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On Android, you don’t have to be stuck with the default look the phone ships with. All you have to do is install a new “launcher”, which controls how your homescreen looks. But given the plethora of such apps on the Play Store, which launcher should you use?

Some launchers focus on getting things done, others let you customize them to the finest degree, and a few are about being lightweight. Heck, even Google lets you download its default launcher.

As usual, there is no “best” overall app, and it depends on your needs.

No-Nonsense, Lots of Great Features: Action Launcher

Best For: Anyone who wants a launcher with tons of smart, useful features, without having to set them up yourself.

A launcher’s core job is to get out of the way and let you do your tasks quickly. Whether it’s launching an app, looking up a widget, or anything else, the launcher is merely the mechanism. Action Launcher understands this better than any other.

By default, Action Launcher imitates the clean look of the launcher on Google’s Pixel phones. And yes, it has complete Google Now integration for voice commands OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Slowly, without us noticing, the future has arrived. Read More .

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Its shortcuts are the best part, though. For example, instead of adding an app’s widget on your fifth homescreen, Action Launcher has “Shutters”. Swipe up on an app with a corresponding widget, and you will immediately launch the widget.

Similarly, you can choose the most frequently used app of a folder as the “Cover App”. Tap the Cover to launch the app, or swipe the Cover to reveal the folder with other apps.

Action Launcher lets you add app shortcuts in the Google search bar, choose different icon packs, hide and rename apps, create backups and restore them, and it comes with a swipe-out scrollable app drawer.

It’s free to try, but that restricts most of the great features noted here. Check it out — it is definitely worth the $2.99.

Download: Action Launcher for Android (Free, $2.99 for Pro)

Most Customizable: Nova Launcher

Best for: Those who want to control exactly how their Android looks, and those who like to often change the theme of their launcher.

Nova Launcher is, without a doubt, the most customizable launcher on the Play Store. It lets you tweak each and every aspect of how your Android device performs. And it’s blazing fast too.

The free version of Nova Launcher lets you control the positioning of each icon on your screen, and it hosts a variety of icon packs. One of its popular features is the infinite scroll, letting you seamlessly scroll between the homescreen and the app drawer. And the app drawer itself is customizable too.

Nova also has the easiest backup/restore system we’ve seen. Given the large community of users for this app, you will often find Nova themes you can download for free. Now you see why this was our pick for the best free Android launcher What Is the Best Free Android Launcher? What Is the Best Free Android Launcher? Nova launcher, Apex launcher, and dodol launcher are all solid free launchers, but which is the best? We put them to the test. Read More .

The app really flexes its muscle with the paid version, Nova Launcher Prime. Prime includes two features that change how you use the launcher: Gestures and Badges on icons. Gestures are shortcuts to launch favorite apps, while badges display the number of unread messages/notifications on popular apps. Nova Prime also lets you hide certain apps that you don’t want others to see.

With this app, you’re better off installing the free version and trying it out for a month. If you like it, only then will it be worth it to pay for the Prime version.

Download: Nova Launcher for Android (Free, $4.99 for Prime)

Free, Fast, and Light: Evie Launcher

Best for: Those on older phones looking for a lightweight launcher that still looks good and has all the basic features of a good launcher.

As great as the free version of Nova Launcher is, it has ads and in-app purchases. Plus, it’s customizable, but not beautiful. Evie Launcher outscores Nova on both counts, and even beats it on speed.

Evie is a marvel in how refined its animations are, while still being completely free. No ads and no in-app purchases that restrict features. It does require a few Android permissions What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care? What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care? Do you ever install Android apps without a second thought? Here's all you need to know on Android app permissions, how they've changed, and how it affects you. Read More to show you unread count badges and other smart features.

The homescreen is as barebones as it can get. Arrange the apps how you want, change the icons, and dive into settings to select how many apps appear on the homescreen or dock. You have similar granular control over the widgets and the app drawer.

Evie also lets you hide apps from the launcher, so as to keep it from prying eyes. And it includes a simple backup/restore function as well to save your theme.

