Launcher

Everyone knows that the best thing about Android is the fact that it's so darn customizable. As the adage goes, you can never have too much of a good thing -- provided you don't get overwhelmed by all the choice.  Today we're going to take a look at custom launchers.  Which one suits you the best?  Have a read (after the break) and be sure to vote in the froum poll!

The stock options

Vanilla Froyo

Vanilla Android (2.2)

PhilBlur

Non-MotoBlur (aka PhilBlur)

Sense UI

Sense UI

TouchWiz

TouchWiz 3.0

If you recently picked up an Android phone, chances are you have one of the above running on it.  They are all perfectly good options, and many people are happy and use the launcher that came on their phone.  I can't blame them -- each has features that make it perfect for some of us, so let's have a look at them.

Vanilla Android

Currently only available on the Nexus One and the original Motorola Droid, the stock Android launcher is fast, and the app drawer's 3D futuristic Rolodex thing-a-ma-bob is pretty freeking cool.  The biggest drawback here is the lack of settings -- something we get spoiled with very quickly while using many Android applications.  

PhilBlur

It's not stock, it's not MotoBlur, and we lovingly call it PhilBlur.  This comes standard on the Motorola Droid X and it's little brother the Droid 2.  While the launcher and app drawer themselves aren't all that slick, the widgets (and the way the re-size) are very nice.  Unfortunately, the word Blur carries a stigma and just can't shake it.  We understand, be know that PhilBlur is a far cry from MotoBlur, and most issues from the old days have been addressed.

Sense UI

You either love Sense, or you hate it.  The launcher and app drawer are nothing too special (but having the big phone button there is something you get used to quickly), but the widgets are the real magic.  There's a ton of them, in lots 'o sizes, and the lager ones scroll beautifully.  And full screen weather animations rawk, especially when it's stormy.  Sense comes standard in one flavor or another on most HTC Android phones.

TouchWiz

Another launcher people hate based on the name.  This isn't the TouchWiz you've seen on the Behold, it's an all new animal, and it ain't that bad.  The good -- shortcuts on the launcher bar are customizable, and there's a whole slew of nice Samsung widgets to go with.  The bad -- the side scrolling app drawer takes a bit of getting used to, and many people (myself included) find it a bit to colorful.  The awesome -- puzzle piece lock screen notifications.  All the new Samsung Galaxy S phones come with TouchWiz, but some of the function has been removed in the Epic 4G version,  Don't ask us why, we couldn't figure that out either.

Third-party launchers

There's a mess of them, but we're going to focus on the two wildly popular ones -- ADW Launcher and Launcher Pro.  Don't feel overlooked if you have a different favorite, that's why we're running the poll to see what people out there are using.  So be sure to vote!

ADW Launcher

ADW Launcher

ADW Launcher gives ton's of customization options, is light on system resources, Free on the Market, and is open source software.  That's a whole lot of plusses right there.  It's also themeable, supports scrolling widgets, and comes in both a Market version as well as a stock replacement version (as found in CyanogenMod 6).  Out of the box it looks pretty bland, but once you take the time to set it up you can really call it your own.

ADW QR code

[AppBrain | Market link]

LauncherPro

LauncherPro

LauncherPro is certainly a crowd favorite, with good reason.  It's chock full 'o features, has tons of customization options, and has it's own set of shortcut actions.  Add resizable widgets, and support for scrolling widgets and you have a winner.  Do note that some features may only be available in the paid version, which you can only get from the developers site here.  The free version is available on the Android Market, find the download link below.

LauncherPro QR code

[AppBrain | Market link]

SlideScreen

SlideScreen

SlideScreen basically takes the typical Android launcher and drop-kicks it out the window. It's a vertical waterfall of information -- weather, calendar, e-mail, texts, twitter -- that's all up to date and completely customizable. You have to see it to believe it. Try the free version first.

[App BrainMarket link]

 
There are 60 comments

ben dover says:

Launcher Pro works best for me. the widgets in the pro plus version are incredible! I've tried to like ADW Launcher and always come running back to Launcher Pro Plus!

edit: download the free version in the market and then when you try to add a launcher pro widget it'll ask you to buy it or enter a validation code. once you buy it you can enter the code and you'll be running pro plus! this is helpful because the market will let me know when there is an update to Launcher Pro. if you buy and download the apk directly from the dev's site you won't get update reminders.
(the developer is from Argentina I believe so he can only sell the pro plus version from his site until google allows paid apps from Argentina)

Prof-KOS says:

As far as stock launchers go, Vanilla is the only flavor for me. I'd love to have the ability to turn off Manufacturer UI's and get the vanilla experience.

