Atom Launcher, Reviewed: Your Next Android Launcher?

Erez Zukerman 12-07-2013



I am not the kind of user who jumps to a different Android launcher every week. I’ve been using Nova 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 for nearly a year now, I think – and before, I was using Go Launcher (and featured themes for it 5 Gorgeous Go Launcher EX Themes To Make Your Droid Sexier Than Ever [Android 2.0+] It can be said that the app launcher is the defining app for the Android user experience. If you’re stuck with a crappy launcher, you may feel the entire Android experience is lacking. Fortunately, there’s... Read More ) even longer. In other words, I get attached – I spend time crafting a homescreen I really like, sometimes even using crazy widgets like UCCW Create The Homescreen Of Your Dreams With The Super-Customizable UCCW Widget [Android] One of Android's greatest strength is how customizable it is. Even without rooting your device or installing a custom ROM, you can do some incredible things to shape your phone to be just the way... Read More . That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally become curious when an interesting contender shows up – and Atom Launcher is just such an alternative. What makes it interesting, to me, is that it’s not another clone. It tries to set itself apart in terms of features, rather than outdo Nova or Trebuchet in every possible way.

What Atom Launcher Promises

Before we start evaluating Atom Launcher, we’d best know what to look at. What does it say it can do? Here’s an official video showcasing it:

So, to summarize:

  • You can import your homescreen from a previous launcher (“home copy function”)
  • Features unique resizable folders, which let you flip through apps
  • Has “awesome” widgets that are “very simple”
  • Features a hidden dock for quickly adjusting visual settings

That’s not all Atom can do, but those are the main selling points according to the video. So let’s run through these one by one and see if Atom really delivers.

Homescreen Import

Here’s an image showing how import worked for me. On the left is my Nova Launcher setup, and on the right is the result of automatic import by Atom:



Disregard the minor differences in wallpaper; that may be my fault. The icons, however, you should not disregard: I indeed had a folder on my homescreen (the “quotes” icon), which Atom converted into its own folder, in the same spot, and I can understand the icon was lost in the process. The odd spacing may be due to DPI differences between the apps (because I use PAC ROM The Best ROM For Sony Xperia Z? PAC, Reviewed I had recently started using the Sony Xperia Z, my first non-Samsung Android device in a while. Unlike the international Galaxy S4 (i9500), the Xperia Z has a wealth of available ROMs. Today I'd like... Read More , which lets me change the DPI on a per-app basis), so, not Atom Launcher’s fault.  But what about all of my other beautiful icons? I carefully applied the gorgeous flatro icon pack, and Atom migrated virtually none of those icons. And not only that, but what happened to my Chrome icon? There are five icons on dock in the left screenshot (Nova), and only four icons on the right…

In short, the Automatic Homescreen import feature does not work as advertised, and you may be better off not using it at all.

Unique Folders

Here’s what a folder looks like on Atom Launcher:



This is a 100% crop of the screenshot, so you can look at the folder up close and personal. Basically, a folder is a “Cover Flow” list of apps, which you can flip between. It looks quite cool, and you can set it to be as wide as you want it, to fit more apps in (height is not adjustable, though). Atom also lets you easily add multiple apps to a folder without having to drag them around and try to drop them accurately on a tiny target (something Nova and other modern launchers require). With Atom, you can just select the folder, tap Add, and get a list of all of your apps. Tap as many apps as you want, and all will be added to that folder.

In general, the way Atom handles folders is a significant improvement over Nova, and one of the strongest areas for the launcher.

Widgets and Themes

The video above promises awesome widgets and themes. On its own, Atom Launcher doesn’t feature these: You will have to install two companion apps (one for themes, and the other for widgets). That’s actually an advantage in my eyes, because it keeps the core launcher lean and slim.  Here are most of the Atom Launcher custom widgets:



Pretty basic stuff, really. Two clocks, two calendars, a memo, and a favorite contacts app. What’s nice about them is that they can be easily configured in various ways: The Digital Clock lets you set what information you want shown, as well a pick a color.


This is not groundbreaking – it’s been available with apps like Minimalistic Text Create Your Own Gorgeous Text-Only Widgets For Free With Minimalistic Text [Android] TWOTHIRTY, says the smartphone. Just like that -- with no space, all in capital letters, with the latter part bold. Yes, it's longer than 2:30, but it's somehow… swankier, too. But that's a matter of... Read More for ages now. But the way Atom Launcher implements it is much simpler and friendlier – just a couple of buttons to tap, and you’re done. That’s a good balance between customizability and comfort.


A homescreen loaded with widgets looks like this:


All in all, the widgets are nice, but I am glad Atom Launcher packages them separately – if, like me, you’re not really into widgets, just skip them. Now, let’s look at themes:


Let me be blunt: The themes are downright ugly. Here’s the Iron theme, applied to my app drawer:


Wow. I mean, aesthetics are subjective, but this really makes my expensive smartphone look like a toy. Not cool. And believe me, I spent some time hunting for a decent theme. The main issue here is just one of design: As Atom Launcher grows, it will hopefully attract some more serious designer attention, resulting in more attractive themes. For now, don’t bother with the themes. Atom says it can apply ADW themes, but could not handle Flatro properly.

