Launcher Showdown

Launcher Showdown
What makes Android different from many of its competitors is the degree of customization it offers its users, which goes to the extent of even letting users choose what is essentially the primary user interface of any operating system – the home screen Launcher! With Android, you can choose from a plethora of available launchers offering a diverse user experience range, and it’s just as simple as installing the launcher like any other app. In what follows, we will take you on a feature tour of some of the best Android launchers available, to help you choose the one that’s right for you.



Stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread Launcher

The stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread launcher shouldn’t exactly be considered an aftermarket launcher but we are including it here for good reason. Many device manufacturers ship their devices with their own custom launchers instead of the stock launcher. Most notable among these are devices by HTC, Samsung and Motorola that ship with HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz and MOTOBLUR respectively, instead of the stock launcher. Considering the market share of these three manufacturers, a vast majority of users don’t get the stock launcher with their devices. If your device shipped with one of these and you want the stock Android experience on it, you can get it by just installing the stock Gingerbread launcher.

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At A Glance


  • Type: Minimal | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Limited to 3 icons | Not customizable
  • Home Screens: 5 maximum
  • Widgets: Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpapers: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Standard and not customizable
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: Fixed at 4 by 4 for each screen
  • App Drawer: Extremely basic
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

Basically, with the stock Gingerbread launcher, you get what you get, and that’s about it. Though one thing that sets it apart from any other launcher is the blazing speed. Powered by full hardware graphics acceleration, the stock Gingerbread launcher is the snappiest one amongst all available Android launchers, period.


Pros
  • Extremely fast, even on very low-end devices
  • Very stable
  • Gets the job done for those who don’t need any customization options

Cons
  • Too basic
  • No customization options
  • No custom gestures
  • No folders
  • No scrollable/resizable widgets
  • Rather dull in the looks department

Our Verdict
If you are on Froyo or Gingerbread and don’t care about fancy looks, iOS-like folders, customized home screen layouts, themes or pretty much any level of customization, you simply can’t go wrong with the stock launcher.

Download Android 2.3 Gingerbread Launcher


Stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) Launcher

One of the most significantly improved parts of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is the stock ICS launcher. Despite still not giving us any customization options, Google finally decided to ship the new launcher with support for scrollable and resizable widgets, up to five dock icons (four of which are customizable) and much better folders. While not exactly being the power user’s dream-come-true, these features have finally made it a worthwhile option for most users to stick with the stock launcher.

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At a Glance

  • Type: Featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: Yes
  • Dock Bar: Up to 5 icons | 4 icons customizable
  • Home Screens: 5
  • Widgets: Scrollable | Resizable (some)
  • Live Wallpapers: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Drag-and-drop folder support
  • Animations: Standard and not customizable
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: Fixed at 4 x 4 per screen (phones), 6 x 5 on ~7” tablets and 8 x 7 on ~10” tablets
  • App Drawer: Basic, with section for widgets
  • Landscape mode: Tablets only
  • Limitations: ICS-only

A major difference between launchers for earlier versions of Android and ICS launcher is a persistent search bar that stays on all your home screens. Previous versions used a search widget that could be added to or removed from home screens just like any standard widget.

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Folder support is pretty good too – you can drag and drop app icons on each other to create folders, which appear as circles with icons of 3 of the contained apps in a cool-looking stack. Widgets are finally scrollable and resizable, though resizing can only be applied to widgets that have been programmed to support it. All in all, several key shortcomings of post-ICS launchers have been addressed, making the user experience pretty good for most users.

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Needless to say, as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is built for both phones and tablets, the stock ICS launcher is also optimized for both these types of devices. It detects the device resolution and screen size, and automatically displays according, showing up more icons and widgets on ~7” tablets than phones and similarly, more on 10” tablets than ~7” ones.

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Pros
  • Extremely fast
  • Very stable
  • Just the right feature set for most users

Cons
  • No customization options
  • No custom gestures
  • Persistent search bar can’t be hidden
  • Not all widgets are resizable
  • No options to choose app or folder icons

Our Verdict
If you aren’t a customization freak and don’t mind the persistent search bar, this is definitely the launcher for you for its beautiful stock ICS looks, great speed and stability...

Note: If you install this launcher as a normal app, you will be able to add widgets only using the old fashioned way (long-pressing on the home screen) and not directly from the widgets section of the App Drawer, due to permission restrictions in ICS.

Download Stock Android 4.0 ICS Launcher


Apex Launcher

While the stock ICS launcher should be good enough for most casual users, it doesn’t quite offer any customization options to the tweakers amongst us. If you want to have way more control over your ICS device home screen while at the same time sticking with the exact same excellent look and feel of stock ICS, you have a few options available - Apex Launcher it’s one of the best of the lot.

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In terms of looks, you probably won’t feel any difference from the stock ICS launcher. However, above, you can see some of the features of Apex launcher in action. including landscape mode support for phones, custom icon grids (4 x 6 in this case), custom folder icons (square in this case), context menus for apps and widgets and their options, and resize any widget option demonstrated by the clock widget in resize mode (which isn’t resizable under the stock ICS launcher).

Note: The above image is a mashup of three images to show two context menus and a widget being resized, all in one image. It is not possible to actually do this on your phone, as bringing up another menu will obviously hide the one previously showing.


