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Action Launcher 3 brings Android 5.0 stylings, performance

Premium features will require a new in-app purchase, but they're well worth it

Chris Lacy's Action Launcher has been one of our favorite alternative launchers of late, thanks to its speed, design and innovative options for widgets and folders. Today marks the release of Action Launcher 3, a top-to-bottom redesign of the app that moves the codebase to Android 5.0 Lollipop adds some new visual features and streamlines some old favorites.

Action Launcher 3 also blurs the lines a little bit between being an update and a completely new app, as Lacy is giving those who purchased the Pro version of Action Launcher 2 a path to keep their paid app without having to make a separate purchase. It's all a little clunky, a little confusing, and a little controversial.

While you're waiting on the update to go live in Google Play (which should be any time now), we'll explain what's up.

First things first. For those who purchased Action Launcher 2 Pro, it'll still continue to function with a newly released version of Action Launcher 2. So if you've purchased Action Launcher 2 Pro, you're good to go — you just need to install the new version of the old app (opens in new tab). You will, however, need to migrate over your home screens from AL2 to AL2 Pro. And as Lacy points out, the best way to do that is to use the SD card backup feature in the settings.

An already excellent launcher gets even better — this is a must-try!

What we've come to know as the free version of Action Launcher 2 (insofar as the Google Play Store listing is concerned) will now become Action Launcher 3, with an in-app purchase to unlock the new premium features. For those who feel like they'd paying twice to keep the functionality they had before, that's the reason for the slightly convoluted path for Action Launcher 2 Pro. It also lets Lacy keep the current install userbase, so it's not like starting from scratch. It's not a great solution, but it's still pretty fair.

So what do you get in Action Launcher 3? The Quickdrawer remains in lieu of a traditional app drawer, and it's as fast and convenient as ever. You'll need to update to the premium features for more options, though, including Action Launcher's Covers and Shutters (think widgets that launch from folders and individual apps with a simple swipe). Google Now's just a swipe to the left. (And then a step to the right. With your hands on your hips and, erm, never mind.)

The Action Bar has (by default, anyway) given way to a more traditional Google Search widget. This is customizable as well, though. You can switch back to an Action Bar if you want, which will put a Google Play shortcut and overflow menu back on the screen. (You lose search, though.) Or you can do just a plain search bar, or opt for none at all.

The premium features also include the ability to change the color of your layout based on what wallpaper you're using — and that'll even remain true if you're using the excellent Muzei wallpaper app. Very cool. There are a few other gems as well — including being able to see your notifications by swiping down anywhere there's a blank space on your home screen — but, again, you're probably going to need to pony up for the premium features. (And if you really want to support Action Launcher, there actually are a couple of donate options, as Lacy explains on Google+.

Which I've already done. And I'm glad I did. Give it a shot.

