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Launchers are the way Android users customize their smartphone and tablet experience. There's superficial stuff, like changing screen transitions, icons, and fonts, but the best Android launchers out there enable users to tweak the device's behaviour to suit their daily usage, so long as you're willing to put the time into defining those customizations.

If you're looking for a change of pace from the out-of-box experience, we've dug up the very best Android launchers out there. Take a look, and let us know what you think!

 

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The best Android launchers

235 Comments

Action Launcher anyone? Mr Nickinson, you know what I'm talking about ;-)

Posted via the Android Central App

Did the same thing on my Nexus 7, so much so that I had to uninstall it. But it runs like a champ on my Nexus 10

That's so weird. It seems to run just fine, though I have some peripheral performance issues that I wouldn't think are related. But based on these posts, I'll try uninstalling AL to see if those issues go away.

Action Launcher all the way and I've used all of the launchers mentioned in this article plus TSF, Smart Launcher 2 etc etc but I always go back. Its just so intuitive and has features like shutters, covers and 1 swipe that you just can't find anywhere else.

Posted via Android Central App

Seriously can't take this site seriously if it can't recognize Action Launcher. Also, a list like this should reflect the whole staff's opinion; not just one person.

Posted via Android Central App

That's what keeps me from switching to art. I could make do without other modules, but not that one (well maybe gravity box too). Or maybe I'm just too lazy to set up a new launcher from scratch...

Posted via Android Central App

I'll give that a look, never heard of it before. I doubt it'll replace Nova though.

I seriously don't get the left pane being the now screen. Pointless and annoying in my opinion.

Posted via Android Central App

you are the first person on the entire interwebs that i have seen say they dont like google now on the left but to each their own. Give it a try with the gel xposed module

Count me in as #3. I don't want to use Google Now and hence the reason don't like or use GNL. Premium user of Nova Launcher here. From time to time I use Nokia Z Launcher or Cover but that's about it.

like i said i love nova and if they had google now on the left i would use it...it just feels so natural now

As stated here, there are others.

I just think with the swept up from the home button it's completely redundant, and prevents access to anything actually useful in the left pane.

As for XGELS, it's definitely better than stand alone GNL but I still don't like GNL and Nova has a few things it doesn't yet seem to replicate (infinite scrolling in app drawer for example).

Posted via Android Central App

Add me to the list of people who don't like the Google Now Launcher. Now I do use Google Now for my most important stuff (especially during college football and basketball seasons). This launcher just doesn't work well with how I use my phone. I uninstalled it as soon as I realized that it wasn't going to work with how I use my S3.

Same here. I tried it and I don't really care for it because well, its too much Google in one place. Google this, google that...I have a few things google on my phone that I need and thats it.

Make it two people, just because I'm not a fan of Google Now.

About the only thing it's ever done for me is show the weather (which is ridiculously redundant), and pop-up a "time-to-home" and "places nearby", which are pointless in a town of less than 15,000. My time to home is 3-4 minutes, all day, every day. I don't follow sports; I don't have stocks; I don't watch TV.

Now if there's something I'm missing w/Google Now, I'm all ears. But for now, I'm sticking with Nova Prime

My beef about Google Now...not surprisingly I get a lot of Android news 'cards'. But they're never AC, Android Police, Phandroid....they're almost always from more suspect news sources. I find that odd...

you know i agree with this. it seems that the sites shown are paying to be shown and to be honest google is still about making money. my favorite is the Christian tech blob that keeps telling me about android news that is 3 months old lol

Can you post a screenshot or xgel link? Can't seem to find it in the play store... Thks much!

Posted via Android Central App

It's the third one down on a search, xposed GEL settings it's actually called, you need xposed framework to use it.

Posted via Android Central App

That must be a custom ROM I'm guessing?, can't find it anywhere in the play store...

Posted via Android Central App

Nah, not a custom ROM. It's a framework that let's you install modules (such as XGELS) that basically let you make system level changes without actually permanently making changes to APKs. It basically helps unlock the awesome within your phone.

