If you are one of the lucky few who are already using Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on your handset, then I am sure you will agree that the ICS stock launcher is a much improved version than its previous iteration. However, as good as it gets, it is still lacking in user customization and some of the fixed features (like the search bar at every screen, and it can’t be removed, the inability to reduce/increase home screen size and etc.) are counter-intuitive. Apex Launcher is a home screen launcher that is based on the stock ICS launcher, except that it gives you much more flexibility and customizability.
Unlike other home screen replacement apps that change the whole look and feel, and user experience of the home screen, Apex Launcher stays true to the stock launcher. With the same look and feel, you can start using without having to re-learn it. The things that I like about Apex Launcher is the ability to reduce/increase home screen size, set gestures and also to remove stuff that you can’t do so with the default launcher.
Install Apex Launcher from Google Play Store.
Press the Home button. When prompted, select Apex Launcher from the list.
While Apex Launcher looks and works the same as the stock launcher, the functionality is different. You can now remove the search bar from the top and enjoy a big 5 x 4 screen space. In addition, the dock is scrollable and allows you to place up to 35 apps. I am not a dock person, so a static dock with 5 apps placement is sufficient for me. However, I do have friends who love the additional docks so they can free up spaces at the main area and keep the number of screen to the minimum. For this, I appreciate the flexibility that Apex Launcher has provided.
Once you run Apex Launcher, you will see two icons on the Home Screen – Apex Menu and Apex Settings. The Apex Menu, when tapped, pop up a screen with shortcuts to various phone features. You can add extra Apex buttons, change wallpaper, manage your apps, go to Apex Settings, go to System Settings and Lock Desktop. The Lock Desktop feature is used after you have configured your home screen. Once the desktop is locked, any long press on the home screen will become invalid and you won’t be able to add/remove widgets, shortcuts, icons to the home screen.
Apex Settings is where all the configuration options are. It is divided into several sections: Homescreen, Drawer, Dock, Folder, Behavior and Advanced.
The Homescreen Settings allows you to set the number of screen size (up to a maximum of 9) and the grid size, which will determine how many icons you can place on the home screen. You can also select the transition effect when moving from one screen to another and whether it should do a infinite scrolling once you reach the last screen.
One notable feature of Apex Launcher is the gesture actions that you can configure for swipe up, swipe down, desktop double tap and desktop long press. Since I am using a Galaxy Nexus with a big screen, I can configure the swipe down gesture to show the notification bar, so I don’t have to stretch my thumb all the way up to pull down the notification bar.
The next best thing is the resizing of widget that are normally not resizable. The stock launcher only allows you to resize widgets that support resizing. Apex Launcher allows you to resize all widgets, regardless they support the resizing feature or not. While some of the widgets might look weird after resizing, some of them look perfect.
There are plenty of home screen replacement app in the Google Play Store and some of them like the Go Launcher and ADW launcher are wildly popular. If you love the stock ICS launcher, but wanted more customization options, Apex Launcher is the one for you.