Forget Power Features: Yandex.Shell Keeps It Light, Clean, and Easy

Joel Lee 23-09-2013

Have you found your perfect Android launcher yet? There are a lot of choices available out there and if you’ve been keeping up with our Android launcher roundups 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 , you’d know that many of them are innovative, robust, and downright awesome. The downside to having so many great launchers, of course, is that it can be hard to decide which one to use – which is why, if you haven’t find your perfect Android launcher yet, I highly recommend giving Yandex.Shell a try.


In one of our posts detailing 5 of the best Android launchers Transform Your Droid: 5 Launchers To Replace The One That Came With Your Phone 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... Read More , one of our readers, Mithun, suggested Yandex.Shell. Yandex is the fourth largest search engine in the world and they have, in the spirit of information availability, developed an entire family of high-quality Android apps that can be used for free. These apps include Yandex.Browser, Yandex.Navigator, Yandex.Weather, and Yandex.Shell, which is their launcher app. For those of you looking for one that’s easy to use, lightweight, and beautiful, you can end your search now.

First Impressions


Running Yandex.Shell for the first time will be a happy experience. The interface is one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen, yet not so minimalistic that you lose out on intriguing details and variety. You can tell that there’s a good amount of modern influence on the design with a few interesting touches that seem to be borrowed from the Web 2.0 trend of years ago.

What is Yandex.Shell all about? Quick setup and easy customization without sacrificing eye candy. Indeed, once you install the app and run it, you’ll be met right away with the default setup in the screenshots above, and frankly I think the default setup is brilliant. If you care as much as I do about the look and feel of a launcher, Yandex.Shell will not disappoint.

However, there are a number of features beyond aesthetics that solidify Yandex.Shell as a powerful launcher worthy of your attention. Let’s check those out now.


Core Features


When you go to download the launcher off of the Play Store, you’ll notice that the app is actually called Yandex.Shell (Launcher + Dialer). Not only is Yandex.Shell a launcher replacement, it actually transforms your dialer as well by giving it a new interface and some new features.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the new dialer is the ability to add Favorite Contacts. This is pretty much the same thing as adding contacts to speed dial, but I find that this implementation of it is more intuitive. I’ve personally never used speed dials before but found Yandex.Shell’s dialer compelling enough to try it out – and I love it. You can customize each contact’s picture, but if you don’t, Yandex.Shell will distinguish them with different landscape backgrounds anyway.

Going back to the actual launcher itself, Yandex.Shell offers all of the basic features that you’d expect from a polished launcher. It can handle multiple pages (as far as I could see, there was no limit to how many pages you could have), different transition animations, app shortcuts, and widgets. Unfortunately, one popular feature that you won’t find is gestures.


Customizing Yandex.Shell


Let’s talk about widgets for a moment. Yandex.Shell supports widgets on its home screen pages, and the launcher comes equipped with a number of awesome Yandex widgets. These widgets actually come in two forms: widgets and panels. Most of these widgets and panels come with their own settings you can change.

A widget is a home screen item that displays information. Yandex.Shell’s default widgets include: an indicator bar which you can use to toggle various settings, like WiFi and brightness; a weather widget to show local forecasts; a call log widget to show you recent calls; even a birthday widget to track your friends’ birthdays. There are over 25 widgets available.

Then there are panels, which are widgets that fill up the entire page. These tend to be flashier, more beautiful, and more informative. The selection of pages is smaller than the selection of widgets, but the available ones are useful: a photos gallery for quick browsing; a calendar for marking schedules and appointments; a notes panel for creating and managing post-it notes; as well a few others.


And, of course, you still have access to all of the regular Android widgets offered by your apps.

You can also customize Yandex.Shell through themes, though there aren’t many to choose from. Hopefully the developers add more later on down the line.

The last customization option is the ability to toggle on experimental features, which are included in Yandex.Shell but disabled by default due to their bugginess. Experimental features include: stereoscopic 3D mode, resizing of Android widgets, and hardware acceleration for Android widgets.


It all comes down to this: if you want a clean, fast, easy to work launcher and you don’t need or intend to use the kind of power features that you’d find in something like Nova Launcher (which is a power user’s dream come true 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 ), then Yandex.Shell is a fantastic choice. Advanced power users might find it a bit limiting, but casual users who like some flexibility without being overwhelmed by choice will love it.


Do you use Yandex.Shell? If so, what do you think of it? And if you don’t use it, will you give it a try? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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  1. kermu
    September 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    love Yandex. thanks for letting me know about it

  2. John P
    September 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    After reading the review, I gave Yandex a try. I agree that it is very nice and would be happy to switch but for two items I use frequently (and can't seem to get working at the moment):

    1. Home button. In Yandex, the home button doesn't seem to want to take me to a Home screen. I went through the settings, tried all the usual suspects (menu key, press and hold men, etc but couldn't find a way to define a "Home" screen.

    2. Rotating screens. Just like is displayed in the Yandex Panel (see screen #1 above), I prefer the individual panels to loop back rather than go all the way left then have to scroll all the way back right. My default Android screen can do it, why not Yandex?

    As to the aesthetics, I have to agree with you. Clean, simple, clear but not unappealling from a visual perspective either. Right now my fav launcher aside from the default android version on my LG. If I can figure out the two (above) items or they get added in the future, I could see a full time switch in the making.

    • Joel L
      September 30, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Very strange that you have those two problems. My installation of Yandex.Shell lets me loop through pages AND I do not have any trouble with my Home button taking me to the home screen. I wish I could help you, but your best bet might be to shoot an email to the developer and see if it's a bug or a settings issue.

  3. Anwaar
    September 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I have an entry level LG Optimus but Yandex Launcher give it a new and smooth feel.It is what `s Android`s about ..............Choices .Keep it up

  4. Henk van Setten
    September 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I've never understood the point of launchers like this. What's wrong with Android's default home pages, where you can include all the quick app shortcuts and all the widgets you need?

    • JP
      September 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Some provide "saving" and "restoring". Some provide support for UCCW which allows you to design your own widgets and use of Tasker variables to make it dynamic and interactive. Some provide more rows and columns, mine is set to 7 by 7 on the App drawer so there's only 3 pages of "all apps" I have to go through. Some allows you to customize what's on your app dock (the apps on the bottom). I know stock TouchWiz doesn't. Some even allow you to scroll the bottom. Some also allow the home screen to rotate in landscape mode.

      The rest are aesthetics. You can easily use custom icons, change the paging animations etc..

      You don't HAVE to divert from the stock Android. Sometimes it's better. Sometimes not. You don't know unless you try it out. Isn't that our argument against iPhone users anyways? =)

    • Joel L
      September 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Personally, my phone is an original Galaxy S Captivate (from years ago...) which would still be using Android Froyo if I didn't tinker with it. Installing a new launcher like Yandex.Shell improves performance and makes it feel more modern. For others, JP has provided some good reasons why someone would use a custom launcher. :)

  5. Pedro Antonio J
    September 24, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I'm using Go Launcher EX in my Galaxy S2. I`m happy with it.