You can get it here: http://repo.xposed.info/module/de.robv.android.xposed.installer

Or from XDA, and it's probably worth looking at their forum anyway.

You do, of course, need to have root access to use it.

Posted via Android Central App

And in the top spot too. So sad that Go made it to the list before anything else did, let alone our favourite Action Launcher.

Yeah, I thought I was missing something when I saw Go there, or they had made some significant changes!

Posted via Android Central App

Agreed. The best word to describe Go Launcher would be cluttered. Can't believe that anyone still uses this.

And ad-ridden, if you don't want to pay for all of their little features. Made my phone pretty sluggish.

 

Agree. Action Launcher should of been #1. I'd put Go Launcher in the same category as Facebook's Home

Nokia Z Launcher.

Ok. This answer was completely biassed and not based at all on functionality.
But since it's an Alpha, I think good things will come out of it once it's completed.

dude. LauncherPro?.. haven't seen that since my android was running the Gingerbread OS.

Posted via the Android Central App

Go Launcher being on a list of top launchers automatically disqaulifies the credibility and merit of said list. Did they sponsor this or something?

"OK Google" works with nova. At least on my Nexus 5 it does. You just have to turn it on in nova. It's a great stock alternative. You get the OK Google stuff without the Google now hijacking the left screen. Also the ability to disable the persistent search and hide apps in the drawer is great.

Also, why do people hate on go launcher? They've been around forever.

I actually like that they hijacked the left screen. I have a note 3 and like many others I can't stand touch wiz especially when they try to force flip board on me.

I look for things on Google now all the time.

Posted via Android Central App

In that case I can understand it. It is just so easy to swipe up from the home button (on my nexus 5) that it seems unnecessary. If I didn't have my homescreens setup so that the left screen had stuff on it I could understand more as well but I have always used the left and right screens with home being the center.

Nova Launcher is a great traditional launcher. As far as something out of the norm, I recommend Action Launcher. Believe me I have tried my fair share of launchers.

I'm disappointed, Android Central. Really, starting a bestlaunchers list with the overloaded Go Launcher? For me it's Themer on the G2 and Action on the Tab 3.

Posted via Android Central App

I use Aviate and I love the way it's organized
It's neat to have a section with the common apps, and all the other apps in sections, which in my opinion is better than folders

Posted via Android Central App with my Samsung Galaxy S5

Nova has been the best by far for me. Everything you need and not much you dont. I would like some more theme options though.

Google Now Launcher for me. Everything I need, nothing I don't.
But I really stopped in to say a big Thank You to AC for putting this all on one page, and not one of those infernal gallery-style click-baity abominations. Nice.

ive tried every single one of those but i always go back to touchwiz. i dont know i just like TW on my GS4

Why? In the real world where people don't hate TW because they think its cool to its actually a perfectly OK launcher. Its the bloated extra apps and endless features, that are mostly just apks, that are the problem, not the launcher itself.

I live in the real world surrounded by normal non-techy people who hate TW on their devices and ask me how they too can get a clean and fast launcher like mine (Nova). I haven't met one person who likes TW in real life. As you said, it's OK but even that is a stretch.

Last time I checked most of the features from the paid version of Nova are available in the free version of Apex.

holo was my daily driver on my Gingerbread Incredible2. I use Nova exclusively. I think there were some ICS or JB features Nova had that Apex didnt. but for the price, Apex free does it.

I paid for both around the same time, and just like Nova better ultimately. So, I can't really say if that difference exists...though it would be hard to believe.

Posted via Android Central App

GO launcher has started to become bloated as of late.I installed it and there wre like 10 icons asking me to download their other apps and for some reason it just doesnt fit in properly with Google's design patterns like its still stuck in Gingerbread Era.Personally I find Nova to be the best and its still better than Google Nwo Launcher as they recently added the Ok google hotword AND I have applied my L theme to make my phone just like ANdroid l

Although abandoned by the developer, I've continued to use ADW. I will switch to some other one when I break down and buy a new phone. For now, the Nexus 4 set up the way t is, does just fine.