At a Glance

  • Type: Full-featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: Yes
  • Dock Bar: Up to 35 icons | Scrollable | All customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 9
  • Widgets: Scrollable | Resizable (all)
  • Live Wallpapers: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support
  • Shortcuts: Customizable
  • Folders: Drag-and-drop folders with custom icons support
  • Animations: Customizable with many options available
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Yes
  • Screen Grid: Customizable up to 7 x 7 on phones; up to 10 x 10 on tablets
  • App Drawer: Robust, with many customization options like transparency, vertical mode & more
  • Landscape mode: Both phones and tablets
  • Limitations: ICS-only | Free version is full-functional | More enhanced paid version is available

If we get into detailing every single option Apex offers, this post will probably end up being all about Apex. This nifty launcher has almost everything one can want from a conventional-style Android launcher. Up to 9 home screens with customizable grid sizes, customizable folders, eye-catching transition effects, fully customizable app drawer with a separate tab for your downloaded apps, custom gestures for double-tapping, swiping upwards or downwards, double-tapping, tapping and holding or even tapping the home button…and the list just goes on and on. The dock is scrollable, with support for up to 7 icons per dock page and a maximum of 5 dock pages, giving you a maximum of 35 icons in the dock alone. And you get to have control over the display of all the cosmetic effects like the horizontal line above the dock icons, the home screen and dock scrolling indicators etc...

A great benefit of tapping gestures on devices lacking hardware buttons (like Galaxy Nexus) is being able to double-tap in the empty area on any home screen to get the conventional launcher menu for instant access to settings and other useful shortcuts. And yes, even that menu is fully customizable.
And surprisingly, despite all these options, configuring it is a breeze, unlike some other launchers like ADW.Launcher that intimidate many users with the plethora of options they provide.

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Once you are done customizing it, you can save your settings as well as home screen layouts to SD card so that if you end up messing around with more options than you wanted to, getting back to your perfect layout and settings would always be just a few taps away.

White it doesn’t have any shortcomings we would consider too serious, Apex could get even better if a few features that have been overlooked could be added. Folder support for the app drawer (similar to GO Launcher EX’s) would be really awesome; we haven’t yet seen it in any ICS-based launcher. Also, while it does support pinch-to-preview home screen gesture, one can’t really change the order of the home screens or add/remove them from there. So if you decide that your second home screen should now be the third one, you’ll have to manually transfer all its contents to the third one.

Furthermore, there is an option to show or hide the status bar using a swipe gesture, but no such option is available to show or hide the dock bar using a similar gesture. Considering the dock bar can still be hidden from the settings, adding gesture support shouldn’t be difficult. Lastly, a theming engine like Go Launcher’s can turn this launcher from great to the ultimate. While we are perfectly happy with stock ICS looks, we can’t neglect that Android is all about customization and themes are amongst the most sought-after features by a majority of users.

These don’t seem to be much of shortcomings when you consider how the other few ICS-based alternative launchers don’t offer most of these features either (except for Nova – also reviewed below – that has support for rearranging, adding and deleting home screens in preview mode). Considering how Apex still offers considerably more customization options than such competitors, it remains our ICS launcher of choice, and that’s not even considering everything the recently released pro version offers in addition to the aforementioned features.


Pros
  • Very fast and stable
  • Frequently updated
  • Immensely customizable

Cons
  • No theming engine
  • No folders in app drawer
  • No option to add / remove / reorganize home screens from preview mode
  • Lack of a few minor options in gesture actions

Our Verdict
If you are using Ice Cream Sandwich, want total control over your launcher, don’t care for themes and can live without some gesture actions offered by a few paid alternatives, switch to Apex Launcher right away.

Note: If you install this launcher as a normal app, you will be able to add widgets only using the old fashioned way (long-pressing on the home screen) and not directly from the widgets section of the App Drawer, due to permission restrictions in ICS.

Download Apex Launcher


Nova Launcher

Another ICS based Launcher, Nova is the main competitor to Apex in this class, offering plenty of customization options while staying true to the look and feel of stock ICS launcher. There is a free version as well as a paid one, and as always, we will be featuring only the free version here. Like other ICS-based launchers, in terms of looks, Nova also looks pretty much like the stock ICS launcher with enhancements added on top. It’s the settings that really matter.

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At a Glance

  • Type: Full-featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: Yes
  • Dock Bar: Up to 21 icons | Scrollable | All customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 7
  • Widgets: Scrollable | Resizable (all)
  • Live Wallpapers: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support
  • Shortcuts: Customizable
  • Folders: Drag-and-drop folders with custom icons support
  • Animations: Customizable with a few decent options available
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Not available in free version
  • Screen Grid: Customizable up to 7 x 7 on phones; up to 10 x 10 on tablets
  • App Drawer: Very basic in free version
  • Landscape mode: Both phones and tablets
  • Limitations: ICS-only | Free version is usable with some key features limited

While Apex definitely has more customization options available in total compared to those offered by Nova’s free version, there are a few pretty handy features offered by Nova that Apex lacks, like the ability to choose the margin spaces around the home screen grid and bottom dock, a preview screen that lets you add, remove and reorganize home screens, and a pretty cool platform background for folders.

