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Last year, I did a bit of soul searching and tried out a bunch of awesome free launchers for Android 5 Awesome Free Launchers You May Not Know About [Android] 5 Awesome Free Launchers You May Not Know About [Android] I'm an Android user because I love to tinker with my phone and change it up every once in a while. Android lets me do that easily right out of the box because it was... Read More . With so many offerings on the market, I went ahead and tried out even more free launchers for Android 5 More Free Launchers You May Not Have Heard About [Android] 5 More Free Launchers You May Not Have Heard About [Android] One of the great things about the Android community is that modifications and changes are always being made. Android technology is always changing, and thus, there are always new avenues to explore--and so many more... Read More . And now I’m back, one year later, to report my experiences with some of the best Android launchers available in the Play Store today. The choices are always evolving and home screen customization has never been so user-friendly.

Android launchers are a great way to spice up your home screen with new graphics and new features. For the uninitiated, you should know that your phone already has its own stock launcher, but stock launchers often lack the powerful features found in independently-developed launchers like the ones in this article. Whether you want a simple aesthetic upgrade OR you want to completely revolutionize the way you approach the home screen, these launchers are a great place to start. Android launchers are varied and the trick is to find the one that you like best.

Apex Launcher

android-launcher-apex

I used Apex for a stretch of a few months and really liked it. In terms of graphics and effects, it doesn’t really offer anything new or innovative. It supports the usual: theming, app shortcuts, widgets, wallpaper management, page management, etc. However, the addition of Apex Actions makes it very easy to perform small actions that would otherwise be inconvenient or tedious. Apex Actions show up as a button on your home screen, so you can perform actions like “Toggle Dock” with one tap. You can also alter dozens of settings for various screen elements, including the home screen, the app drawer, the app dock, app folders, themes, and more.

If you want a simple launcher that doesn’t revolutionize the launcher concept but still offers a lot of ways to play around, Apex Launcher may be for you. For a deeper look, check out our Apex Launcher review Need a Custom Home Screen? Apex Launcher Gives You What You Want [Android] Need a Custom Home Screen? Apex Launcher Gives You What You Want [Android] For many users, Android is the mobile operating system that revolutionized the smartphone market thanks to the level of customization it allowed. Don’t get me wrong: the iPhone and the Blackberry (and more recently, Windows... Read More .

Nova Launcher

android-launcher-nova

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Nova Launcher is probably one of the most powerful and popular launchers for Android at the time of writing this article. It has such a deep set of features to really make your phone feel up-to-date. It has all of the usual workings of an Android launcher, but you can also expect to see folders in the dock, self-adjusting icons when space is tight, screen gestures, multi-touch gestures, per-icon swipe gestures, and more.

Nova Launcher comes in a free version and a paid version called Nova Launcher Prime which is available for $4 USD. Prime unlocks some of the advanced features, such as app folders in the dock, organizing apps into tabs and folders in the app drawer, hiding apps in the drawer, unread counts on icons for SMS, email, etc. and more.

Without word of exaggeration, Nova Launcher is one of the most sophisticated Android launchers in existence. For a deeper look, check out our Nova Launcher review Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Up until Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) came along, Android’s interface felt somewhat less polished than iOS’s. But with Android 4.0, Google made a clean break with the previous visual style for Android, introducing Holo... Read More .

ADW Launcher

android-launcher-adw

Despite my respect and adoration for all of the launchers on this list, ADW Launcher is the one I’m currently using. It has the perfect balance of features and speed without being overly bloated with advanced tools that I, personally, would never use. This is the launcher that replaced my streak with Apex Launcher, so take that how you will.

One thing I love about ADW is that it runs you through a miniature setup wizard when you first start it. This wizard gives you a rundown of the most important features in ADW, allowing you to select options along the way, before letting you go and explore it fully on your own. Core features include: app folders, gesture-defined actions, app groups that split your app drawer into tabs, advanced theming, and more.