I was starting to wonder if I was the only one... didn't realize I'd been running abandonware. ADW has been my rock solid, fast, go-to launcher since I had the dream (aka G1) and I hope it never goes away.

I was starting to wonder if I was the only one... didn't realize I'd been running abandonware. ADW has been my rock solid, fast, go-to launcher since I had the dream (aka G1) and I hope it never goes away.

Same here.

Switch between launchers every now and then, especially going back to my old favorites (Apex, GNL), but I keep ending up with Terrain.

Atom Launcher anyone?? I love Atom Launcer ... It provides alot of Customization ... Quick Search ...App Hide... And is Light Weight... Most of The people are not Aware of it... I love it.. Try it...

I hate how intrusive the in-app purchases and related apps got with GoLauncher, so it was gone from my phone. Then I found Themer. It has its quirks, but at least it makes my phone feel different every time and not just themed icons.

+1 on this. I used it for a while. I missed my BW widget though so I went back to TW, but I did love this app!
 

My android launcher of choice is hands down Action Launcher and yes I even paid the $3 in the Google Play Store for it. (It was on sale when I bought it). That launcher works very well, it moves the app drawer icon to the top left, finding apps are very easy and it works similar to more android apps do especially Google Drive. Cool launcher.

Is there a guide on launchers for tablets? I have been looking for one on my Note 8.0 but have just stuck with the stock one for now. Thanks.

+1

Yes Lightning Launcher is thee most customizable Launcher. PERIOD. Kind of a big learning curve but once you start thinking outside of the box then you can really create anything your mind can think of!

Just look at mycolorscreen.com and search for Lightning and a lot of the custom homescreens are using Lighting!

I like KK Launcher. It too has the Google Now screen as the left screen, although you need to push the home or back button to get out of it rather than swiping. Tried Google's launcher, but it is too buggy for me. Keeps losing/removing icons from my folders every time I reboot. I also have Nova Prime, but KK Launcher was faster with the Kitkat customization options.

I should've scrolled more through the comments before I added mind. I, too, really enjoy the kklauncher. It's a great upgrade from the Google Now Launcher.

Posted via Android Central App

+1 for KK Launcher. I downloaded Action Launcher based on all of the comments here but going back to KK for the simplicity, Google Now, the second, up to 7 app, dock and "OK Google" working natively on any page. Plus these guys are constantly working to make this thing better.

Posted via Android Central App

I find Go to be too markety. They give you the launcher and then put a ton of stuff on your desktop and every single widget/shorcut is something else to download. Their products have just become so bloated (Go apps) that it puts me off.

Nova is my standby, but I have tried the others for variety. I can't get used to Aviate. I never feel like I have enough control and I don't feel that the launcher really gets my habits that well.

I use the kklauncher. I've been using Apex for years until I came across this. It integrates Google Now voice commands and you can set the app drawer to vertical continuous categorized by each letter of the alphabet. Going to be tough to get me to stop using this.

Posted via Android Central App

Action launcher. The notification shade pull down from anywhere on the screen is nice and the swipe up for multitasking is sweet. Overall it's just clean.

Posted via Android Central App

Haven't seen my go-to launcher mentioned in the comments, soooooooooo

Lucid Launcher Pro baby!

Light. Fast. HIGHLY customizable. EXCELLENT developer involvement. There's a free version you can try out too, so there's no excuse if you don't check it out (except laziness...which I excel at, so I won't blame you if that's the reason you don't give it a shot!)

GNL has been great on my Moto X. What I wish though is the dialer ability to cross reference numbers with Google to show the business I was calling. Seems they are still keeping that with the Nexus 5.

Posted via the Android Central App

Google Now Launcher. I've run Nova, Apex, ADW, and Launcher Pro in the past but I found I didn't use the customization all that much. I'm one of the few people, it seems, that likes the swipe left for Google Now.