Nova isn’t slow but it simply doesn’t feel quite as fast as Apex on older hardware. Also, gesture actions aren’t available in the free version. The context menus for home screen app shortcuts and widgets also don’t have all the options found in Apex. Another major limitation is complete lack of gestures, to the extent that you can’t even pinch to get the home screen preview mode in the free version.


Pros
  • Fast on most mid-to-high-end devices; stable
  • Frequently updated
  • Several great customization options including custom grid margins for better screen space utilization

Cons
  • No gesture support in free version
  • A bit laggy on some older devices
  • Context menus could use more options
  • Extremely basic app drawer in free version

Our Verdict
If you want more control over your screen space than possible with the stock ICS launcher or Apex, or if you absolutely must have the ability to add, remove or organize home screens from the preview mode and don’t need the additional options offered by Apex, Nova would be a great choice. We’ll personally be sticking with Apex for now.

Note: Due to permission restrictions in ICS, to be able to add widgets to your home screens directly from the widgets section of the App Drawer, your phone must be rooted and you must enable the Root Helper function in Nova Settings > Behavior. If you don’t do this, you will still be able to add widgets to your home screens the old way i.e. by tapping-and-holding on the home screens. If your phone isn’t rooted or you simply don’t want to do this, you will still be able to add widgets to your home screen using the usual method (long-press on the home screen).

Download Nova Launcher


GO Launcher EX

If you are looking for an Android launcher based on the conventional concept of side-scrolling screens and widgets but with tons of customization options added, you simply can’t go wrong with GO Launcher EX. Despite being a relatively newer entrant in the launcher scene compared to ADW.Launcher and LauncherPro, GO Launcher EX has evolved over time to emerge on top of all the competitors in its category, and for good reason. It is completely free and boasts a feature set that rivals the paid versions of LauncherPro and ADW.Launcher.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Full-Featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: No (Separate GO Launcher HD version available exclusively for tablets)
  • Dock Bar: 5, 10 or 15 icons | Scrollable | Customizable
  • Home Screens: Unlimited
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Scrollable | Resizable | Additional GO Widgets
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Hundreds of themes available
  • Shortcuts: Customizable
  • Folders: Drag-and-drop folder support for home screens and app drawer
  • Animations: Dozens of eye-catching transitions and animations
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Yes
  • Screen Grid: Up to 10 by 10 for home screens and app drawer
  • App Drawer: Highly robust with built-in recent apps list and task manager
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: None

Before GO Launcher EX was released, the Android launcher scene was dominated by ADW.Launcher and LauncherPro, each of which had their paid versions that added additional features to the free ones. While they did have several common features, there were still many features unique to each that set them apart from each other. GO Launcher EX appears to have been built with one purpose – bringing the best features of the full, paid versions of both of these launchers under one app, enhancing them even further, adding a lot of polish to it, and giving it to us for free!

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With GO Launcher EX, you can customize your dock with up to 15 apps, five of which are shown at a time and more can be revealed by swiping left or right on the dock. The theming engine is the most complete that we have seen in any Android launcher, essentially theming the entire look and feel of the home screen and the app drawer, rather than merely the dock and icons on it. Dozens of theme packs – complete with wallpapers, icons, dock background and even screen indicators – are available in the Market but to ease things even further for you, there is a built-in GO Store that categorizes everything published by the developers, so you don’t even have to search through other Market apps to find them.

Custom home screen gestures and home key actions, killer landscape support, great app and widget management, and theme-supporting GO Widgets for a range of apps and services are just a few of GO Launcher EX features that make it our Android launcher of choice for Gingerbread devices. In fact it can be used without any issue at all on ICS devices as well.
Trying to cover all the features of GO Launcher EX in detail in this article will leave little room in it for many of the other Launchers that we have queued up for you, so just install it, dive into its settings and customize your home screens like there’s no tomorrow.


Pros
  • Quite fast even on most mid-end devices
  • Great looks
  • Very stable
  • Extensive customization options
  • Great landscape mode support even on Gingerbread phones
  • Animations and effects can be disabled for low-end devices
  • Very frequently updated
  • Great themes, widgets and companion apps available for free

Cons
  • May become slow on low-end devices with the animation effects enabled
  • Some may find the extensive customization options a little overwhelming

Our Verdict
GO Launcher EX is as good as any conventional style Android launcher can get, and should be the launcher of choice for most users running Gingerbread or earlier. Unless you’ve got a terribly low-end device or you want a user experience altogether different from the conventional Android style launchers (like Windows Phone 7 or iOS lookalike home screens, or something unique and unlike other mobile operating systems), GO Launcher EX should offer you all you’d ever want from your Android launcher.

Download GO Launcher EX


FTL Launcher Lite

Apart from the stock Gingerbread launcher, all the launchers we have just seen above have one drawback – on older and low-end devices, none of them exactly runs buttery smooth. When it comes to the stock Gingerbread launcher itself, while it runs smooth as silk on even older and low-end hardware, it has absolutely zero customization options. FTL Launcher Lite fills the middle ground.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Minimal | conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: 3 or 5 icons; dark, light or transparent background
  • Home Screens: Up to 9; endless looping supported
  • Widgets: Yes; scrollable; not resizable in free version
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support in free version
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Basic; customizable speed; bounce effect toggle
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Only swipe-up in free version
  • Screen Grid: 4, 5 or 6 rows; columns fixed at 4 in free version
  • App Drawer: Gingerbread’s 3D waterfall or 2D app drawer
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: Theming, resizable widgets and some other features not available in lite version

Based on the source code of the Android 2.3 Gingerbread launcher, FTL Launcher lite adds several customization options to the hardware-accelerated, super-fast and super-smooth Gingerbread launcher. As you can see above, it has just the right set of features that are available in many full-featured launchers, without getting everything but the kitchen sink crammed into it. This results in a more-or-less full-featured launcher with virtually no lag, even on low-end devices.


