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Last year, I did a bit of soul searching and tried out a bunch of awesome free launchers for Android. With so many offerings on the market, I went ahead and tried out even more free launchers for Android. And now I’m back, one year later, to report my experiences with some of the best Android launchers available in the Play Store today. The choices are always evolving and home screen customization has never been so user-friendly.
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 launchers often lack the powerful features found in independently-developed launchers like the ones in this article. Whether you want a simple aesthetic upgrade OR you want to completely revolutionize the way you approach the home screen, these launchers are a great place to start. Android launchers are varied and the trick is to find the one that you like best.
I used Apex for a stretch of a few months and really liked it. In terms of graphics and effects, it doesn’t really offer anything new or innovative. It supports the usual: theming, app shortcuts, widgets, wallpaper management, page management, etc. However, the addition of Apex Actions makes it very easy to perform small actions that would otherwise be inconvenient or tedious. Apex Actions show up as a button on your home screen, so you can perform actions like “Toggle Dock” with one tap. You can also alter dozens of settings for various screen elements, including the home screen, the app drawer, the app dock, app folders, themes, and more.
If you want a simple launcher that doesn’t revolutionize the launcher concept but still offers a lot of ways to play around, Apex Launcher may be for you.
Nova Launcher is probably one of the most powerful and popular launchers for Android at the time of writing this article. It has such a deep set of features to really make your phone feel up-to-date. It has all of the usual workings of an Android launcher, but you can also expect to see folders in the dock, self-adjusting icons when space is tight, screen gestures, multi-touch gestures, per-icon swipe gestures, and more.
Nova Launcher comes in a free version and a paid version called Nova Launcher Prime which is available for $4 USD. Prime unlocks some of the advanced features, such as app folders in the dock, organizing apps into tabs and folders in the app drawer, hiding apps in the drawer, unread counts on icons for SMS, email, etc. and more.
Without word of exaggeration, Nova Launcher is one of the most sophisticated Android launchers in existence. For a deeper look, check out our Nova Launcher review as well as our collection of essential Nova Launcher tips and tricks.
Despite my respect and adoration for all of the launchers on this list, ADW Launcher is the one I’m currently using. It has the perfect balance of features and speed without being overly bloated with advanced tools that I, personally, would never use. This is the launcher that replaced my streak with Apex Launcher, so take that how you will.
One thing I love about ADW is that it runs you through a miniature setup wizard when you first start it. This wizard gives you a rundown of the most important features in ADW, allowing you to select options along the way, before letting you go and explore it fully on your own. Core features include: app folders, gesture-defined actions, app groups that split your app drawer into tabs, advanced theming, and more.
ADW Launcher is one of the best you’ll find for free. For $3 USD, you can upgrade to ADW Launcher EX and unlock more themes, more screen transitions, extended icon styling, and backups/restores of different config presets.
First of all, how cool a name is “Chameleon Launcher”? That in itself is enough to pique my interest and make me want to try it out. But Chameleon Launcher is a polarizing launcher simply because it’s so different from most launchers out there. At first glance, it reminds me of the direction Microsoft went with Metro-styling, but Chameleon’s differences go deeper than the surface.
It’s so different that I’m finding it difficult to describe succinctly in just a few paragraphs. The video above will give you an idea of what you can expect from Chameleon. Just know that it’ll set you back $3 USD and there is no free version.
Like Chameleon above, Sweeter Home Launcher is an innovative app that attempts to redefine the home screen experience. It’s more than just an app organizer. The core feature of Sweeter Home is something called the “tag tray,” which resides at the bottom of the screen like an app dock. But unlike an app dock, the tag tray provides different “tags” with which you can filter your apps. These trays can be customized, too.
The second core feature of Sweeter Home is the theming system, which is more than just an aesthetic overhaul. Sweeter Home lets you add logic to themes, which allows certain parts of the theme to toggle or trigger other parts of the theme. If you’re into that level customization, you’ll love Sweeter Home Launcher.
For a deeper look, check out our Sweeter Home Launcher review. The app is currently in beta, thus not available on the Play Store. You’ll need to go to their website and follow their instructions for installing the beta onto your phone if you want to try it out.
Need to revitalize your Android home screen? There are tons of options out there just waiting for you to give them a shot and they’re all varied in looks, features, and operation. It really is about you downloading them, trying them out, and seeing which ones you like the best. Hopefully this post exposed you to a few more launchers that you’ve never heard about.
What do you think about them? Will you use them? Have you used them before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Image Credits: M203 Grenade Launcher Via Flickr