I do keep Nova on my son's Nexus 7 because it allows me to create a games tab so he can find his games easily. Both of the family Note 2's have Nova as well because, well, Touchwiz stinks. My son has kept the stock Sense launcher on his M7. For a skin, it's about as good as it gets.

In all the launcher hullabaloo, I'm shocked to never see even honorable mention of my favorite, NEXT LAUNCHER. Yes it is a bit pricey, but totally worth it. Has far more features than most of the other launchers. I know how the trend is VANILLA ANDROID and all, but for theme aspects, NEXT LAUNCHER 3D is at least a top 5 contender.

Next Launcher is awesome, with both 2D and 3 modes! I suspect because it is on the pricey side that it's not mainstream. I got it when there was a one day sale. I previously used Nova Launcher Prime which is a great launcher as well.

Posted via Android Central App

I've used Aviate before, and it wasn't for me. Google Now Launcher, ftw. I love it so much. Hope it carries on in Android L as a native stock launcher. I'm a Google recommended type of guy, so the Now Launcher is my sweetest wettest dream.

Posted via Android Central App

There are only 2 options to the majority of people not smoking crack lol

1. GNEL with XGEL customisation or
2. Nova Prime

Posted via the Android Central App

How can Action Launcher only get an honorable mention? Not only that, it's the second from the last in that list. It's use of covers (like Nova's swipe action to hide a folder behind an icon, but I think Chris Lacy came up with it first) and shades (similar concept, but a swipe reveals a widget) should be enough to be a main feature. Access to your apps are just a quick, right swipe away with the Quickdrawer and you can hide app shortcuts or widgets in your Quickpage which is only a left swipe away. Custom icons and "OK Google" hotword works. An unread count feature is available too. I've tried many a handful of the others mentioned in this article but I keep on coming back to Action Launcher.

Nova Launcher is my go to. I've been going between that, the GEL, and Apex Launcher. Since Nova has the OK Google command enabled as well smaller icons, it was a happy medium for me.

Posted via Android Central App

Thank you! Someone who actually likes to customise their phone/tablet.

Once you use ssLauncher, there's no going back to the grid based and basic launchers like Nova/Apex.

Been had Nova prime. Using the default OnePlus launcher now. Nova would be my favorite though

Posted via my OnePlus One

Action Launcher all the way. Before I started using it last November I wasnt a big fan of custom launcher.

Posted via Android Central App

I have used Nova, Apex and GNL. GNL is all I ever wanted when I used the others. It is simple, efficient, and without a bunch of options that are usually only eye candy or things that I do not like.

Posted via Android Central App

Mini Launcher gets a vote from me. Free, light and has most features I need. Still missing some but it's great to feel like I have a non bloated launcher to give me the aosp look.

Posted via Android Central App

Google Now Launcher and Nova Launcher are my daily drivers.

Posted with my Nexus 7 2012 or Moto X via the Android Central App

Well it seems that Im the only one that is truly using Apex while the others have moved to a new launcher. I just like it :)

Nova has come up on Apex and they are running neck and neck with each other.

I still use Apex so you are not alone

Tried Nova -- I like Apex better.

It's nice that there are plenty of launchers out there to suit the various tastes of the huge and diverse Android user base.

Don't know why but on Apex there is a lag while scrolling widgets in the app drawer both on my tablet and phone.Nova does not have this

Posted via Android Central App on Google Nexus 7 2013

I was a full fledged Apex fan. Paid for pro even tho you dont get much more. But Apex was making my phone lag and I was getting problems. Nova has been way smoother.

Ok I'm still not quite sure what a launcher does, even after watching the video, but I think it's got something to do with how you can organize your apps to access them quicker. I tried to download Google Now onto my phone but it wouldn't do it. Then I tried the Nova launcher but had no clue on how it worked so I uninstalled it. I haven't looked yet but I'm wondering if they might have some sort of tutorial on their website telling you how to move things and set it up, etc.

http://m.androidcentral.com/android-z-what-launcher

That's an Android Central article from 2012. That might help you. A launcher is basically what helps you to customize your home screen(s) to your liking. It lets you do things like organizing your apps on the home screen, searching for apps within the app drawer, adding gesture controls to your home screen, and a lot more than that.