Hidden Dock to Apply Wallpaper Effects

Another major Atom Launcher innovation is the “hidden dock.” No, it’s not what you think: It doesn’t let you launch any apps. Instead, long-pressing the Home button pops up a useful panel for applying custom effects to your wallpaper and homescreen:


Here you can see me adjusting the transparency of all homescreen elements. Honestly, this is sheer genius, and one of the best features Atom Launcher brings to the table. I know of no other launcher which can do this. The selection of effects is poor (only four at this time), and they don’t look all that nice, but the core concept is very strong and I hope the Atom Launcher team finds the resources (and the designer) to give it the aesthetics it deserves.

Bottom Line: Innovative Interface Concepts, Poor Design

Atom Launcher delivers, in the sense that it’s not another Nova/Trebuchet clone. It really is innovative, with interactions that feel well thought-out and don’t involve too much dragging and dropping (a major pain point in most launchers). Some key features are still missing, such as icon swipe actions (being able to launch two things with one icon, like Nova allows), but the main area that needs some urgent TLC is the design department. If the Atom Launcher team can hire a competent designer to endow their launcher with the pizazz it deserves, Nova may have something to worry about.

What launcher are you using? Will you be giving Atom a try? Let me know below.

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  1. Testuser
    July 7, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I completely disagree on design, atom launcher is the only alternative that do NOT look like a toy. iPhone and Samsung phones have toy looking icons, colors rounded shapes. For a more serious use the no bullshit style in atom is the way to go, now my phone looks like the digital tool it is instead of a touch screen gameboy with a phone function.

  2. Michael Preece
    November 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Gotta disagree with the article write up. I'm loving this app. Does everything they advertised, customize the colour and layout to suit your own style and taste. I have gone through tons of apps like this one, and Atom is BY FAR my favourite.
    Only thing I would like them to add, is a keyboard customization widget. That would be the cherry on the top.
    Nice works lad, truly.. Nice work

  3. k
    March 21, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Atom Launcher has so much more to offer than what you described. I love the options, they're endless!
    Six changing personal photos, in order or shuffled. Option to paginate over several screens or not.
    Transition effects + screen cover effects
    Can interchange icons exclusive of wallpapers
    Can use your own photos for icons with varying shapes.
    Access apps details directly in settings by holding down on app
    Sliding bar for homescreen apps
    Atom options can be added on screen as shortcuts
    It makes my Samsung S4 flawless & although it says it is made for phones, I love it on my Samsung Tablet.

  4. CARL.M
    December 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Sure is and its a looker as well ,i know its impossible to future proof your phone they bring them out so often however the little black monolith look wont age. some people who see my phone have a few seconds doing a double take to realize its a phone,a couple of my friend thought it was an external hard drive at first.

  5. CARL .M
    December 2, 2013 at 12:38 am

    I installed Atom launcher two days ago and have not stopped fiddling with it since.
    I have the Experia Z having jumped ship from iPhone,nothing wrong with iPhone just did not do the things i want to do on a smart phone.
    The Eperia Z is the best phone i have ever had and with atom on the device it is faster and even more customizable very smooth and no lag, i cannot speak highly enough of atom genuinely impressed with it ,I look forward to updates with new features. I do think you are right about design some look very juvenile but i am sure they will grow up as they reach puberty and improve. .

    • Erez Z
      December 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Another Xperia Z user! :) Isn't it just an awesome phone?

  6. warrencoles
    September 3, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Linpus Launcher has been around for a while and we are determined to make this a better launcher and a real alternative choice. Originally we had some good features to help try and launch applications quicker – a Quick Launch panel – and a large number of different free transitions, but perhaps we needed to work a little on stability. We have done that now hopefully enhancing memory management, smoothness of the transitions etc as 2nd to none. We have also improved personalization with the ability to create your own sub-categories in the app drawers and a slider to change icon size, among others. Would love to know everyone thinks.

  7. Steven G
    July 16, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I tried Atom Launcher and the only thing I got out of it was a neat wallpaper. I went back to Go Launcher Ex because that one seems to fit my needs when it comes to the Switches Widget and some of the different themes.

  8. R.s. H
    July 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Nova Prime all the way!! Design is everything.

  9. Kelly B
    July 13, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I've been using Atom for over a month and I love it. I had been using Apex and liked it but Atom is sleeker. There are a few options in Apex missing in Atom but I haven't really missed them.

  10. Paul P
    July 13, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I tried the Atom Launcher sometime back. Really love their minimalist approach and their widgets. But I had to uninstall since it was draining my battery.

  11. Dan
    July 13, 2013 at 2:04 am

    I like the minimalism and intuitiveness of Smart Launcher. I only wish that it had widget support for the free version.

    I've tried Atom Launcher before, but it didn't have any real wow factor back then. I am curious to try it out again based on your review.