ADW Launcher is one of the best you’ll find for free. For $3 USD, you can upgrade to ADW Launcher EX and unlock more themes, more screen transitions, extended icon styling, and backups/restores of different config presets. For a deeper look, check out our ADW Launcher review The Tried and True Free Launcher For Android - ADW Launcher The Tried and True Free Launcher For Android - ADW Launcher A confession: I've avoided ADW Launcher for the past two years and I don't know why. Maybe it was the not-so-catchy name of the app. Maybe I just had a bad day once and decided... Read More .

Chameleon Launcher

First of all, how cool a name is “Chameleon Launcher”? That in itself is enough to pique my interest and make me want to try it out. But Chameleon Launcher is a polarizing launcher simply because it’s so different from most launchers out there. At first glance, it reminds me of the direction Microsoft went with Metro-styling, but Chameleon’s differences go deeper than the surface.

It’s so different that I’m finding it difficult to describe succinctly in just a few paragraphs. The video above will give you an idea of what you can expect from Chameleon, and then you can probe even deeper by checking out our Chameleon Launcher review Chameleon Launcher For Android Phones Offers Context-Based Home Screens And Big, Beautiful Widgets Chameleon Launcher For Android Phones Offers Context-Based Home Screens And Big, Beautiful Widgets Most Android launchers are relatively similar: Nova, Apex, and friends usually offer what you'd expect: One or more homescreens with some third-party widgets, an app drawer, and app folders. And then there's Chameleon: A bold... Read More . Just know that it’ll set you back $3 USD and there is no free version.

Sweeter Home Launcher

android-launcher-sweeterhome

Like Chameleon above, Sweeter Home Launcher is an innovative app that attempts to redefine the home screen experience. It’s more than just an app organizer. The core feature of Sweeter Home is something called the “tag tray,” which resides at the bottom of the screen like an app dock. But unlike an app dock, the tag tray provides different “tags” with which you can filter your apps. These trays can be customized, too.

The second core feature of Sweeter Home is the theming system, which is more than just an aesthetic overhaul. Sweeter Home lets you add logic to themes, which allows certain parts of the theme to toggle or trigger other parts of the theme. If you’re into that level customization, you’ll love Sweeter Home Launcher.

For a deeper look, check out our Sweeter Home Launcher review Cutting Edge Review: Sweeter Home Launcher For Android [1.5+] Cutting Edge Review: Sweeter Home Launcher For Android [1.5+] While I review Android apps all the time, I usually stick to apps that are already on the Market. But Sweeter Home is such an innovative launcher, I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to review... Read More . The app is currently in beta, thus not available on the Play Store. You’ll need to go to their website and follow their instructions for installing the beta onto your phone if you want to try it out.

Conclusion

Need to revitalize your Android home screen? There are tons of options out there just waiting for you to give them a shot and they’re all varied in looks, features, and operation. It really is about you downloading them, trying them out, and seeing which ones you like the best. Hopefully this post exposed you to a few more launchers that you’ve never heard about.

What do you think about them? Will you use them? Have you used them before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credits: M203 Grenade Launcher Via Flickr

  1. Druv B
    August 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I used Apex Laucnher when I first got my tablet, but switched to Smart Launcher for the minimal UI and a faster launcher than swiping for apps.

    • Joel Lee
      August 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

      I've been hearing about Smart Launcher recently. Looks decent and worth a try.

  2. Gary M
    August 8, 2013 at 6:47 am

    please leave an option to email story to someone, or to yourself if you want to refer back to some feature in story.

  3. amuro
    August 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Apex launcher pro in tablet mode is the cleanest, fastest, simplest launcher ive had to date.

  4. amuro
    August 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Apex Launcher pro in Tablet mode is the cleanest one ive had.

  5. Steven G
    August 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I am curious why this is not covering GO Launcher EX, that is an amazing one

    • T Steve
      August 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Taking Nothing away from a free launcher with near premium features, adding icons to the home screen is not as smooth as a normal user would find in other launchers of the same cadre. (Tap and hold from the app drawer)
      Also Long press App icon to choose to go to app info, has not been witnessed in GO Launcher EX

      • Steven G
        August 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm

        Near Premiums are to me better then paying anywhere from $7 - $15 for an application that does what is given to me free by the phone itself. I like to test different home screens because I am not one to stay consistent at times, yet I have found that I always go back to the Free Go Launcher EX and some of the additional Widgets that work with it.