A launcher with fewer customization options might help you out. Smart Launcher 2 organizes your apps into categories that make them easy to find and save time. Another one that's not to heavy on the customization is the Google Now Launcher. It might help to use a minimalistic launcher like that at first and then use the heavily customizable launchers like Nova, Atom, etc.

I think I accidentally found the Google Now launcher right after I posted that. I was trying to download the wrong link. I've got it going but can't figure out how to put certain things on my home screen. I've got my clock over there but can't figure out how to get the message button back. It's over with the other apps. I just need to get some time to play with it a little.

Smart launcher all the way. Don't have to customize anything b because everything already looks good. Doesn't crash, no flash features, just the essentials. Love it

Posted via Android Central App

Personally, I think Go Launcher is flashy, but ultimately not good. It's confusing for the sake of being confusing and it throws a bunch of garbage recommended apps on my homescreen. Also it has a persistent settings button by the nav bar and I hate that.

Posted via Android Central App

Nova Prime on my G2 with screen off app (on double tap) and Google Now (on swipe up). Works perfectly for my needs.

Posted via Android Central App w/G2

Action Launcher Pro
Bye-bye touch wiz

Posted via Android Central App on my Samsung Galaxy Express i437p on AT&T's 4G LTE Network

I like to use TSF Shell. It runs super smooth and looks great. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and helps with Touchwiz.

>I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.

I'm not seeing any Atom Launcher love! I've been using it for a few weeks and might switch soon, but I love this launcher!

Smart Launcher 2 is one of the best as well.

Nova launcher is what I currently use. I tried the google now launcher but it was very buggy for me.

Posted via Android Central App

Nova by a mile for me. I've tried a lot of different ones, but always come back to Nova for its feature list and customizations. My wife can't even use my phone because she can't remember the gesture to open the app drawer :)

Like your article about the Android launchers. The only launcher of the group that thought outside the box was Yahoo's Aviate. All the rest look like the cookie cutter launcher. Only Aviate took a whole new approach and look. The only other launcher that had a fresh look is Everything Me. Being creative in your thinking produces ingenious results. And yeah, I've tried them all.

ADW EX on my Moto X, I've been using it on all my android devices since 2010.

Posted via Android Central App

When I was in the Navy it stood for "F*** The World" -- I was somewhat puzzled when I first started seeing this all over the net, like "Apex Launcher FTW!"

I wonder if "For The Win" is just a polite reworking of an originally crude acronym...

Yes, it also stands for that, but in online usage, it usually means "For The Win". I looked it up in Urban Dictionary, and the other meaning is not the origin.

I thought it was "f the world" for a long time too. I couldn't figure out what people on Twitter were mad about . ;)

Having Go Launcher on this list at all, not to mention in the top spot, tells me never to read another article written by this author again. That app is so horrible on so many levels, some of them quite serious, it should be removed from the Play Store.

Having used all the launchers mentioned here and several more, I've always returned to Nova Prime. Nothing beats the functionality for me and it's speedy and has low resource usage.

I went from nova to next 3D, i love it, it's beautiful and it gets lots of compliment from my friends, drawback is the price but it's worth it

GNL has a little lag on my moto g when going back from the app drawer to the home screen. That's why I uninstall it.

Posted via the Android Central App

Nova Prime! Used to use Action Launcher in my Note 10... But went back to Nova.

Posted via Android Central App

I'm currently exploring Action Launcher, but I often switch between it, GNL, and Nova.

I'd love to combine the elements I like from all three.

Posted via the Android Central App

Love MiHome, can't stand the idea of a app drawer. I want all my apps in one space (managed with folders). It's the best of the iPhone launcher but I get widgets too. Also it has tons of free themes.