Pros
  • Super fast, even on low-end devices
  • Ultra smooth with GPU acceleration
  • Several customization options not found in other lightweight launchers

Cons
  • Somehow lacking in looks, theming options not being available in free version
  • Lack of folder support

Our Verdict
If you are on Gingerbread, want the main selling features of most heavyweight conventional-style launchers and don’t wanna give up on the speed and performance of the stock Gingerbread launcher, FTL should be the launcher for you.

Download FTL Launcher Lite


Zeam Launcher

Another contestant for the lightweight category, Zeam launcher also offers a few customization options in a tiny package for the minimalists amongst us, while being super-fast and super-smooth even on the low-end devices.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Minimal | conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Unlimited icons | Scrollable | Customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 7
  • Widgets: Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: No theming support
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Basic
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Yes
  • Screen Grid: Home screen up to 8 by 8; App drawer up to 6 x 6 portrait, 8 x 5 landscape
  • App Drawer: Customizable
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: None

Pros
  • Super fast even on most low-end devices
  • Very stable
  • Great blend of minimalism with some customizations
  • Tiny in size (388 KB) and thus, extremely light on resources

Cons
  • Not many customization options
  • Rather lacking in the looks department, with no theme support

Our Verdict
If you are running a low-end device that tries to rival Lazy Smurf on the full-featured launchers but don’t want to stick with the stock Gingerbread launcher, Zeam Launcher will provide you with just enough customization options to keep you going till your next device upgrade. Before FTL Launcher came out, Zeam was our launcher of choice for the lightweight category but it has now been dethroned by the former, and for good reason.

Download Zeam Launcher


Hi Launcher & Mobo Launcher

You must be wondering why we are reviewing two launchers together as one. The reason is that these two are essentially the same, developed by the same team but released under different names and for different markets in the Play Store. They take the conventional concept of side-scrolling home screens with apps and widgets and add a twist, by splitting the interface into two panes stacked one above the other. The upper pane holds your widgets, while the lower one provides you access to all your apps in a tabbed view for easy organization.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Similar to conventional but with a unique split pane view
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Up to 15 icons | Up to 10 Customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 9
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Resizable | Not scrollable | Special Hi/Mobo Launcher widgets
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Tons of themes available
  • Shortcuts: Customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Several eye-catching animations and transition effects
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Only shake-it-up gesture for switching themes
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: Very robust categorized app interface integrated into home screens
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

If you have widgets that require more than half the screen, worry not, as the layout will expand when you add a large widget, and you scan scroll to another screen to view the apps pane. The theming support is one of the best features, and there is an option to shake your phone to randomly select a new look.

Hi Launcher is directly maintained by the developer and updated more often, while Mobo Launcher seems to be contracted work, though we have learned from the Mobo team that it’s going to see an update soon with some unique features. Currently though, Hi Launcher should be the one to go for.


Pros
  • The most awesome categorized app drawer implementation integrated into home screen we’ve seen
  • Great theming engine and themes collection
  • Killer animations and transition effects
  • Built-in useful quick shortcuts for dock bar (like torch, show/hide app drawer/status bar, lock etc.)

Cons
  • No drag-and-drop folder support
  • Widgets not scrollable

Our Verdict
These two are definitely amongst the best of the entire lot, especially with that app drawer we can’t praise enough. One of the must-try launchers for everyone before you decide which one to stick to.

Download Hi Launcher | Download Mobo Launcher


SSKIN Butterfly+ launcher

If looks could kill, Butterfly+ would be a most-wanted assassin. This launcher has been designed with attention to detail, despite there being little-to-no attention to customization options. From the bold and brilliant color scheme to the design of the bundled widgets to the default squared icons to the theming engine, it’s all about making an impression with the looks.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: 10 icons | Scrollable | 9 icons customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 9
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Several gorgeous designer themes available
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Several killer animations built into the themes
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: Contains running apps list, search support and awesome pinch-to-preview function
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

What sets Butterfly+ apart from other launchers in the same category is its powerful theming framework and awesome list of designer themes available for it in its own SSKIN Theme Shop. While most of the available themes are paid, there are a few excellent free ones around too. Many themes come with live backgrounds that are a bit like Live wallpapers, with their own cool animation effects. Some themes also have moving wallpapers that change when you switch from one screen to the next, like a golfer’s position and golf shirt changing as you scroll along your home screens.

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Apart from the themes, there are barely any customization options offered by [SSKIN] Butterfly+, but the themes alone make it worth checking out for any Android launcher enthusiast.