        If companies are going to make a free launcher then offer a paid version, I expect the paid version to blow the free version out of the water by a LOT!!!

  6. superkiller
    August 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Guys.. jst check out the latest quad core phone from nokia in the phablet category..

    windroidblog.blogspot.in/2013/08/nokia-quad-core-1080p-phablet-is-here.html

  7. Mithun
    August 7, 2013 at 7:34 am
    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:35 am

      Fantastic recommendation! Thanks.

  8. Barrie M
    August 7, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I would just like to recommend Action Launcher. It is more than just a new app draw. It also includes "shutters" on Jelly Bean devices which allow you to swipe and app icon and get the widget.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chrislacy.actionlauncher.pro&hl=en

    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:34 am

      It looks great but it's a shame there's no free version so people can try before buying. :(

  9. Dan
    August 7, 2013 at 6:18 am

    I use Smart Launcher. Minimalist but very nice. I wish it had widget support for the free version.

    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:33 am

      Thanks! I love minimalism and Smart Launcher looks superb. Going to look more into it!

  10. Rajendra
    August 7, 2013 at 4:59 am

    MIhome launcher for iPhone style is also worthy ...

  11. Nohl L
    August 7, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I am a little surprised that Buzz Launcher was not listed. It's pretty versatile; coordinates with a number of popular widgets; and it lets you share your best ideas with thousands of other people worldwide.

    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Never heard of Buzz Launcher but it looks real nice. Thanks!

  12. Paul in NJ
    August 7, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Presumably these work on Android tablets too...

    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:31 am

      Most of them should, but I would double check on the app page before installing any of them!

  13. Rajaa C
    August 7, 2013 at 1:08 am

    I use a Samsung Galxy Chat GT-B5330 and few months ago received the JB 4.1.2 official update. However, the whole experience was getting killed by the Samsung touchwiz interface. That is when I hecided that I would really appreciate the stock Android interface experience and switched to Holo Launcher HD free version, and till date never regretted my decision. It is fast and snappy and is a beautiful launcher.

    • Rick
      August 7, 2013 at 3:58 am

      I use Holo as well, albeit the pro version, with the standard Holo on my old Froyo phone and the HD on my newer Jellybean. I agree. Awesome launcher! Lightweight, fast and snappy, yet feature filled.

    • Vipul J
      August 7, 2013 at 5:49 am

      +1 to Holo Launcher HD.
      Basically it's pretty similar to Apex & Nova but because of one feature I stick to Holo.
      I can assign swipe up or down as a gesture to open recent apps which usually works by long pressing my Home key on my SGS2 I9100.
      So its kind of saving my button's life!
      Nova & Apex have gestures too but none have the option of assigning recent apps in it.

      • Anonymous Droider
        August 7, 2013 at 8:14 am

        As for Apex, tap Menu > Apex settings > Behavior Settings > Under Gestures, select whichever gesture you want, (for ex, in your case, swipe up/down) and assign Recent apps to it. Mostly Nova will have a way of doing the same as well.

        • Vipul J
          August 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

          Apex was the first launcher I tried on my S2 and it did have gestures but not recent apps to assign.

        • Anonymous Droider
          August 8, 2013 at 10:34 am

          At the time of posting my comment, I manually set the swipe up gesture to "Recent Apps" in the way as mentioned in my comment.
          I was using the latest version, i.e. Apex Launcher Pro v2.0.6

          At present I'm using Nova Launcher Prime v2.2
          And the steps are as follows
          Menu > Nova Settings > Gestures and Buttons > Swipe Up / Swipe Down > Recent apps (The list of assignable actions is scrollable in both launchers)

        • Vipul J
          August 8, 2013 at 10:52 am

          In that case, thanks I'll check them. I always tried the free ones and found it only in Holo HD free. I guess pro versions would have that feature.

        • Anonymous Droider
          August 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

          Cheers.
          I'm sure Googling the name + version of the pro versions will point you to the right direction.

    • Joel Lee
      August 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

      Holo is definitely a great one. Thanks for sharing!

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