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LauncherPro [No Longer Available] was one of the first alternative launchers available for Android. Even today, it’s considered one of the longest-enduring staples among the best Android launchers. Even after surviving the arrival of newer titans, such as the ultra-minimal Atom Launcher and the “better than default” ADW Launcher, which Joel recommends, LauncherPro retains a large fan base.
Given the fierce competition, can LauncherPro compete with more modern launchers, or has it become obsolete?
My Criteria for Evaluation
As someone who uses both tablets and smartphones, I prefer that a launcher support both form factors. There are two reasons for this: First, if I end up paying the money for the pro version, I’d like to get the most out of my money by using it on all my devices. Second – and primarily – I prefer using the same theme and launcher across both devices for simplicity’s sake. Icon packs are oftentimes launcher-specific, and the aesthetically inclined may find it difficult hunting down the precise pack for their needs.
Having played with dozens of launchers, I find that a superior launcher should provide the following four characteristics, above all else: (1) efficient means of accessing your favorite apps, quickly and without hassle; (2) visual beauty to impress and shame your friends and enemies; (3) good performance even on older devices; (4) customizable interface, including widgets. I loosely apply these four categories to LauncherPro, along the lines of strengths and weaknesses.
What are LauncherPro’s Strengths?
- Speed: LauncherPro includes an infinite scroll in its app drawer, which allows you to move through your app collection without halting. It also allows for infinite scrolling from the home-screen. It provides an efficient means of accessing my apps. Pictured below lies a shot of LP’s app drawer, which ranks among the fastest drawers I’ve ever seen:
- Simplicity: LP doesn’t mess around when it comes to simplicity in design. Its basic functions all mirror that of the stock launcher, with the exception that it uses clearer homescreen icons.
- Installs on most versions of Android: LauncherPro works great on virtually all versions of Android. I tested versions Android 2.1 to 4.2 and it worked great on even the slowest of processors.
- Good animations: I particularly like the way LP handles its app drawer animations. Upon opening or closing the app drawer, the icons shoot across the screen
- Requires very little system resources: As mentioned above, LP ran perfectly on my extremely slow Nook Simple Touch, which had been rooted to accept Android apps. In fact, it provided one of the better launcher experiences.
- Folder support: LP also includes support for folders. To create a folder, simply long-press on the home screen and select “Folder” from the context menu. Then drag and drop an app icon into the folder. From now on, whenever you press on the folder, it will show all the icons that were dropped into it./li>
- Paid version includes a huge number of icons: LP has one of the largest repositories of icons out of all the launchers in the app store.
What are LauncherPro’s Weaknesses?
- Lack of tablet-optimized mode: Icons are appear very small and the launcher still sports telephony icons by default, even when such features are absent.
- The icon packs require the paid version of the launcher: After you purchase LauncherPro Plus, a large library of icon packs become available for use from the Play Store. I found the complete lack of any free icon packs to be unappealing. The all-or-nothing approach to app monetization pushes away a great deal of potential adopters, since they cannot test out themes without paying.
- Paid widgets only: Only the paid version supports the customized LauncherPro widgets. These do not differ much from normal widgets, other than their visual polish. In all honesty, the customized widgets aren’t worth the money.
- Uninstallation: LP’s worst attribute is that it hides itself from the app drawer. In order to uninstall it, you must navigate to settings -> applications and then manually uninstall it.
How Does LauncherPro Compare to the Competition?
Atom Launcher: Atom Launcher ranks among the best modern launchers around. It provides a number of features that LauncherPro falls short in. In particular, the free version of Atom Launcher includes a huge number of custom icons and widgets. It matches virtually all of LauncherPro’s features as well as adding its own unique aesthetic touch, such as the Atom Bar. The Atom Bar is a customizable feature akin which appears just under the status bar at the top of the screen. At present, it can appear as either the Google Search bar or a status bar, indicating the time, date and your battery life.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison between LauncherPro (right) and Atom Launcher (left):
The Atom Launcher’s store comes as a separate app. After installing the additional software, you can then buy individual widgets and add-ons. The biggest selling point is that you can buy entire themes, which greatly simplify the customization process. Here’s an example of a custom theme, which I applied with just a few touches on the screen:
On the downside, Atom launcher isn’t available on versions of Android older than Ice Cream Sandwich, and themes cost money.
Nova Launcher: When it comes to customization, Nova reigns as king among the launchers. In addition to its slick interface, and its awesome tablet mode, Nova handles gestures, which allow you to perform preset actions, such as launching apps, by moving your finger on the screen in a set pattern.
Its customization also extends to the app drawer. You can sort the drawer in one of several ways.
Another great feature of Nova Launcher is its great support for tablets. In the screenshot below, you’ll notice that the icons are larger and the launcher automatically aligns itself for landscape mode. This compares well with LauncherPro’s aforementioned horribly unoptimized tablet-UI.
Erez wrote an excellent review of Nova Launcher. If you plan on installing it, check it out for all of its various features. For those of you looking for launchers similar to Nova, check out Joel’s great article on Apex launcher.
Having given LauncherPro a throughout testing out, I find that it’s not worth $3.49. The deal-breaker for me is the lack of support for a tablet-optimized mode. Had it included better tablet support, and I needed it for an older handset, it would be worth it. Unfortunately, the more modern features provided by apps like Atom Launcher and Nova Launcher make purchasing LauncherPro a difficult decision.
Does anyone have a favorite launcher for older handsets? Let us know in the comments.