That said, I'm currently using and loving LauncherPro+. The sense-ish widgets, scrolling dockbar and intense customization make it head and shoulders above others IMO. Slidescreen is really cool in concept, but I just couldn't use it day to day.

ekyle says:

I liked Sense when I had my Eris, but I like MotoBlur on my DX all the same. As long as I can launch an app I don't really mind either way.

namebrandon says:

A feature comparison between LP+ and ADW would be great. Does ADW have a scrolling dock bar also?

Nirvana328 says:

There are some other cool launchers mentioned in the comments of that article. Although the site is annoying to navigate, sweeter home looks like an interesting launcher that I'll be trying. Thanks

admiral70 says:

ADW.Launcher for my Droid X. I like to have 3 home screens not 5 or 7. Also the ability to customize the start screen. You MUST take time to review all the options before calling it lame. Stock out of the market is as the article says plain. You must customize, customize, customize...

Have fun.

I love how you can natively hide the status bar in ADW by simply sliding upwards on the homescreen. It gives your UI a very clean and sharp look.

That feature alone makes me exclusively use this particular launcher. Then again, im unsure if the others have this same feature.

ben dover says:

I liked that option too but because my thumb slides more diagonally when scrolling through pages the system sometimes thinks I'm swiping up or down rather than left or right so I had to turn the feature off.
as apple would say: "your just swiping wrong"

I can't go without Launcher Pro Plus widgets though!

jtwebfusion says:

adw launcher is my favorite.

robertw0925 says:

Adw via cm6. Slidescreen is good for use as an rss reader but nothing else

HAAS599 says:

Launcher Pro

gafly says:

Launcher Pro! Though is the best in my opinion but I would like it if launcher pro had the sliding app drawer like ADW.

CharlieL3 says:

"be sure to vote in the froum poll!"

Froum, froum!!!

that1bb says:

One of my favorite features of launcherpro is the ability to hide all the apps I don't use from the drawer.

bleedblue says:

ADW

AnAm85 says:

LauncherPro Plus over Touchwiz. I mean Touchwiz is ok I guess but there are so many settings/prefferences with LauncherPro Plus and I like the Bookmark and Messaging widgets!

I have the Droid X, and I love Philblur. I've tried adw and launcherpro, and despite the many options and customizations they bring, I love the default! I really like the way the widgets work. You can adjust the size and move them around the home screens to replace the spot they are in.

zsmorr says:

I think I prefer HTC Sense, I think it has the best widgets and it seems faster than motoblur and touchwiz. But I also like launcher pro and would definitely call it a strong second for me.

R32_Rocky says:

Coming from two WinMo phones, the TP2 and the HD2, I love the Sense UI. My first try into Android was the Galaxy S phones. I hated TouchWiz, so tried both ADW and LP+ (paid for it too), and liked them both. But most of my time was spent trying to make the main screen LOOK like Sense, using Beautiful Widget, and a few others, but they always had bugs. So I figured if I wanted a Sense like UI, then just get the EVO. So I did, and never looked back, or felt a need for a different launcher.

And as mentioned, the native Sense widgets and programs are top notch! Again, being used to WinMo, the e-mail view widget is like the HD2 (can flip pages like a book), so too is the sms viewer, the phone book widget with pics, and best of all, the HTC e-mail program itself. Very near the WinMo quasi MS Outlook one.

Verso says:

LauncherPro plus is the best!!!

Let the flame wars begin just below. But I really like the philblur on my droidX. Had ADW and LauncherPro on my d1, but after figuring out which widgets I liked and removing the ones that I don't, everything works great. Not knocking the others but after a couple of months i like it.

samurikuma says:

tried adw and launcher but they both slow down my phone so much i keep returning to stock. mabey when i get my epic in a couple months i will try them again. but adw is my fav of them both since its got different themes. the iron man is awesome (andy in iron man suit).

runswithjedi says:

For first party launchers, I'll have to go with Vanilla Android. I've actually only owned a Nexus One, but I have used Sense, which was alright but not great, and I've read that all the other ones kind of stink.

What I currently run is Launcher Pro (paid), which a absolutely adore. It has improved the speed of the launcher and I love being able to resize widgets.

technomom says:

I actually never hated HTC Sense but once I installed Froyo on my Incredible, it had a habit of restarting at the slightest hiccup. So, I gave LauncherPro a try and have never looked back.