All in all, it’s one of the best light Android apps to save storage and boost speed How to Send Automatic Replies to Text Messages on Android How to Send Automatic Replies to Text Messages on Android It's remarkably easy for Android users to not only schedule texts, but to also set up automatic responses for when you're busy. Read More .

Download: Evie Launcher for Android (Free)

The Google Experience: Google Now Launcher

Best for: Anyone who wants what Google intended Android to look like.

If you buy a Samsung, it comes with the TouchWiz interface. If you buy an Asus, it comes with ZenUI. Every manufacturer seems to layer on their own version of Android. But if you want the stock Android experience without rooting Get the Stock Android Experience on Any Phone Without Root Get the Stock Android Experience on Any Phone Without Root A lot of Android devices have very customized interfaces, but you can get a stock Android look without even rooting your device! Read More , Google has its own launcher.

The Google Now Launcher is what you will get on a phone without a custom interface, like any of Motorola’s phones. This includes Google Now cards, which display relevant information when you swipe over to the left on your homescreen.

The app drawer is sorted alphabetically, but you can also find installed apps quickly by typing the first few letters in the Google search bar.

There’s nothing fancy about the Google Now Launcher. It’s job is to give you the look and feel of a vanilla Android phone, and that’s what it does efficiently.

Download: Google Now Launcher for Android (Free)

What’s Your Favorite Android Launcher?

There are plenty of other great launchers on the Play Store, but we reckon these are all you need to look at. Even Microsoft’s productive Arrow Launcher Microsoft's New Arrow Launcher Makes Android More Productive Microsoft's New Arrow Launcher Makes Android More Productive Microsoft has made an awesome new Android launcher, so we put it to the test. Read More doesn’t make the cut any more.

Which launcher do you use on Android and why? What makes it the best?

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  1. Ooooo
    August 10, 2017 at 5:57 am

    ASAP and nothing else

  2. tara
    December 25, 2015 at 6:39 am

    only three words:Try cobo launcher

  3. Anonymous
    August 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Google now launcher and Inspire launcher are the best options!

  4. Santhosh
    April 12, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Try Hola launcher. It's amazing

  5. dayas
    January 11, 2014 at 6:05 am

    what about Next launcher 3D

  6. Cva
    January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I'm using Espire Launcher which makes my phone look similar to that of iOS 7... And it looks really awesome..

  7. Ufotofu9
    January 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    One launcher that I never see mentioned is Atom launcher. it is minimalistic, very clean, and even has a persistent clock or search bar at the top.

  8. Mary
    November 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I'm a diehard Buzz Launcher user. I went on a launcher binge and tried at least 15 different ones, but Buzz is definitely the one for me. However, I have a problem right now because I just bought a Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and Buzz Launcher doesn't yet have tablet support (they claim to be releasing that in the future though). But for now I'm just kinda frustrated. Last night I tried so many launchers and I didn't like a single one of them. I tried everything listed here, even the ones in the comments. If anyone knows of a tablet launcher not listed above that has a decent UI please tell me! :)

  9. Brian Graslaub
    November 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Google launcher apk is the best.

  10. Calvin Foon
    November 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

    MiHome Launcher is gorgeous..

  11. cvp
    November 19, 2013 at 4:15 am

    SOLO Launcher is good.

  12. Bonny
    November 13, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Nexus 5 launcher

  13. dreamwave
    November 2, 2013 at 1:15 am

    ADW wins in m eye for the fact that it supports android 1.6 and up, making it ideal for older phones such as the t-mobile g1, while still running relatively smoothly but with decent graphics.

  14. 19evol61
    November 2, 2013 at 12:48 am

    I'm an avid fan of Xperia Launcher (yes, even on my Moto Razr I'm using it), tried many other launchers (Go, TSF, ADW, MIUI, etc) but after I tried Smart Launcher i did not let it go, it's the perfect combination of looks and speed, try it!

  15. Djordje D
    November 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I use ADW launcher. It is open source and highly customizable.