Pros
  • Fast, smooth and stable
  • Pinch-to-preview in app drawer can come extremely handy for those with a lot of apps installed
  • Awesome SSKIN themes

Cons
  • Widgets neither scrollable nor resizable
  • Negligible customization options
  • No option to choose custom app or folder icons

Our Verdict
If sheer designer looks are your thing and you don’t care much about customization options, you’re gonna love Butterfly+. Even if you use another launcher for regular use, having it installed for the times you want a designer home screen isn’t gonna hurt.

Download [SSKIN] Butterfly+ Launcher


Nemus Launcher

While being your regular side-scrolling conventional launcher in most aspects, Nemus has unique feature that sets it apart from the rest of the bunch: resizable folder widgets for the home screen that can be displayed as 1 x 1 folders or up to 4 x 1 or 1 x 4 vertical or horizontal frames. If you have used Fences on Windows to organize your icons, you’ll feel at home with these. In addition, it is one of the only two launchers (along with Butterfly+) in this list that has a pinch-to-preview feature for the app drawer.

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At A Glance

  • Type: Featured | Conventional
  • Tablet-optimized: Sort of, when using a large screen grid layout
  • Dock Bar: Up to 13 icons | Scrollable | 12 icons customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 9
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Scrollable | Resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Support for SSKIN themes available on Play Store via SSKIN Shop app
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Drag-and-drop folder support with resizable folder frames on home screens
  • Animations: Basic transition effects in the interface, with killer animations in themes
  • Custom Gesture Actions: For hiding status bar only
  • Screen Grid: up to 8 x 8
  • App Drawer: Contains running apps list, search support and awesome pinch-to-preview function
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: None

A great feature of Nemus Launcher is support for the uber-cool SSKIN themes of the [SSKIN] Butterfly+ Launcher featured above. Just install the SSKIN Shop app from Play Store. Once it’s installed, any themes that you install through it will be available to Nemus Launcher just the way they work with [SSKIN] Butterfly+ Launcher. The themes can be found and applied from the Themes section of Nemus settings.

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Pros
  • Quite fast, smooth and stable
  • Great folder implementation
  • Pinch-to-preview in app drawer can come extremely handy for those with a lot of apps installed
  • Awesome SSKIN themes support
  • Scrollable and resizable widgets

Cons
  • Only one custom gesture supported
  • No option to choose custom app or folder icons

Our Verdict
If you like Fences on Windows and want the same functionality on your home screen along with SSKIN’s theming support and/or a pinch-to-zoom enabled app drawer for a quick glance at all your apps, Nemus just might be the Android launcher for you!

Download Nemus Launcher


Regina 3D Launcher

A product from the developers of Nemus launcher, Regina 3D Launcher takes the classic Android launcher concept and adds cool 3D home screen switching, a bunch of awesome widgets and a secret workspace and the ability to scroll the home screens or app drawer by dragging the dock to the right or left. The end result is a launcher that sticks to the basics while adding a lot in the eye-candy department.

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At A Glance

  • Type: 3D | Conventional with a twist
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: 3 icons | Not customizable | Usable as scrollbar for home screen & app drawer
  • Home Screens: 5
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: No
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic, with folders-within-folders support added
  • Animations: Several killer 3D animation and transition effects for most actions
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: 3D with awesome scrolling animation effects
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: Maximum 5 folders allowed in free version

Pros
  • Quite snappy on even mid-end devices, despite the 3D effects
  • Great transitions and animations
  • Very handy and totally unique secret workspace

Cons
  • Few customization options
  • No custom gestures
  • No live wallpaper support
  • No option to choose custom app or folder icons

Our Verdict
For cool 3D effects, Regina is definitely a great choice. Also, if you care about having a secretly accessible workspace nobody else could get to (for whatever ‘special’ stuff you want on it), Regina is probably your only option. Apart from these two features though, it doesn’t have much to offer.

Download Regina 3D Launcher


Full Screen Launcher

Full Screen Launcher is a rather unique launcher that’s a bit hard to describe in words. It basically gives you infinitely scrollable 3D home screens and app drawer with some nifty transition effects upon scrolling, and the ability to zoom into or out of the home screen layout while still keeping it functional (unlike the preview mode in other launchers).

ful1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Unique | 3D
  • Tablet-optimized: Yes
  • Dock Bar: Up to 7
  • Home Screens: Infinite
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: No
  • Shortcuts: Unlimited | Not customizable
  • Folders: Very robust folder support with awesome rotating 3D cube effect
  • Animations: Great 3D animations rendered using OpenGL
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: Up to 10 x 15
  • App Drawer: Continuous 3D app drawer with great animation effects
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: Some features (like icon customization options) limited in free version

Pros
  • A very unique and fluid, infinite user interface
  • Great support for all types of shortcuts
  • Excellent folder implementation, where folders can contain anything, including other folders

Cons
  • Quite confusing upon first use
  • Steep learning curve
  • Shortcut customization restricted in free version
  • Rather dull when it comes to the looks of the default dock icons
  • No live wallpapers
  • A translucent layer over much of the wallpaper gives a dull look

Our Verdict
First of all, this launcher isn’t for everyone. It has a steep learning curve and can get to be quite confusing for many to figure out at first. That said, if you get used to its unique look and features, it can be hard to switch back to another one. Give it a try and see for yourself if you can acquire a taste for it.

