One of my favorite things about Android is the sheer level of customization you can do. Just like any modern mobile operating system, Android allows you to download apps from an app store to get extra functionality from your device. But, unlike other operating systems, Android actually allows you to replace your stock apps with downloaded ones.
An example of where that can have a profound impact is if you replace the home screen launcher.
The home screen on your Android device is an app just like any other on the phone but instead of opening it by tapping an icon you open it by pushing the home button. Besides that difference and the fact that it allows you to launch your other apps from it, that’s pretty much it.
Also, just like other apps, there are a lot of them in the Play Store so it can be difficult to know which ones to try. In this video, let’s see if we can narrow it down and come up with the best android launchers for you to give a chance to.
How to Install an Android Launcher
Although it does work like most apps, there are some nuances to installing an Android launcher, so if you aren’t familiar you can head to my How to Change the Home Screen Launcher on an Android Device video then come back here after you get a quick understanding of how it all works.
Best Android Launchers
Google Now Launcher
The launcher to have for Android purists, the Google Now launcher is the launcher that comes on all Nexus devices and is now the default launcher in Android. It’s pretty snappy (but some on here are snappier), is super clean, and has the added benefit of Google Now’s voice recognition built in as well as Google Now Cards when swiping over to the leftmost screen.
- Stock Android experience
- Google Now and Google Now Cards built in
- Not the fastest launcher around
- Not very customizable
Nova Launcher & Apex Launcher
Yes, this is two separate launchers, but, frankly, they’re hard to tell apart. Both are quick launchers and both are pretty much the go to for anyone looking to control every aspect of their home screen. From changing the grid size on the home screen and the app drawer all the way up to 12 x 12 (or 10 x 10 for Apex) to altering the animations to the way folders preview icons inside, to what the home button does and you get the idea.
Also, if you search around the web enough and you’ll not only see Nova Launcher mentioned a decent amount, you’ll also hear some pretty adamant fans of it telling you it’s the fastest performing launcher out there (even over Apex). In addition to the quick speed of both of these launchers, they’re both just riddled with customization options that will keep you busy for a long time to come.
- Lightning fast
- Customization options seem endless
- Themes available for icons
- Too many options (if that’s a problem for you)
- Requires a paid version to get the most out of it (but the free version will probably do for most people)
The new comer to the Android launcher world, Action Launcher has gained serious popularity really quickly.
With its unique approach to widgets (swipe on the icon to launch it’s widget and tap to launch the app), its quick drawer that slides out from the side of the screen to show all your apps instead of a standard icon to open your app drawer, and its unique approach to folders (called Shutters) it’s a pretty innovate (and at least unique) approach to a launcher compared to the previously mentioned ones. Some people even swear by it as being a lot more productive than any other launcher out there.
Downside, to use any of those above features that everyone loves so much, you’re going to have to pay for them as they are all in-app purchases.
- Unique features like Quick Drawer, Shutters, and Covers
- Phil Nickinson (Android Central editor) is obsessed with it –read his full review here
- Most of the features cost money via in-app purchases
- Less themes than the other launchers on this list
The launcher with the most themes I imagine, Go Launcher is one of the oldest launchers in the Play Store. I can remember it from years ago and with between 100 and 500 million downloads it might just be the most downloaded launcher of all time. Because of this, the third party theming ecosystem is pretty extensive (just type Go Launcher theme into the Play Store and have a look).
While that’s probably its biggest draw in my opinion, it’s also not too shabby in the performance department. My biggest gripe about it, however, is that it just feels like it’s trying to spam me constantly.
- Huge library of themes
- Not sluggish
- Not as fast as other launchers
- Seems a little spammy to me
Developed by someone you wouldn’t think to make a popular Android launcher, Arrow is a pretty slick looking launcher made by Microsoft. A product of Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s in-house experimentation team, Arrow actually adjusts most parts of it’s UI based on your usage.
Apps are arranged by your usage, so are contacts, it’ll even put a dropped call first and foremost understanding that you’ll probably be needing to call that person back quickly. It’s a clever little launcher that only lacks in the customization and theming department but for someone who just wants a simple and efficient launcher, it’s worth a look.
It also has an option to change the background automatically to the photo of the day from Bing which is cool, but can easily be replaced by any number of apps from the Play Store that do that same thing.
- Slick looking with it’s transparent menus
- Adjusts based on your usage automatically
- Not as customizable as others on this list
- No themes really
With the highest rating of any launcher in the Play Store the ZenUI launcher is one you should at least try out. This is the launcher that ASUS puts on all of their devices by default, but not too long ago made available to all Android devices (smart move, ASUS).
While it has some features clearly borrowed from iOS like swipe down to search (which I personally miss from iOS when using an Android device) and swipe up to get to some quick settings, it is a pretty intuitive little launcher.
There aren’t a ton of themes if that’s your thing, but it has a decent amount. Just be ready for a lot of weird ones is all. Overall though it is a pretty quick and simple UI for people that just want to get in and out as quickly as they can. While it isn’t quite my cup of tea (I find it a bit cartoony and cheezy), there has to be something to it with all those 5 star ratings, right? Right?!
- Completely free (some themes cost money)
- Not very customizable
- Little cheesy looking in my opinion
There you go, the best Android launchers on the Play Store or at least a good collection of some to try out first.
I’m sure there are others I missed, please add them to this in the comments below and let me know what you thought of the video. Thanks!