  16. Ghost
    October 26, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Next launcher is pretty sick

  17. Falda
    October 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Holo! Regular or HD.

  18. asdas
    October 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

    smart launcher pro

  19. Zeph
    October 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    The New and Rising Aviate is one of THE BEST yet to be seen.. Try it.

    • ionel
      November 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Hello. Can you help me to try the Aviate launcher please? I need one invite from one user.

  20. Inda
    October 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Apex Pro for the win! Very customizable, fast on my Note 2. Own Nova Prime, Smart Launcher Pro, Action Launcher Pro. Nova features very similar to Apex but not as smooth on my Note 2 (my experince) Smart Launcher and Action Launcher unique features sets but not compelling for me to leave Apex. Just played with Buzz Launcher. Must admit very easy to install Themes, pretty powerful design. Just not my cup of tea. Lastly, also tried Themer, which is nice idea for downloading pretty themes but does not have mature launcher functionality yet.

  21. sanju
    October 20, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    ilauncher is good.It displays live clock(it's a working clock!) like iPhone. Also it shows message count and today's date in calender icon.Effects are like ios7. Worth of buying.

  22. fernando
    October 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    try tsf shell its incredible

  23. veera Brahmaji
    October 19, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I use smart launcher , very simple interface, the thing that sticks me to this is it organisas all apps according to their category.
    But it lacks widgets on home page, i pro version widgeta provided in second page

  24. Robert O
    October 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I am using the Aviate beta at the moment. So far I like it and it is reasonably fast on my Defy XT.

  25. HIkHikHIk
    October 19, 2013 at 6:38 am

    kamote launcher is the best

  26. Yutao T
    October 18, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Default stock Android launcher. The search box are on every page.

    • Rick
      November 21, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      "The search box are on every page." - those are the first things I remove!

  27. doktrjones
    October 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    correction: for iPhone fans : iLauncher. Way better than Hi Launcher

  28. Maya
    October 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    GO Launcher is absolutely fantastic. It's fast, has tons of themes, and customization isn't an issue. It's by far my favorite.

  29. Rahul P
    October 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Nova Launcher is no doubt the best launcher available on the market. It is best due to it's Reliability, Simplicity, Usability etc. I've been using it since long time now.

  30. sunil
    October 10, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Solo Launcher . It's really Awesome

  31. RealisticDeals.com
    October 9, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    For me my custom launcher is better than anything !!!!

  32. Joe
    October 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    That should be "Any other widgets have good calendar widgets?"

  33. Joe
    October 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I want other launchers, but for me, I need a good calendar widget, and I get that in Go Launcher. Any other launchers have good calendar widgets. I want to be able to see my daily schedule and then change to monthly or weekly as needed.

  34. nks
    October 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

    You missed the Go launcher.

  35. Ryan
    October 7, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Check how crazy Tile Launcher makes your phone look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOI-iIlnkYA

  36. Ryan
    October 7, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Seriously check out Tile Launcher, best launcher out there.

  37. nukes dixit
    October 6, 2013 at 9:33 am

    BUZZ Launcher .............best for my phone

  38. Danny K
    October 6, 2013 at 4:17 am

    Go launcher EX!

  39. KSW
    October 6, 2013 at 12:29 am

    You folks completely missed out on an old classic that updated over time: ADW Launcher (along with the paid ADWex). ADW was really where theming without modifying system resources started on Android. Its same style of packs was later picked up by Go Launcher (and to a lesser extent, Nova Launcher). There are also others like Chameleon, Trebuchet (the CyanogenMod/AOSP launcher), and a number of other lesser known launchers that are still pretty popular.

  40. Benoit R
    October 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Action Launcher Pro

  41. elit
    October 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    for laucher pro
    there are
    - back and restore option
    - hold the shortcut on trash icon a bit longer to uninstall

  42. Nikhil C
    October 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

    You should give a try to :
    Yandex.Shell (Launcher+Dialer) : This type of personalization in Yandex launcher is not seen any other launchers !! Here is the play store link :
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ru.yandex.shell
    Solo Launcher : It is free for ever and many types of theme are available on it , such as IOS and android 4.3 ....... Here is the play stor link
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=home.solo.launcher.free
    For me , Solo laucher is far better than Nova or all those launchers .... Yandex one is also good
    I hope u will give them a try !!