74 Comments
  • So, what exactly has changed so much that requires a new purchase? From the sound of it, it has the same core feature as v2, but with performance enhancements. Those itself should not require a new transaction, he should be updating the existing app. Edit: just watched the video. Okay so themeing. I stand by my statement, this guy has great ideas, but no execution at all. He ends up abandoning his projects. He needs to hire a team.
  • I agree 100%. Don't see a purpose to warrant a whole new app. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Because he rebuilt the code, not just to make it in line with Material Design, but to take advantage of new features in the code. he also released Action launcher pro 2 years ago, and most pro users bought it over a year ago (according to his numbers). The Pro "unlock" app was a pretty messy stopgap to manage. Furthermore, the Action Launcher app has always been free. this is just an update to that. The pro key still gives you action launcher 2 (which is what you paid for)
  • Simple Don't buy it! Then go to work for free.
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Action Launcher was paid only for quite long time. Became free+pro after few months.
  • First time I've seen someone put out an update and be accused of "abandoning his projects" immediately after.
  • I mean honestly. When was the last time you saw him post a major update to v2 that fixed performance issues? It was a buggy mess. He is asking for more money for essentially the same product. The abandoning his projects remark was meant about his other apps.
  • People gotta eat LG G3 32gb
  • Well, you're correct and incorrect. He is updating Action Launcher, but v3 is essentially a new app that you have to pay for. From what I understand, v2 Pro will still be available to those who purchased it, but will no longer be supported. So, he isn't really updating the app that you already spent your $$ on.
  • Exactly.
  • As a software developer, I can tell you that, at some point, optimization really requires you to start over.  As you start adding in new features, and finding ways to bend and twist the code to make those new features work, there comes a time when you have to start a new project and redesign all the underlying code with all those features in mind from the beginning.  I'm assuming that is what has happened here. Personally, I don't mind paying another $6.  Action Launcher is awesome, and dev's deserve to be supported for their work.
  • I get that. I am not a developer, but I work with them daily. My point is, this isn't a big enough change for that action to be taken yet. Action Launcher is not a very old app. I have yet to see Apex or Nova do this. and they have both made some huge changes to their core app.
  • Action launcher is more than 2 years old. This means that he's maintained the app longer than most manufacturers maintain the device you can run the app on.
  • After having said "I am not a developer", it's hard to consider your opinion of "this isn't a big enough change for that action"...
  • I meant as far as features included. But, fair point.
  • Maybe from a user point of view it is not understandable but from a developer point of view - which I have - if the developer rewrote it from the ground up and gave such a big facelift it's totally worth naming it as a new - and separated - version.
  • A few features have been depreciated (like one-swipe) due to Google dropping the API; it was basically recoded from scratch to get those performance enhancements and to fix bugs; it looks like there are a few new features (like the themes you mentioned); and updated to look more material.
  • Totally agree, I will not be purchasing the new app as I have already purchased AL and the "new" app has little added benefit. Very disappointed in the developers choice of action for this.
  • You're mad because you don't to pay for a new app? Or mad because you were given a way to keep using the old app?
  • I am disappointed that he is charging another $5 for an app that has very few upgrades to Action Launcher 2 Pro (which was also $5). For previous users/purchasers, AL3 is nowhere near a $10 app, at worst he should have an in app purchase for people to upgrade from AL2 Pro for $1-2. Apps update function and cosmetics all the time and don't charge you a second time, this is a slippery slope he is starting and I for one will not be "upgrading" to AL3 (or any of his other apps). PS I love your show and keep up the great work!
  • I agree that he should have an option for current AL2 owners to upgrade to v3 for $2.50-$3.00, I'd buy it then for sure. But I'm not paying another $5 for a few new features (read update to material design) and a code rewrite that was necessary because the previous version was slow and buggy. Posted via the Android Central App
  • He rewrote the entire app from the ground up to use all of the goodies and APIs available in Lollipop, and reworked the entire UX to utilize Material Design guidelines (which is way, way more than simple theming). The guy would need to be completely insane to release that much work as a free update; as he stated in his post on the subject on G+, he's charging for it as a new app because it is, by all measures, a new app.
    I applaud him for charging for AL3; I know it wasn't an easy decision, because of this exact kind of feedback from users. There was quite obiviously a huge amount of work put into the app, and he has every right to charge for it in some manner.