I love that LauncherPro honors rotation to landscape and I've done some geeky things with the swipe action on the launchpad icons (Click phone for standard dialer, swipe down on the phone icon for Rotary Dialer when someone wants to borrow my phone :-) ).

Hoping that more widgets get added soon. Paid for the Plus version and I am very happy with it.

MissMe says:

I love LauncherPro though I haven't used the others. The scrollable dock is a winning bet for me.

But...no one is going to say anything about the Rocket Laucher lead?
I kinda love it. And I'm KINDA stealing it.

muddy13 says:

No love for LG launcher on the Ally?

LG Launcher is the way to go!

kkroeger says:

used launcherpro on my sprint hero, and now using adwlauncher w/gala s theme on my brand new epic! Both of these work better for me than either of the stock launchers. Love that the gala s theme keeps all the nice parts of touchwiz, but let's me customize things to work for me...

sookster54 says:

LauncherPro Plus without a doubt, but ADW.Launcher is pretty close (because the lack of resizeable widgets). I never liked Samsung's Touchwhiz and thankfully it's possible to disable it on Samsung devices and you can slap on a launcher of your choice after. SlideScreen looks like LG's Android UI. On my Motoblur/2.1 phones I use ADW.launcher because Motoblur includes resizeable widget feature.

Also on a sidenote, pre-2.1 I'd go with LiveHome.

coraphise says:

I'm getting used to ADW now since switching to CM6. Before that I was using Helix in place of the stock Droid launcher (2.1) and liked that. Does anyone know where the helix launchers went?

dupokey says:

I love LauncherPro Plus, but since I got the 2.2 update for my Dinc, it seems to decrease my battery life by quite a bit.

ben dover says:

hmm, I have noticed that I get 14-16 hours of life on 2.2 vs the 20-24 hours I was getting on any custom 2.1 rom.

I might run ADW for a day and see if that helps on battery life because I'd be interested to know for sure if this is the case.

zeromaru says:

I was using Launcher Pro Plus (bought the plus version), and i really like it.

The ting is that, after 0.7.7.0 the animation for entering the app drawer began to slowly degrade in speed, until my launcher was unusable when using LIGHT cache.

I have now switched to ADW, and performance seems to always be good.

Im running them on a Nexus One with CM6 (nightly)

My issue is not a common one, and i have been ignored on the bug report forum :(

jnabbott#AC says:

Loved sense on my eris. Blur 2.0 seems a little to simple. The only good part of Blur 2.0 is the fact that you can resize the widgets.

decyphersmc says:

This falls in the space between an app and a launcher but I love QuickDesk. I have it set to double-tap of the home. Basically it gives you a screen overlay that you can put whatever you want on so if you're in the browser or something you can just double-tap the home and get quick access to apps/widgets.
I use it a ton for adjusting the brightness. The only problem I had was getting it set up correctly as the prompt/tips when going through the tutorial just jumped before I could read them.

Installing LauncherPro so I will give that a try, looks great though!

technomom says:

Thumbs up on QuickDesk, I use it as a "shadow" launcher with LauncherPro. QuickDesk has my power icons, my mobile wifi icon, battery and Watchdog app. Perfect for toggling gps/brightness when I don't want to lose the screen I'm on.

I have it set to come up with a double click of my home button, with LauncherPro being the "Favorite Launcher" set in QuickDesk.

After discovering SlideScreen through this article, I have to say it is a nice app in and of itself though I wouldn't want it as the launcher. I'll use it as a replacement for My6Sense. If SlideScreen comes out with a widget, all the better.

BTW, "Home Switcher" is great if you're still kicking the tires on launchers. I highly recommend it.

ben dover says:

OMG! quickdesk is AWESOME! I love the fact that I can quickly bring up my most common settings and music controls while in an app! I'm telling every android user I know now. haha

says:

Zeam!!! basic, clean & i can put everything i use on the bottom to scroll thru.

love it!

Vagrant_1 says:

Launcher pro + for myself

spielnicht says:

LaunchPro Plus is it!

LauncherPro all the way for me. When I first got my Captivate I used ADW but now strictly use LP. The widgets in the plus version along with that 3D app drawer are cool as well. I went with Android to get away from the iPhone...but I guess it can be said then why did I buy a Galaxy S phone.

Smokexz says:

I don't hate Touchwiz, I am just not a fan I really prefer vanilla 2.2... much nicer, for third party maybe Launcherpro, they just need to work on the speed, everytime I unlocked my device it was slow and running out of batteries, but the customization was superb.

