I wear my Android bias like a War Hero medal, and one of the things I love most about the versatile OS is its customizability. Whether your device is rooted or not, there are a ton of tweaks you can make, one of the simplest and most noticeable being your Launcher.
So what exactly is your Android Launcher? It’s a whole bunch of things controlling interactions with your Android homescreens – from your lock screen, icons and app drawer, to your dock, homescreen grids and gestures that you can set up to create shortcuts to different parts of your phone. In this article we present you with the best launchers for Android.
1. Microsoft Launcher
‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ springs to mind here. Designed by Microsoft, who have now officially abandoned their ambitions for Windows Phone to compete with Android and iOS, Microsoft Launcher (previously known as Arrow Launcher) shows off the kind of design nous that only comes with decades of experience.
Microsoft Launcher lets you turn individual contacts into homescreen icons, so you’re always a single tap away from calling those most important to you, and its Windows-style search function automatically searches your phone, the Web and your contacts, organizing the results into whichever of those categories they fit. It also includes some smooth Windows integration features, like taking snapshots that automatically appear on your PC, or seamlessly working on documents via your phone and PC with Office 365. These are still early days for this launcher, but it’s a great start.
2. ADW Launcher 2
ADW Launcher 2 automatically gets our vote thanks to its rambling Play Store description which features metaphysical questions, philosophical statements, film references and upside-down question marks. Beyond that, though, it’s also a very good launcher.
The latest iteration of ADW Launcher works with all the bells and whistles of Android 7.1, such as App Shortcuts, and it also allows for dynamic themes that adapt to your homescreen colors. Very tasteful! It also has all kinds of options for user gesture control, app drawer management, quick-searching, icon customization, and more. ADW is well and truly back!
3. BlackBerry Launcher
Ever get a pang of fondness for the company that revolutionized phones with its QWERTY keyboards back in the noughties, before it was unceremoniously shunned when the rest of the world went all touchscreen?
BlackBerry Launcher might just scratch your itch then. The compact launcher lets you look at your emails, Google Drive documents, and texts all from its main screen, making it one of the best options for people primarily using their phones for work and business.
Note that the free version you’ll find on the Play Store is ad-supported (tough times for BlackBerry), and if you want to get rid of the ads, you’ll need to subscribe to BlackBerry Hub+ ($0.99 p/m), which also brings with it a number of security benefits for workplaces, and also syncs up with Android for Work.
4. Pixel Launcher
Long gone are the days of Android feeling like a practical but decidedly ugly operating system. Ever since adopting the “Material Design” style, the Android interface has been on the up, and the lovely Pixel Launcher that arrived with the Pixel line of phones exemplifies that.
Replacing the Google Now Launcher, Pixel takes on some of its predecessor’s traits. The Google cards are now accessible using a button at the left edge of your homescreen, you swipe up from the bottom to access your app drawer with a search option at the top, and below it is a row of your most-used apps. Long-pressing app icons, meanwhile, opens options within those apps such as composing an email in Gmail or navigating straight to your home in Google Maps.
It’s telling that most launchers use many of Pixel’s features as a baseline, but if you want to do some serious tweaking, then you’ll need to try out one of the following third-party options.
5. Evie Launcher
Sometimes you need to show a little love to the new kids on the block, especially if they’re as good as this one. Evie Launcher makes it easy to import your homescreen layout from another launcher and doesn’t hog system resources while offering quick and easy access to all corners of your phone.
Go into the Settings, and you’ll find some solid features such as the search bar at the top of the homescreen that searches both offline and locally on your phone and that coveted double-tap-to-lock function.
HINT: to go into Evie’s settings you need to type “evie settings” into the search bar or simply long tap on the homescreen and select “Settings” from the popup screen.
6. Smart Launcher 3
If you can’t be bothered to organize your apps and homescreens and want your launcher to utilize some of that much-touted AI learning technology that Android possesses, this one’s a good choice.
Smart Launcher 3 tracks your behavior on your phone, seeing which apps you like to use the most, at what times and so on, then adapts your homescreens and lockscreens to your behavior, so your apps of choice are always at hand when you want them. It not only lives up to its name by being smart, but categorizes your apps, lets you password-protect apps, and is veritably tweakable, too, with plenty of themes and icon packs to play around with.
7. Launcher 8
Windows Phone may have sunk to the bottom of the smartphone ocean along with BlackBerry and Nokia, doomed to be nibbled on by bottom-feeders for all eternity, but that’s not to say that those companies didn’t have some good ideas. Plenty of people liked the tile-based interface of Windows Phone, and if you want to get it on Android, you can thanks to Launcher 8.
As with WP, you can customize tile sizes, enable features like live galleries and live contacts to make your your home screen more dynamic, and customize things like your Status Bar and notification settings. So if you like the look of Windows Phone but couldn’t deal with its barren app store, then here you get the best of both worlds.
8. Nova Launcher
After all these years there remains one undisputed king. Not many people will argue against Nova’s versatile, sleek UI and unspeakable levels of customizability which range from changing your grid size all the way through to custom gestures, fonts, and widgets that you can set to overlap other icons to make the most of your homescreen space.
It may be the popular/obvious choice, and there’s no question that other launchers in this list have made plenty of headway in recent years, but Nova Launcher remains the cream of the crop. If you’re looking for a launcher for grandma, grandpa, or others who could be visually impaired, head over to our list of best Android launchers for senior users.
Agree with our rankings? If not, then prove us wrong. What’s your number one launcher for Android?