One of they key advantages of Android’s openness is that you can completely change the look of the OS by simply using a launcher. There are thousands of third party launchers available on the Play Store, some based on the stock launcher that offer additional features, some imitating the look of other OS’s and some featuring a completely unique design and layout.
If you are bored of the stock launcher that your Android device came with and are looking for a change, here is a list of the most popular launchers available on the Play Store.
Chameleon launcher, was without a doubt, enjoyed one of the most hyped launchers in the Android app ecosystem world. Thanks to a Kickstarter funding, the app got a lot of media attention. Initially, the launcher was only released for Android tablets, but the team soon released a version for Android smartphones as well.
Chameleon launcher has a very unique context based layout, and looks very polished. It is nicely integrated with all the widgets created by the Chameleon team, which integrates nicely with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other popular services. However, the downside to all this is performance. If you have an Android device with less than 1GB of RAM, don’t even bother trying out Chameleon. The launcher is a resource hog, and needs at least 2GB of RAM and a quad-core Android device to run smoothly. For a launcher that costs $2.99, Chameleon launcher only advantage over similar launchers is its unique context layout and polished look, which pales in comparison to what Nova, Go and Apex launcher offer.
Smart Launcher has a very minimalist design, with great emphasis on user-friendliness and low resource usage. The launcher automatically organizes your app drawer by categories making it easier and quicker to find your apps. Even on the home screen, the app shortcuts are organised in a circular manner, instead of the usual dock with shortcuts all over your home screen, like in other launchers.
The launcher only has one screen with shortcuts to some of the most commonly used apps. The Pro version of the app enables additional features like a second home screen, widget support and more.
Action Launcher is a very unique launcher. Unlike other launchers, it does not have a traditional app drawer. You access the app drawer by swiping to the right from your default home screen, giving you access to a list of all your stock apps with quick thumb scrolling for quick access to any of them. Another unique feature of Action Launcher is Shutters. Instead of describing this feature in words, I will let the video below do the talking -:
Action Launcher does not offer as many features as Nova, GO Launcher or Apex and also lacks supports for gestures. It was only recently that the developer added support for icon packs. The launcher is also quite buggy and can be unstable as well. However, the developer is working hard on adding new features and squashing bugs and releases a new update nearly every alternate week.
Undoubtedly, GO Launcher EX is the most popular launcher on the Play Store. Up until recently, the launcher was completely free and had a plethora of features and some exclusive widgets as well. Unlike Apex and Nova, GO Launcher EX is not based on the stock Android launcher. It has the typical launcher, with a dock at the bottom and the usual app drawer. However, it is their icons, their size and the minor UI changes that help give this launcher give a refreshing new look to your Android device.
There are more than 5000 themes available for GO Launcher on the Play Store, along with some beautifully designed widgets. The recently released Pro version of the launcher unlocks certain new themes and animations.
On first look, Apex launcher may look like the stock Android launcher, but dive deeper into settings and you will be amazed at all the features it packs. Right from support for gestures to themes to multiple docks, Apex launcher has got it all. Here is a list of all the features that the free version of the launcher packs -:
• Customizable homescreen grid size and up to 9 homescreens
• Scrollable dock with up to 7 icons per page and up to 5 pages
• Infinite & elastic scrolling (homescreen, drawer and dock)
• Fancy transition effects (tablet, cube, etc.)
• Hide elements as you want (persistent search bar, status bar, or even the dock)
• Customizable icons and labels for shortcuts and folders
• Choose different folder preview styles and background
• Multiple drawer styles (transparent/opaque, horizontal/vertical, paginated/continuous)
• Drawer apps sorting (title, install date, mostly used)
• Hide apps from the drawer
• Lock your desktop to prevent accidental changes
• Enjoy homescreen gestures (pinch, swipe up/down, double tap)
• Advanced theme engine (icon packs, skins, etc.)
• Backup/restore settings and data
• Optimized for both phones and tablets
The paid version adds more features including swipe actions for individual icons on the home screen. Apex launcher works across phones and tablets without a hitch. However, do keep in mind that the launcher might be a bit unstable on your device, and there might be one or two crashes every once in a while.
Nova launcher is undoubtedly the current favorite launcher of the Android community. The launcher is based on the stock Jelly Bean launcher with enhancements and features like unread count on icons, gestures, themes and icon pack support, multiple drawers, transition animations and much more.
While Nova launcher is similar to features in Apex, it is much more stable, faster and smoother than the latter. The launcher also supports tablets, and is available in free as well as paid versions.
The above is just a list of what I think are the most unique, popular and useful launchers available on the Play Store. There are tons of other launchers available on the Play Store like ADW Launcher, Holo Launcher and Next Launcher 3D etc, and each of them offer something unique. I am not really a fan of launchers with 3D effects and animations since they are generally heavy on resources and are only good enough to show-off to your friends once-in-a-while.
Which is your favorite Android launcher? Drop in a comment and let us know!