  43. Alwin
    October 5, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Been a user of Launcher Pro since 2010 and I love it. FYI, your misses on "No backup or restore." and "no option to drag icon to trash can." are not true

  44. Nahid K
    October 5, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Apex Launcher

  45. Bharadwaj
    October 5, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I am using Yandex.Shell launcher. It works good for me. Not a bad try

  46. Kamran T
    October 5, 2013 at 7:04 am

    review of all 3d launchers like next,tsf,spb

  47. ???????? ?
    October 5, 2013 at 5:40 am

    I use TSF shell

  48. asfa
    October 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

    tsf shell

  49. harsha halyal
    October 5, 2013 at 4:53 am

    go launcher my fav..

  50. eckyeckypikang
    October 5, 2013 at 4:08 am

    Check out Lightning Launcher, but you have to put it into "free scroll" mode. No more desktop "screens" cuz everything can be put onto an infinite field. Zoom out, zoom in where you want to go. Easy once set up and super lightweight. Supports folders and scrolling dock. Can also be used more like traditional launchers if one chooses. Best I've ever tried... and I've tried a lot! I always come back to Lightning.

  51. vhick
    October 5, 2013 at 3:44 am

    SSLancher!

  52. Danny K
    October 5, 2013 at 1:44 am

    This is very useful. Go Launcher EX is awesome.

  53. Carl P
    October 5, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Aviate is pretty cool and is in beta that you have to sign up for an invite code but it's worth a try.

  54. Elrick B
    October 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    ADW Launcher is good for me, but i think i will try nova!!

  55. Sakshar
    October 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Smart Launcher

  56. SauS
    October 4, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    HTC Sense 5.0 with Blinkfeed.

    (I know HTC Sense was crap, but with 4.0 some massive improvements came)

  57. selw0nk
    October 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Holo Launcher HD. Has all the same features of Nova but free.

    • Rajaa C
      October 5, 2013 at 1:12 am

      Yeah my choice too. One of the fastest, smoothest launcher and that too free for the best true android interface experience.

  58. Josh Gunderson
    October 4, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I've been using Aviate. There's a few features I'd like to see but overall I like it.

  59. Tony Karakashian
    October 4, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Launcher 8 does support widgets. It's my daily driver, and I've got a couple on my screen. I'm also not sure what you mean "gets slow with usage"? Again, the launcher I've been using for months and I'd never use the word "slow" to describe it.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Sorry, Tony, I think I worded that badly. I meant to say it doesn't come with built-in widgets that complement the theme, since it's all about that particular style. I'll fix it, thanks for bringing it to my attention :) As for it getting slower with usage, in my experience, the time it took from tapping the home button to the screen showing up got longer as I used it more and added more tiles and widgets to the home screen. Hasn't that been your experience? Perhaps you could share which phone you are using. I tested this on a Lenovo P780 as well as a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

    • Tony Karakashian
      October 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      My wife and I are both using it on our Galaxy Nexuses, and I haven't experienced anything similar to what you're describing.

  60. Elchyan
    October 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    If you want a simple and easy to use launcher, try Aviate! It's really awesome and fast, but still in beta ))

  61. Rudi Pittman
    October 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Nemus Launcher over LauncherPro....newer...light footprint around size of Zeam.

  62. Andreas
    October 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    ssLauncher, it is great!

  63. Vlad
    October 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    By far the best launcher I have ever used is Smart Launcher. Clean, neat, smart. A winner!