Now that I have a G3, I'm using my LG Optimus G as my "iPod Touch". I put the Google Now Launcher on it for a test drive. Yes it is bland and you can't swipe from your last home screen back around to your first but it is definitely stable. My LG OG is stuck on JB but the GNL gives it a fresh updated feel.

Posted via Android Central App with my LG G3

GNow launcher does nothing for me. My choice of these is Nova Prime, but some of the non-traditional launchers offer even more innovative features and capabilities. Check out Side Control (my choice) and Pie Launcher as examples of the variety available.

And article on these alternative approaches to controlling your phone would be welcome.

Heads up, "one fel swoop" is used twice in this article and I believe it should be "fell".

Posted via Android Central App

Used go launcher a long time ago on a froyo device. I then used ADW for a while but now love my Nova launcher. Don't tweek a lot but a few things that drive me crazy like switching to a scrolling list of apps instead of swiping pages. One of these days I might check out Themer or Buzz launcher when I have some time to play.

I can't believe no one has mentioned "Next Launcher 3D Shell" ... which admittedly wins the prize for stupidest name of all time! Perhaps the $17 price tag simply drives everyone away? But fork over the dough, and you will find a launcher of astonishing capability!

X-9 = 2B^3

I used to be a Nova Prime user, but when the google now launcher first came out I gave it a try. Since the first time I used it I never looked back.

Posted via Android Central App on the Moto X

I use Nova Prime on my Galaxy S3 (due an upgrade soon) and just the standard Google Now launcher on my Nexus 7. I tried the Google Now launcher on the S3 but it didn't run very well. The phone was doing some strange things...... Uninstalled and went back to Nova Prime. Tried the Action Launcher a while back. It was buggy on the phone. Might try it again.......

Posted via the Android Central App

I don't bother with a launcher. Stock Android is the way to go for me. It may bore some of you but I don't have anything extra running and I like it that way. I use the little groupings and that works well enough for me.

Posted via Android Central App

Look people: Go Launcher is one of the oldest and most popular launchers in the play store - which is probably why it was mentioned first. I hated Go Launcher a few years ago, but it has really gotten better as of late. Plus, I paid for the premium version, so i don't get ads. It has thousands of themes available both on the play store and on the internet. GL isn't laggy at all. Plus, all you have to do is delete the crap they put on the home screen after you install it. Simple. And this is coming from a person who has used ADW, Launcher Pro, Apex, Nova, and TSF Shell launchers. Go is great for me because I like to change the look of my phone once per week.

Posted via Android Central App

Every device gets Nova installed and set up first. One page, folders along the left margin, and Dashclock at the top. A few tweaks, and we're ready to go. Simple.

Posted from the (4.2 updated) redheaded stepchild of the Nexii

Google Now Lancher + Xposed framework + XGels (require root) give flexible, configurable launcher keeping Now integration. Check out on XDA

Nova Prime won me over. Having Ok Google Now on the home screen is what did it for me. The swipes, tapping an icon to open it and using it as a folder just added to its value.

I tried GNL but it seemed to drain my battery on the S5 Active quicker than using TouchWiz. Not sure if I should use GNL again.

Posted via Android Central App

I literally tried about 50 of them today and I like Touch wiz best out of em all...

Posted via Android Central App

I really like the nova launcher on my s4. I like that I can make it look like stock android without having to root it. I would say the 4 dollars is worth it cause u get a lot of great customizations I have tried the google now launcher and I don't like it that much the icons are too big and its so limited on features. I may soon give action launcher a try but for now nova is my favorite one.

Posted via Android Central App

I am looking for a simple slide-out from left app tray with customizable folders for my stock Nexus 7...

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Posted via the Android Central App

I love the way that EverythingMe works. I did just get the new LG G3 so I'm still enjoying LG's take on Android; minus the useless "G" homescreen of course.

Why not try out App Fetch? It is an easier and faster way to find, launch and organize your applications. It is a compliment to all of these launchers.