Download Full Screen Launcher


MXHome Launcher

MXHome can be categorized as a hybrid between a conventional style 2D launcher and an unorthodox 3D launcher. It basically has a special themed home screen with cool 3D effects and pre-configured launch actions, in addition to a standard side-scrollable multiple home screen view for all your shortcuts and widgets.

mxh1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Unconventional + conventional hybrid | 3D
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: 5, 10, 15 or 20 icons | Scrollable | Up to 17 icons customizable
  • Home Screens: 6 (1 special + 5 conventional)
  • Widgets: Yes | Not scrollable | Resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming system with radically different styles of 3D interfaces
  • Shortcuts: Customizable
  • Folders: Extremely basic
  • Animations: Several eye-catching transitions and animations
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: Highly robust | Extensively customizable | Several display and sorting options
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

What truly stands out in MXHome is its 3D style home screen. It can’t really be described as anything in particular since every theme has its own unique one. The default one featured above is a coffee-themed 3D clock that features realistic animations, 3D UI effects based on the accelerometer and four customizable shortcuts on the clock. If you tap-and-hold on a shortcut, you see a cool animation of the clock opening up to give you options to switch to another app for that shortcut. Apart from the default theme, several other free and paid themes are available too, some of which you can see in the screenshots below. You have to try them all out to see their UI effects.

mxh2.PNG
mxh3.PNG
mxh4.PNG
Another main selling point of MXHome is its extremely robust app drawer. You can organize apps by categories, view them in a standard tiled view or a WP7-like list view, manage and edit categories, sort them alphabetically or by install date, and even change the transparency and background settings.


mxh5.PNG

There are some other decent features in MXHome too, like a built-in task manager and a recent apps list.


Pros
  • Radically different styles of themed home screens
  • Killer 3D effects and looks
  • Supercharged app drawer

Cons
  • Lack of some basic features like scrollable widgets, drag-and-drop folders and landscape mode
  • Rather heavy and a bit slow on older devices

Our Verdict
If 3D eye candy is your thing, you’ll have your device really standing out in the looks department with MXHome. If you don’t care for fancy 3D effects though, there are better options out there.

Download MXHome Launcher


ssLauncher

ssLauncher is a Magazine style interface for your Android device that takes inspiration from Windows Phone’s Metro UI, while not entirely replicating it. Let’s take a look…


ss1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Unique
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: N/A
  • Home Screens: Virtually unlimited
  • Widgets: No
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: Very powerful theming system
  • Shortcuts: Customizable magazine-style shortcuts for the main home screen
  • Folders: N/A
  • Animations: Plenty of eye-catchy animations that vary by theme
  • Custom Gesture Actions: Yes
  • Screen Grid: N/A
  • App Drawer: Basic
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: None

It’s quite simple and elegant, really. The list of hot application is basically like your home screen shortcuts that you add for quick access, while the Applications list is your app drawer. Swiping further to the right shows us similar panes for our contacts and browser bookmarks. The shortcuts on the home page can be customized from the options brought up by pressing menu while on the home screen. That’s where you can also add or remove screens, choose themes and change other interface options. Speaking of themes, there are several themes available, some of which are strikingly unique. Here’s one…


ss2.PNG


Pretty much every theme has a unique twist – some emulate pages that you can turn, other take form of old blocks of wood, and then there’s a Metro-like tiled theme, a neon theme, a plasma theme, and the list continues. There is also landscape support and the customization options are quite extensive.


Pros
  • Pretty awesome in the looks department
  • Plenty of themes with their own animations and effects
  • Quite intuitive to use

Cons
  • Rather heavy on slow hardware
  • Not meant for everyone
  • Some themes can seem a bit childish (though that isn’t always a bad thing)

Our Verdict
Whether it can or can’t be used as a daily driver would depend entirely upon the user but for a change, ssLauncher definitely brings something different to the table. Give it a shot…who knows, you might end up keeping it.

Download ssLauncher


DXHome

At first glance, DXHome might look like just another conventional style home screen launcher with a fancy theme, but it packs quite a punch when it comes to certain small refinements. Boasting its own theme store, clock & weather widget, 3D screen switching and a pretty decent home screen editor, it carries the right combination of looks and functionality to make it to this list.


dx1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Full-featured | Conventional | 3D
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: 5 icons | 4 customizable
  • Home Screens: Up to 9
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Scrollable | Resizable | Zoomable | Several special themed DX Widgets
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Plenty of great-looking themes available
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: iOS-like drag-and-drop folder support for home screens | Folders in app drawer
  • Animations: Several eye-catching transitions and animations
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: Robust, with easy organization features and recently installed apps list
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

A really nifty feature is the really smooth 3D home screen switcher interface that appears when you tap-and-hold on the middle (app drawer) icon in the dock. Another great feature is the built-in theme store.

dx2.PNG


The overall look and feel may seem similar to MIUI for those of you who have used it. Though the app drawer and some other cool effects that we have mentioned add even more value to it. Note that there may be some new features added since our last review, so make sure to explore it yourself to see all it’s got.


Pros
  • Very fast and smooth
  • Stands tall in the looks department
  • Adequately customizable
  • Great theming support
  • Killer themed widgets included
  • Great lock-screen management feature built-in

Cons
  • Lack of custom gestures (having those would have made it rival GO Launcher EX)
  • No option to choose custom app or folder icons

Our Verdict
It’s hard to find flaws in this launcher, really. If only it weren’t for the lack of custom gesture actions, it would have been a great rival to GO Launcher EX for the top spot. Definitely worth a shot before deciding whether to stick with it or not.

