These launchers make fundamental changes to standard Android and include new features such as improved home screen customization and in-depth gesture command editing. If you want Android to look and function just the way you want it, a launcher is really the best way to achieve that.
What to Look for in a Launcher
There are a few key points you will want to use to compare different launchers.
- Unique features: There is little point in installing a launcher if it doesn’t offer you anything new. The best launchers out there integrate new features or designs into Android to deliver something useful, while not completely taking away what makes Android, well, Android.
- Visual adjustment: Whether it’s changing the UI colors or the shape of the icons, some great customization options are always appreciated. For some launchers, this is their main selling point, while others add this kind of thing as a nice bonus.
- Active development: For as many launchers as are currently available, there are also plenty that are no longer in development for various reasons. And when it comes to an app affecting your phone at a deep level, you want to make sure it’s up to date. That’s why we’ve narrowed down our selection of apps that are still in active development and recently updated.
Smart and customizable: Smart Launcher 5
Smart Launcher 5 is a fairly simple launcher, but it contains a lot of useful stuff. The custom “SmartSearch” search bar can quickly bring up articles, apps and contacts, a special gridless widget page offers as much freedom as possible, and apps are automatically sorted into categories in the app drawer to save you some hassle.
And those are just the things on the home screen; Smart Launcher 5 also allows you to fully customize gesture controls and has handy menus to switch around the location of your home screen pages (for example, you can make your app drawer available with a right swipe instead of the traditional upward swipe). .). There are also many visual options available such as different app icon shapes, UI colors and multiple fonts.
Smart Launcher 5 is free to download, but there is a premium subscription in the app that gives access to deeper app organization, 3D perspective backgrounds, and two-finger gestures, among others. For the premium version, you have to pay $ 2.49 per month, $ 6.99 per year, or $ 16.99 for a lifetime license.
Ol ‘Reliable: Nova Launcher
Nova Launcher is not only one of the most famous launchers, but it has been around for a long time – which means you have to be able to count on it to survive. And on top of that extra stability, Nova Launcher includes some great features and options without deviating much from the standard Android experience.
Nova primarily focuses on the home screen and the app drawer. There are many options available here, so let’s take a look at the highlights. You can customize the home screen grid layout (which is basically how many apps fit on your home screen) and icon shapes, make substantial changes to how the app drawer looks, and easily switch between custom icon packs. You can even mix and match specific icons from different packs together.
The visual options are more than appreciated and allow you to make your home screen and app drawer look exactly the way you want with Nova Launcher. If you want more tools like gesture commands or folders in the app drawer, pick up the paid version of Nova Launcher, Nova Launcher Prime, for a one-time payment of $ 4.99.
Simple and powerful: Apex Launcher
With a simple and easy to use design, Apex Launcher is great if you’re new to using a third party launcher (or if you just want something simple) but still want a solid set of features. Apex Launcher lets you choose from a variety of visual themes, lets you customize your home screen grid, and gives you a fair amount of control over how the app drawer works. You can also edit gesture commands, and your apps are automatically sorted into different categories when you open the home screen.
While Apex Launcher is free to download, it is ad-supported. You can spend $ 3.99 every three months or buy the lifetime license for $ 8.99 to get rid of the ads along with unlocking some extra stuff like unread badges and two-finger gestures.
All-in-one: AIO Launcher
AIO mobile apps
AIO changes things significantly from Android as it greatly changes how the home screen looks and works. Instead of a bunch of widgets and app icons, everything from your apps, notifications, emails, calendar events and more is combined into a single scrolling screen. There is a lot of data in here and you can customize what is displayed. There is also an app sidebar available that acts as your app drawer.
While this is a major shake-up, it can come in handy if you take time to get used to it. Having all your important information in one place reduces the need to switch between apps as often and gives you a better overview of what’s happening at the time. You can also unlock the ability to use custom app icons and even more visible data by purchasing the full version of AIO, which costs a one-time payment of $ 3.99.
Best for Windows Users: Microsoft Launcher
For heavy Windows users, the Microsoft Launcher offers some extra functionality by making your phone and computer easy to sync. You can use Cortana and share sticky notes between your PC and phone, along with the glance view to see all your notifications, news updates, and calendar events in one place. Plus, your app drawer gets a sleek looking Microsoft makeover. This launcher also allows you to use custom icons, customize various gesture commands, and access the Microsoft news feed.
And finally, one of the biggest advantages of Microsoft Launcher is that it delivers all these excellent features completely for free.
Visual Freedom: Total Launcher
When it comes to visual customization, Total Launcher wants to provide you with as many tools as possible. The app comes with plenty of pre-installed widgets that are deeply customizable and has plenty of options for customizing your home screen, be it app icons or different layouts. It may take a while to properly learn your way around the launcher, but if you want a truly personalized home screen, the time is worth it.
Total Launcher is free to download, but if you want even more features (like gesture commands) you need to grab Total Launcher Key from the Play Store for a one-time payment of $ 4.99.
One-handed design: Niagara Launcher (Early Access)
Niagara is a truly unique launcher, but before we get into details, we want to warn you that it is currently still in development, so don’t be surprised if you run into some bugs while using it.
Niagara is designed to be completely single handed, and this is achieved by merging your home screen and app drawer. You now have access to a main list of apps (arranged alphabetically) from which you manually choose favorites to appear when you open the home screen. From there, you can slide your thumb along either side of the phone to bring up a shortcut menu and go directly to where you need to be on the list. For what Niagara is trying to accomplish, it’s hard to think of a cleaner way to do it.
Niagara also has some options for customizing gesture commands and changing the look of the user interface with different fonts and themes. This launcher is free to download, but if you want to access more features such as folders and the ability to hide the Android status bar, you’ll need Niagara Pro. This subscription costs $ 3.99 per year or $ 10.99 for a lifetime license – the developer has stated that the price will likely increase after the app runs out of early access, but lifetime licenses will still be respected.