Games are, of course, an easy way to show of the graphical chops of a smartphone. But what if you want a more practical way to display the power of your Android phone? A 3D launcher might be exactly what you’re looking for.
A relative youngster in the world of launchers, Regina 3D has managed to make a splash by offering a quality 3D interface without a price-tag. There are many great launchers already available on the Android Marketplace, including ADW and Launcher Pro, but they do charge for certain versions. Regina 3D is completely free.
Regina’s default interface looks like HTC Sense after getting a job at a steel mill. There’s a Sense-style dock on the bottom of the interface and the large clock is also reminiscent of HTC’s launcher, but the background is a slick metallic texture and the widgets are dressed to the nines. The 3D effects are noticeable, but also subtle. Moving between homescreens displays a 3D transition effect and widgets have a cool flip animation that is used when switching between display modes. The app tray also uses your smartphone’s 3D capabilities to provide a subtle transparency effect.
There is great widget support in Regina, and the functionality is competitive with the veteran launchers. The main disadvantage at the moment is customization, but if you aren’t going to spend much time tricking out your interface, this won’t be a problem for you.
Regina 3D Launcher requires Android 2.1 and up.
Android phones typically base themselves off the concept of having numerous home screens. That’s fine, but is it really necessary? After all, flipping through screens can become a bit tiresome.
MX Home tackles the launcher question from a slightly different angle by introducing a 3D “cover page” which contains a clock as well as access to the most important apps on any Android phone, such as Dialer, Internet and Contacts. A battery life indicator, Wi-Fi switch and other gadgets are also incorporated, and the click has a subtle but smooth 3D effect that is based on user input.
The main problem with MX Home is customization, and it’s more severe than the issue facing Regina 3D. Since the cover page is a static entity, manipulating the interface requires a modified 3D model and a re-skin. Currently there are just two themes available on the Android Marketplace. The launcher also needs to do a better job of integrating the 3D cover page with the rest of the interface. MXHome is free, as is the second theme.
MX Home requires Android 2.1 and up.
This launcher has a very special place on the marketplace. Most of the launchers currently out are indie apps that are made by one developer or a small team. SPB Shell 3D, however, is made by SPB software, a company with a huge variety of apps available for Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and more. It’s also unique because of its price tag – a whopping $15.
You might be thinking “Wow – the other launchers are free. How can this possibly justify $15?” There are many answers. SPB Shell 3D puts its 3D effects to better use than any of the other launchers. It has a cool, quick and handy carousel view for navigating screens and it’s also possible to use a 3D view to organize what screens are displayed and where. In addition to this, many of the included SPB Shell widgets have 3D effects of their own. The global time widget, with its beautiful 3D globe, is one example.
There’s more to SPB Shell 3D than the shiny graphics, as well. It has the best folder implementation of any launcher currently available for Android, and it’s surprisingly quick considering all the special effects being used. Paying $15 for an Android app may seem crazy, but if you want a serious do-it-all launcher that also makes excellent use of your phone’s 3D hardware, you can’t go wrong with SPB Shell 3D.
SPB Shell 3D requires Android 2.1 – 2.3.3.
I’m honestly surprised that there isn’t a greater selection of 3D launchers available, but then, development almost certainly takes time. If you know of a 3D launcher we missed or one that it is development and looking good, let us know in the comments.