    Just remember, the #1 reason that people gripe about Android is because developers don't take it seriously enough to put time and effort into making apps for it. Developers cite the fact that Android users are less likely to purchase apps as their #1 reason for putting in half-efforts. The only way to get high-quality apps on Android is to prove to developers that we as users are willing to pay for the effort it requires to make high-quality apps.
  • Dude I'm with you 100%. I don't know where these developers get the idea that their time is worth anything. No one should make a living off of making apps... they should just be hobby projects. No one cares about professionally looking software anyway. I mean, it doesn't matter that he didn't actually remove functionality from stuff that we bought already. I hope he doesn't release action launcher 4 in 2 years and expect me to buy it again! I mean, that $6 for 2 years for something I use on a daily basis and makes my phone experience better is totally not worth more than my fast food lunch today. /s
  • You made my day My M8 posted this
  • I look at it like this: "Hey, I'm going to look at your car now. And I'm going to pull the engine, rebuild the engine and then put it all back together. Yes, the old engine worked pretty well and got you from Point A to Point B just fine. But this new engine is new. And it's better. And it's more shiny. And I spent a lot of time and energy on it, and so I'm going to charge you for the work. "Yes, your old car worked just fine. And I tell you what — if you really don't want to pay for the shinny new engine — did I mention it was better? — that's OK. I've actually gone one step further and replicated your original car with the original engine. All you have to do is walk over and get in it, turn the key and drive off. You've already paid for it, so it's yours. I didn't have to do that, but we're friends, so there you go. "But if you want the new hotness, here it is. For about the same price as the cup of overpriced coffee you pissed out by lunchtime."
  • That both made sense and made me piss myself. (Laughing) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, but the mechanic who built your engine is a visioneer. He has an idea on how he wants your engine to work, but quickly realizes this is a large time investment. He has ANOTHER brilliant idea, and wants to begin working on it. So, to speed things along, he throws the old engine together using duct tape and paper clips, and turns his focus on to the NEW AND IMPROVED engine of his dreams.
  • Except the new engine is basically just a little shinier. We get it dude, you are OK with this, some aren't. I went ahead and bought a license for 3 to support the dev but I was definitely expecting more than what I got. New killer features were promised, they were not del8vered. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You left out the part where you don't have to buy anything new and have been given a path to continue using what you purchased.
  • Nailed it! Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's all fine and dandy, but the original engine should work as well and as fast as the new one, because I paid for an engine that is fast and that works. He shouldn't be selling me a new engine because the original runs rough and stutters. He should say, "hey, I'll upgrade your current engine by fixing the issues it has, and I'll throw in some cool new features for only $2.50, rather than selling you a brand new engine for $5. I'll do this since you bought the original engine in good faith." But, to each his own... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have 2 Pro and by installing 3 I'm to assume I lose all my Pro features. Does not make sense. Regardless, what exactly are the differences between the versions? Is there an actual list somewhere?
  • Pro 2 and AL 3 are 2 separate apps. Pro 2 will continue to work with all the features you paid for. Nothing changing there. 3 is free to try but if you want the extra features it's an IAP. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Actually no. You get all your pro features by updating your pro 2 license because that is the full pro 2 app.
  • I can't believe the quickpage has been removed, my favorite feature. Anyone now know of a launcher that is still being updated (not action launcher 2) that has this feature? Otherwise, i am back to AL2
  • I just spent an hour looking for it, and that's practically the only reason I used AL :( "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 600 ping.
  • There actually is no other launcher with that feature. Now there's none at all, since Google changed the API.
  • Should really mention new version doesn't support icon packs. I only found out after doing the in app purchase. Feel very let down by this. Its a launcher, icon support is surely mandatory? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah, this is a pretty sorry replacement. From what I remember there were supposed to be at least one new killer feature, all I see are missing features and some shiny. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The theming option is really slick, and more than "material light and dark" It allows you to customize it based off of wallpaper, and then customize that to your preferences. You might think that it's "not a big deal" but you're also not the developer. For me, this is a bigger deal than icon packs (though I'd like to have both)
  • I know what it does, I bought the app. From a consumer standpoint (at least to me) it's underwhelming. It's not for you, that's fine. Opinions are like assholes etc etc. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Maybe its wrong to assume such things, but all other launchers including his amazing action launcher versions previously use icon packs. It should be a very important thing to mention that feature is gone. I have no problem paying for the new app, but its important to be upfront about what isn't included in the updated version. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lacy does say that icon packs will almost certainly be supported moving forward, as will the ability to scale icons - something that's currently stopping me from moving up from AL2 Pro. Once those things are in place, then I'll upgrade to AL3.