    • Anonymous
      March 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      agreed, me too, i have used so mnay launcher, nova is fast too, but not as clean and neat as smart

  64. Rabbane
    October 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    TSF shell is probably the best!

  65. Stelios K.
    October 4, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Oh! I almost forgot...
    I DON'T LIKE SAMMY'S TOUCH-STUPID-WIZ!
    I'm a pure-android lover. :)

  66. Stelios K.
    October 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I use Solo Launcher. It's almost like Nova, but not so laggy. (Yeah! I'm a speed freak :P )

  67. Luiz Moraes
    October 4, 2013 at 6:45 pm
  68. Serra Behymer
    October 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I have loved TSF Shell since it first came out. Sure, it's a good bit expensive compared to the other launchers, but it really is different and unique, well worth it. Runs so fluidly on my S4!

    • tim
      October 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      I use TSF on my Nexus 7 and love it for that. I have been meaning to try it on my One X but haven't gotten around to it. I also hear it isn't the best for phone-sized screens. On my one x I'm currently using GO Launcher and it works well

    • jered
      October 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Ditto!

    • jered
      October 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      TSF is waaay ahead of the others. But if I wasnt using TSF I would definitely be using Nova.

  69. Mark A
    October 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    go launcher?

    • Biscuit
      October 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      its an old one

  70. Akhil K
    October 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I recently downloaded Yandex launcher after hearing it here. It is the best perfect for me. The inbuilt dialer is instantaneous and looks great. When i feel minimalistic i use Zeam launcher.

  71. glen lebarr
    October 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Smart Launcher is my choice

    • Matheus P
      October 5, 2013 at 12:03 am

      Yeah, mine too.. One of the best launchers out there, imho...

    • Selva Kumar
      October 5, 2013 at 4:37 am

      I use the Smart Launcher - simple and clean interface. Not much cluttered

    • Homar R
      October 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      Same here

    • rismaka
      October 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      I'm using smart launcher too.. It's best for even low end android device...

    • LG nexus user
      October 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      I'm currently happy with Smart launcher as well.

    • PrionBlank
      October 15, 2013 at 1:56 am

      Same here! :D

    • T
      November 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Was using Nova until I found smart launcher. Will never look back. Very happy now

  72. Clement
    October 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I'm using Apex launcher, it's very light and fast. There are lots of themes (shared with Go Launcher and Nova). For me, it's free and it works well (no crash).

    • John Crumpton
      October 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

      I was using that for a while (paid version) then I switch to Nova as this crashed less. Both are excellent

  73. Andi Meyer
    October 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Using Nova (with the paid goodies) on my phone and tablet. Even when I tried another launchers, I happily returned to Nova. As to the Launcher 8 and Hi Launcher, I don't get it. Why buying a cool Android phone and then turning it into an ugly Windows 8 or iPhone style device? But then again, let every man seek launcher's heaven in his own fashion, and let those who want it end up in launcher's hell.

    • jenztom
      October 22, 2013 at 4:00 am

      Some people find may find the WP8 interface ugly, some see the Android UI as unpolished, and then some may find iOS (specially iOS7) as messy and dated. I'm a Graphic designer and I find the Windows Phone 8 UI elegant. It's balanced (because of the tiles), simple, minimalist, no frills. What I don't like is the hardware and availability of apps. Then there's iOS. I don't have much love for skeumorphism (which iOS have tons of.) Yes, iOS7 doesn't have it any more but it's pretty much a messed up UI right now. But I do like Apple's hardware, and their ecosystem is top-notch. On Android, because of heavy customization and tons of apps, you get a plethora of icons of different shapes and sizes (not to mention widgets of all shapes and sizes) which looks a bit messy at times. No one would argue though the Android is a very powerful OS and the Google Play is at par (if not superior) to Apple's App Store. Android is all about customization. I personally use Launcher8. I get the elegant interface of Windows 8 without sacrificing power and customization. It's a win-win situation for me.

  74. Anonymous
    October 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    action luncher

    • Windows 8
      February 2, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      I have to say that windows launcher 8 is my fav. why? like it said: for windows 8 phone fans. as i am one myself ^^.

      i have to say hi launcher is stupid.

    • Andy
      April 9, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Vote for Launcher 8, too.