Download DXHome (Market link down, so direct APK download link added instead. You will have to install it directly from the APK.)


MIUI 4 Launcher

The MIUI ROM is one of the most famous Android custom ROMs in the world and here at AddictiveTips, it is amongst our most favorite, along with CyanogenMod and AOKP. If you want to have the look of the MIUI 4 home screen without having to install the MIUI ROM, there is a fully functional MIUI 4 Launcher port available for the very purpose.

miui1.PNG

As you can see above, you get the authentic MIUI experience, including the cool MIUI lock screen that comes with the launcher. In addition, there is an MIUISettings app that allows you to configure some options. Not all the options shown in that app are actually implemented at the time of writing but the most important one i.e. the ability to add an app drawer is working nevertheless.


At A Glance

  • Type: Conventional | MIUI 4 clone
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Up to 6 icons | Customizable
  • Home Screens: Unlimited
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Scrollable | Resizable (some)
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Countless themes available
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: iOS-like drag-and-drop folder support
  • Animations: Several eye-catching transitions and animations
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: Optional using MIUIsettings app
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: ICS-only (Gingerbread version featured below)

Pros
  • Quite fast and stable
  • Killer looks
  • Awesome animation effects
  • Great collection of themes available

Cons
  • App drawer requires MIUIsettings app and can be confusing to bring up (didn’t work for us)
  • No custom gestures
  • Not enough customization options
  • Not all widgets are resizable
  • No options to choose app or folder icons

Our Verdict
If you are a fan of MIUI 4’s killer looks and awesome themes, give MIUI 4 Launcher a shot and you might not want to look any further. If endless customization is your thing though, it probably won’t be your thing.

Download MIUI 4 Launcher and MIUISettings from XDA-Developers Thread


MIUI Launcher (Gingerbread)

The MIUI 4 launcher featured above is Android 4 ICS based, and will not work on Gingerbread. Fret not though; if you’re still running Gingerbread on your phone and want MIUI’s looks, you can have ‘em with the Gingerbread-based MIUI launcher.

miuigb1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Conventional | MIUI 2.* clone
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Up to 6 icons | Customizable
  • Home Screens: Unlimited
  • Widgets: Unlimited | Not Scrollable | Not Resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: Very powerful theming engine | Several themes available
  • Shortcuts: Not Customizable
  • Folders: iOS-like drag-and-drop folder support
  • Animations: Several eye-catching transitions and animations
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4
  • App Drawer: No
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

Pros
  • Quite fast and stable
  • Great looks
  • Gorgeous animation effects
  • Detailed themes

Cons
  • No dedicated app drawer
  • No custom gestures
  • Not enough customization options
  • Widgets aren’t scrollable or resizable
  • No options to choose app or folder icons

Our Verdict
If you are on Gingerbread and want MIUI’s look-and-feel without switching to the MIUI ROM itself, There isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t go for MIUI Launcher. The customization freaks amongst us might want to keep another one installed too for those times when we must have just the exact look that we want.

Download MIUI Launcher from XDA-Developers Thread


Espier Launcher

Want the exact iOS look (oh, blasphemy) on your Android phone? No problem, just install Espier Launcher and watch your Android phone’s home screen turn into iPhone’s Springboard.

esp1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: iOS-replica
  • Tablet-optimized: Yes (portrait-only)
  • Dock Bar: 4 icons in normal mode; up to 6 in pad mode | iOS-like recent apps & media controls
  • Home Screens: Unlimited
  • Widgets: Yes (On a dedicated widgets screen) | Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: Yes
  • Themes: No
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: iOS-like drag-and-drop folder support
  • Animations: Yes (iOS-like)
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 x 4 in normal mode; 5 x 4 in pad mode
  • App Drawer: None (All app icons appear on home screens like on iOS)
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

Pros
  • As close to an iPhone-replica interface as you can possibly get on Android
  • Quite user friendly
  • Fast and snappy on most devices
  • Pad mode toggle gives you an iPad-like interface even on phones

Cons
  • No dedicated app drawer
  • Apps and widgets can’t be together on the same screen
  • Only one screen for widgets (which is scrollable though, so you can still add many widgets)
  • No landscape mode

Our Verdict
If (for whatever inexplicable reason) you want your Android phone to look like an iPhone, Espier Launcher is what you are looking for. It’s also fun to just keep it installed on your phone and pop it up to show your iPhone-wielding friends how Android can do anything.

Download Espier Launcher


Launcher 7

Don’t care for iOS much and want the look of the awesome Metro UI from Windows Phone on your Android phone? Launcher 7 does just that for you.

l7.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Windows Phone replica
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: No
  • Home Screens: One (vertically scrollable)
  • Widgets: Yes (in form of special widget tiles)
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: Accent color choice for tiles
  • Shortcuts: Customizable tiles
  • Folders: No
  • Animations: Windows Phone-like
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: Infinite rows and one large or two small tiles per row
  • App Drawer: Windows Phone-like vertically scrollable, sorted alphabetically with search support
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: Free version shows ads in app drawer

Pros
  • A close replica of Windows Phone user interface
  • Custom tiles including widget tiles
  • Fast and smooth

Cons
  • Takes away several core features of most Android launchers
  • Ads look hideous in the app drawer

Our Verdict
If you want to have the look-and-feel of Windows Phone while retaining all the functionality of Android, and don’t really mind ads appearing at the bottom of the app drawer, go for it! In addition to that, it doesn’t offer much.