  • Charging people for an upgrade on an app they already have a pro version of is pretty messed up. I would not support a developer who does this. point of upgrading your app is to attract new people who might want to go with the pro version... Making people who have already supported your work on the same app in the past pay again. Not very cool in my book. GNL for me or NOVA FTW.
  • Yeah because people never have to pay when upgrading software. Newer versions of Microsoft Office or Adobe are always free if you bought the previous version...
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • So i bought windows 3.0, i am entitled to all future versions of windows for free right?
  • If there were more new features it might be okay. But as the situation actually exist? No. I understand that the developer started from scratch, but I am sure lots of other developers have too. Did they charge for the privilege while cutting existing features and adding one meh one? I just don't see enough meat here to justify it or to counter the depreciated features. One or two more added features would have gone a long ways towards resolving the complaints I think. Posted via Android Central App
  • Your are most definitely not a developer. Please don't try to comment on how much work it takes if you have no idea. It's fine to talk about it being underwhelming from a consumer standpoint, but don't pretend to know anything about being a dev. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If that comment was directed at me, it's off base. I understand quite well how much time development takes.
    But in this case he took the work on himself, gave people mostly the same product only with some features actually eliminated and one new one added and then people wonder what the fuss is about? The examples used above regarding Microsoft were flawed. MS doesn't charge money for basically the same exact thing. There are in fact new features added. Apple goes one better and adds in new features for the grand sum of zero dollars on both their iOS and Mac platform as well now. I'm not saying that he should give his stuff away for free though. Far from it. I think he should be charging, but I also think there should be more there for his customers to justify the repurchase of his app. Something he seems to have lost sight of. Posted via Android Central App
  • Apple only does this because you need their very overpriced hardware. there money is made selling you a $600 pc for $2400. they also make sure the software will not work on anything more then a few years old, because again, you are paying for the software updates by paying for hardware.
  • I really don't get all the complaining here. It isn't even like he took the old app down, or forced an update on you that removed features and put them behind the pay wall. He built an app which you are free to install + upgrade or not.
    $5 for something you will use every day, many times / day. The cost of buying a beer in a bar.
    If he walked up to you in a bar and said "Hey I just updated the app and made it all pretty and threw in a few new features, here ya go!", wouldn't you say "Thanks! Let me at least buy you a beer for all that work!" Or are you all cheap bastards? Obviously you all liked the old one. If you like the redesign, get it and buy the guy a beer.
  • In fact, not only did he leave the existing paid version, the update yesterday addressed some issues as well. So anyone staying with AL2 Pro did get some fixes made. And while some people here have complained about how buggy it is, I've been using AL without issue on a Galaxy Nexus and now an HTC One M8 without issue for more than a year. So while I'm certain that they've encountered issues, I certainly have no issue paying $5/year for something I use every day. You can pay nearly that much for a single coffee at Starbucks! I do want a couple of features added back like the support for icon packs and icon scaling, but overall I have no issue with what Lacy has done.
  • I'm a Nova user, but if they went this route I'd purchase the upgrade. Considering how integral the launcher is to the device experience it's a small price. It's not an app that you use once a month. Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App
  • Sticking with Nova launcher. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So, can I use the Ok Google commands with this like I can with the stock/Google Now launcher? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Had no problem with supporting Chris Lacy and paying for he premium features in Action Launcher 3. There is a lot of potential in Action Launcher 3. Really wish Quickpage hadn't been cut... It was one of my favorite features in Action Launcher 2 that I used every hour of every day. Hopefully Chris Lacy will reconsider and add it back in an update soon. I am also having some issues with widget sizing and scale. It just won't let me add widgets of certain sizes. Action Launcher 3 is a solid foundation. I can't wait to see how Chris Lacy builds on it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nova FTW Powered by the Android Central App
  • Sorry, this was not meant to be a reply but a separate comment. Powered by the Android Central App
