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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, 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, 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.
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.
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.
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), 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!