Marke#AC says:

I run the ultimate launcher combination, for me anyway, oem phil blur, ADW, Launcherpro, all keept coordinated with EasyHome.
Then powerstrip to pop up from anywhere.
That's 21 screens for widgits or whatever.

I used to use dxTop, but I've been using LauncherPro+ and I adore it. I've tried ADW, Sense, and just about every other launcher on the market.
LauncherPro FTW

crichton007 says:

LauncherPro all the way.

voghan says:

What can I say, I'm not afraid of a little color or a side scrolling app drawer. I love TouchWiz on my vibrant. Not sure why so many people hate it but I don't care.

Jalarm says:

Touchwiz FTW!

eyesparky says:

Launcher Pro Plus by a fair distance (for me). ADW is pretty good too but Launcher Pro sold me the moment I realised I could swipe through 3 sets of launcher icons.

E_man says:

Launcher Pro Plus: Fast, customizable, and full of features

None of the other launchers do it for me. Even vanilla, which almost seems like a dumbed down LP+. ADW is nice, and never tried slidescreen. aHome, Sweeter Home, zeam, dxTop, and I think a few others all didn't do it for me.

Issemann says:

LP+ here

DesertVelo says:

I am currently using Launcher Pro Plus which I always seem to make my default. However, I do regularly switch back and forth with Zeam Launcher - a lightweight and fast launcher. Give it a try from the Market.

tim6253 says:

Launcher Pro is by far the best. I like the Sense widgets, but not enough customization options. I love having the option to use my big EVO screen to fit more icons. 4x4 on the EVO is not sufficient. What was htc thinking? My favorite features are the swipe actions, and activity shortcuts. I have swipe actions set to system battery % through activity, so I don't have to have a battery-sucking battery widget. Also, have swipes set to running aops, running pricesses, alarm clock, and the dialer. So much you can do! I've tried adw. It's not bad, just a little too plain. Adw also only rarely gets updates. I think the last one was severak months ago. Fede updates LP a lot, to add new features and widgets. I bought Plus. Why do people get so bent out of shape about buying plus through paypal? You don't even have to have a oaypal acct. MANY MANY purchases, not one issue. So, go get it. Believe the hype!

IceDree says:

ADW (with Droid X theme)for my MileStone , the vanilla\Stock launcher is ugly (MileStone still running on 2.1)
I love the way i can customize it & hide everything in it
Plus , it's the closest thing i'll ever get to the Droid X's "PhilBlur"

pepor says:

I like TouchWiz 3.0. One of the first things that I did on my Galaxy S was to install ADW.Launcher. It works well, as does Launcher Pro, but the default TouchWiz launcher works equally well for me. Also, there are some problems with Samsung's PC connectivity (if you search for "Kies", the app's name, you'll quickly find out why) as long as there are any processes running that Samsung deems "third-party".

Also, the version of the launcher that is included in the (still unofficial) Froyo builds greatly improved usability. It's possible to rearrange, remove or add homescreens by pinching (which looks a lot like the way Sense does this). You can even rearrange the app drawer's pages by pinching. It's fast, too. Oh, and most of Samsung's widgets don't show up in any third-party launcher's widget menu.

I had a look at SlideScreen yesterday, and while it looks kinda cool, I find it confusing as hell. ;)

I haven't tried any of the custom launchers because Philblur works just fine for me. Being a new Android nanite, I guess I'm just taking it all in and waiting for Froyo on my Droid X before I really start messing with my phone.

ailioiu says:

Reading this article, I just learned about slidescreen. For me it's amazing. I think it will be the same for anyone who uses Android for work - having all the e-mails*, calendar* on homescreen, in compact form it's oxygen.
Thank you Android Central.

* that is when slidescreen will have support for exchange :).

PS: there is a nice calendar widget I fouund on the Market (calWidget) it also displays exchange calendar in compact form. Does anybody know about a widget for displaying email in the same format?

petaf says:

I'm a nanite with a AT&T Nexus One and I'm quite happy with Vanilla. My needs are quite basic but I have the weather/clock Sense widget on my most-used page.

GilmourD says:

n00b question here...

If I were to set up ADW and theme it on my original Moto Droid, does it change the notification bar at all? I mean, does the color change or any of the icons on it?

DOOKJOY6869 says:

Personally I love Apex on ics

ExxWhyZee says:

I have used a bunch of launchers, bought some, ended up using and staying with SSLauncher.