fingerprint icon to quickly launch the app. Or, if you’d rather take the boring route, you can swipe up on the home screen to open an app drawer.
App 9: Launcher
Like its name, this is a no-nonsense, minimalist launcher. Everything is done through gestures, so your home screen only needs to show the time and date. You can still swipe up to open an app drawer, but you can also swipe down, left, or right to open specific apps. There are also double tap and long press shortcuts, and you can even assign apps to launch when you press the volume buttons.
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