I have a confession to make. I love my Android (Nexus one) more than I love my iPhone (3G). While the Nexus One is not perfect, the ability to multi-task at a fast speed, and the seamless integration with Google apps are what attract me most. However, if there is one thing that needs improvement, it has to be the Home screen (aka the launcher).
First of all, the default Home screen is not really that bad. It is just that it can get better. I would prefer a dock where I can access my favorite apps more quickly, a faster way to uninstall app and more ways I can customize it to my own preferences. Luckily, like any other Linux system, the best thing about Android is that it is open source and you can find app for almost everything in the system, including the Home replacement.
To cut the long story short, I set out to find the alternative home screen replacement apps and here are the ones that I recommend, in order of my preferences.
Update: Some of the more recent Home Replacement Apps review – Go Launcher Ex and LauncherPro and Quickdesk.
1. Home ++
This is easily one of the best (if not, the best) home replacement app out there. It is also my favorite in the whole list.
What I like about Home++ is that it comes with useful features that address the limitation in the default home screen. They might not be fanciful, but they are darn useful. You will find a Power Strips (functionally similar to the dock, but more powerful) at the bottom of the screen that allow you to access to the most commonly used apps. You can also change the number of home screen (between 3 – 7) and set an infinite loop when switching the screen.
There is also this drag and drop uninstall feature that makes app uninstallation a breeze. The best part of Home++ is that it comes with a task management function (like Taskiller) and a screen capture feature.
We have previously covered SlideScreen and until now, I still think that it is quite revolutionary, and a drastic change to the traditional Android home screen.
In short, there is only one screen to rule them all. You access your RSS feed, email, contacts, phone call, sms, Facebook update, Twitter status etc all in one screen. It is a miracle that Larva Labs (the developers) can integrate everything in one place and do it so aesthetically. Check out our SlideScreen article for the full review.
3. Panda Home
If you are looking for plenty of home screen space, then Panda Home is the one for you. It allows you to set up to 11 pages of screen + 6 dockbars situated at different corners of the screen. Most of you would think that this is an overkill, but at least it has the option for you to expand your screen size whenever you need it.
Some useful features of PandaHome include:
- Support themes and skins
- Allows import/export of themes
- Multiple screen space
- Quick app management (press and hold the app icon to access the quick menu)
- Search applications by alphabet
- Lightweight and responsive
4. Sweeter Home
When you first use Sweeter Home, it will prompt you to create an account online. When you are done, it will scan your applications, sort them into various tags and sync the tags to your account.
The main screen is beautifully designed with quick access to frequently used contents such as SMS, call log, application list, games and social apps.
There are only 5 screens to scroll around and they are arranged in a ‘+’ manner with the main screen in the center. From the main screen, you can scroll left, right, up and top. That’s all.
To add apps to the screen, you have to Edit the themes, add overlay (or tray) to the screen before you can add shortcuts to the tray. The size and position of the trays are fully customizable and you can place them one over another.
Compared to the rest, Sweeter Home has a steeper learning curve and it is more difficult to use. But when you have mastered the trick, you will find that there are plenty of customization options available.
iHome is full of eyecandy. If you like effects, iHome will be the one for you.
There is no application drawer in iHome. All your applications are placed in the screens. If you have plenty of apps, you will have plenty of screen too. To filter through the app, you can use the search function which is quite useful.
The best part of iHome is its scrolling effects, which the developer call it the Magical Experience. Check out the video for more detail.
The usage of iHome is free, but you have to pay for the Magical Experience. There is not much detail about the pricing, so be careful though.
iHome is available in the market.
Update: Thanks to Hamilton, I think I have missed out another popular Home replacement app.
Helix Launcher was built on top of the default Launcher, so it has almost similar functionality as the Home screen in Nexus One. What is different is that it comes with a Dock that allows you to place your frequently accessed apps and it is more responsive.
Paid applications not in the list
Below are the other popular home replacement apps that I did not include in the list either because
1. I don’t have access to the paid market in my country
2. They are not functional in my Nexus one
- Open Home
- DxTop – It keeps force close on my Nexus One and there is no way that I can test it.
- GDE – Great visual effect. Check out the video here.
Which is your favorite Home replacement app for Android? Let us know in the comments.
Image credit: Cain Novocaine