Download Launcher 7


Pure Breeze Launcher Lite

Did you think Samsung made only the TouchWiz launcher that ships with all their Android phones? Think again! Pure Breeze Launcher is Sammy’s rather unorthodox take on Android launchers. First, the intro:


pb1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Unique, with conventional elements
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Up to 5 icons in free version
  • Home Screens: Up to 5 (including an app drawer) in free version, plus the kite screen
  • Widgets: Only on the kite screen | Not scrollable | Not resizable
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: No
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: Yes (as groups)
  • Animations: Yes
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: 4 by 4 for home screens; vertically scrollable by 4 in kite screen
  • App Drawer: Very basic, present as central home screen
  • Landscape mode: Yes
  • Limitations: Many features restricted in free version
pb2.PNG


The concept is like this: You get multiple home screens, the central one of which is the app drawer called ‘All Apps’. You can have up to four more, which are also presented as groups of apps, with no widget support. Where do you place the widgets then, and what’s all that unique about it, you ask?

pb3.PNG


The answer: a kite mode! You know, breeze and kite. When you press the home button while already on one of the home screens, you get a cool animation of a screen flying on to the display, and that’s the kite screen. You can place your favorite widgets and app shortcuts on it to be accessible quickly, plus access the phone dialer. And this window is vertically scrollable, so you can keep adding widgets and shortcuts to it and access them all by scrolling vertically. Overall, it’s a novel concept. It’s got to be an acquired taste but hey, they did design a pretty cool settings window. Think Magazine-style ICS design elements.


Pros
  • Despite the unorthodox approach, the concept is quite usable
  • Handy grouping of apps on the home screens
  • Convenient vertically scrollable kite screen for widgets and shortcuts

Cons
  • Too unorthodox to suit the taste of most
  • Limited to 5 screens in free version
  • Each screen takes up a dock icon, so no traditional dock for app shortcuts
  • Rather limited customization options

Our Verdict
If you want to try something considerably different yet retaining the concept of side-scrolling screens with app icons, give Pure Breeze a shot and see if you can acquire the taste.

Download Pure Breeze Launcher Lite


netFront Life Screen

There is no limit to creativity when developing launchers for Android, and NetFront Life Screen is ample proof of that. It looks and feels nothing like your typical Android launcher. You don’t get countless home screens, you don’t get a lot of space for widgets. What you do get are two screens with all the functionality you need on your home screens right at your fingertips, and that includes the app drawer.


nf1.PNG


At A Glance

  • Type: Unique
  • Tablet-optimized: No
  • Dock Bar: Circular, with one icon customizable | Elaborate menus for all default shortcuts
  • Home Screens: 2
  • Widgets: Limited to 2 x 4 space
  • Live Wallpaper: No
  • Themes: No
  • Shortcuts: Not customizable
  • Folders: No
  • Animations: Yes
  • Custom Gesture Actions: No
  • Screen Grid: N/A
  • App Drawer: Basic | Built into left screen in an eye-catching 3D cube
  • Landscape mode: No
  • Limitations: None

As you can see below, the app drawer is integrated into the left screen in form of a 3D cube that animates on swipe. Probably the best part of NetFront Life Screen is its circular dock. Not only can you rotate it, but tap on any of the default apps on it and instead of seeing the app get launched, you’ll be presented with a very elaborate menu with one-tap access to the key features of the app. You can see the example below in case of Settings. With the Messaging app, you get a similar list of messages, as well as a compose button.

nf2.PNG

Not only that, but connect your social media accounts through the launcher’s settings and you can have similar lists of your social network status updates. Even RSS feeds can be viewed like this. When it comes to widgets though, you are limited to a space of 2 rows by 4 columns on the main screen (see the first screenshots), so you must utilize it wisely.

nf3.PNG


Pros
  • Extremely intuitive to use
  • Great animations and eye-candy
  • Simple yet functional
  • Jump lists for dock apps make quick access to your important stuff a breeze

Cons
  • No customization options
  • Not enough widget space

Our Verdict
If you don’t use many widgets and like to try something very different for a change, you will quite likely fall in love with NetFront Life Screen for its simple, intuitive and unorthodox take on Android Launchers.

Download NetFront Life Screen


HONORABLE MENTION

ADW. Launcher

adw.PNG

Once one of the best launchers available for Android, known for extensive customization options; now apparently ancient. ADW.Launcher is famous for having been CyanogenMod’s default launcher till version 9. Unfortunately, there has been no update to the free version in a year and a half as of the time of writing this post.

Download ADW.Launcher


LauncherPro

Like ADW.Launcher, one of the pioneers of feature-rich Android launchers but now faded into history. The free version hasn’t been updated in almost a year at the time of writing this article.

lpro.PNG

Download LauncherPro


credits: Haroon Q. Raja
edited by arawn
Aug 8, 2012