  • Am I the only person who now can't update action launcher pro? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Time to be a troll. I just downloaded AL and certainly was not impressed. Couldn't change app icon, theme folders have no customization. If I wanted flat icons I would have them on my phone.
    All the hype on the fourms doesn't match the readers opinions. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No, it's not "well worth it". This is the first time I've seen users charged a full fee for an app update. Make no mistake, AL2 is on its way out and won't be supported much longer. Combine that with missing features in AL3 (e.g. unread counts, which the developer has said will not be ported to AL3), and I go back to Nova permanently. Previous pro purchasers should have been given at least say, a 50% discount toward AL3. I won't be paying double to keep a supported version of AL going, There are too many other good options out there. I wish the developer success, but...
  • I originally purchased Action Launcher v1 before the free version was available. And then I upgraded to v2. My main issue having to pay for the latest version is this: when I did my app updates this morning, AL v3 was listed as an UPDATE to my existing v2. I did that update and then found out that I would have to pay for additional features. If I have to pay for additional features, then it is really not an upgrade in my book...it is a new app. Then, when I wanted to go back to v2 and remove v3, I had to uninstall version 2 before I even had the option to uninstall version 3 (the uninstall button on the v3 app was grayed out until I removed v2). So, if this is really an update to the existing app, I'm not sure that payment for features should be required if you already paid for the previous version. If this is a new app and not an upgrade, then don't list it as an update to the v2 app that I paid for.
  • It also works really well with Tapet.
  • When a developer forces an update on his paying customers without warning & wipes out their configurations, he has 0 (zero) interest in them or the time they spent creating their layouts!! I get it, after Chris' taste of success (read money flowing in), he rolled out a new version minus his user’s acknowledgement, to garner more success (funds) for LESS product! Before anyone thinks that my rant is about the money, it isn't remotely so! Prior to this FUBAR forced push of something I didn't ask for, want or need -- which F'd UP my config -- I was quite happy with Action Launcher Pro! I believe all developers should get paid for their labor and their intellectual property, but why do so by wasting their customer’s time and causing them grief? Is NOT our time equally valuable? Chris isn't making enough to compensate all his customers for their wasted time! But he wants bucks for his time and efforts and for what? A half as_ed, unpolished, unfinished version of Pro Version 2!? Along with the "shutters" and "quickdrawer", I really liked "quickpage", and using ICON Themes. The latter may come along later, but it sounds like "quickpage" is dead....HUH, WTF? What was the point of F'ing up my configuration and phone? Yeah, for Chris to grab more bucks for less of a final product! I was quite (5-star) happy with the two (2) paid Pro 2 versions that I bought less than 2-months ago. However, when Chris chose to force Ver.3 upon me, killing my configurations, their backups, and the ability to run his app on my phone, that’s customer disservice! After far too much wasted time reading this and Chris's Google post, uninstalling/installing moving backup files from PC to Cell etc. and still being unable to run paid-for version 2 on my Note 4, I'm going back to Nova Prime on both my phone and my wife's. And will consider this a lesson learned. For an app that takes as much time to setup as a Launcher, I will stick with more robust longer-lived developers/businesses who unlike Mr. Lacy, consider customer satisfaction as a bullet point somewhere in their business plan hierarchy. Duck, although your unaware that it’s airborne, Chris just threw shyt at the fan and it’s headed your way -- and he wants you to catch it and for him to be paid for throwing it! Yeah, based on the V.3 push, all you future customers – watch out for V.4 coming to Chris’ bank account sooner, rather than later – your transition will be painful and you will pay MORE for LESS….BOHICA!!!
  • No problem paying for the new app, but its important to be upfront about what isn't included in the updated version. SDI applies years of iOS expertise to ensure your apps benefit from balanced synergy with the iOS pattern. See more at http://www.softwaredevelopers.co.uk
  • I paid for Action Launcher 2, but he lost me when I wanted to change the folder color from white to black, and I hit a paywall. Sure, charge to make it *other* colors, but black/white should be free. I don't want all that light coming from the screen when I'm using my device at night.
  • I have loved AL2 since I first installed it, and have changed my mindset to not even hesitate to support guys like this for their work, including paying for AL3. That being said, after playing with it for awhile, missing the old action bar, quick page and the widget drawer, I chose to move back to Nova launcher for my Note 3, while maintaining AL3 on my Note 8. I don't regret supporting this project, and am hoping "3.1" brings back some features that I have become quite attached to. I have paid for several launchers, including Next, which wasn't cheap, and while I don't use some of them, I am glad to support the programmers, it isn't like they are really that expensive, considering the time they put into it Posted via Android Central App
  • Is the quickdrawer accessible while an app is open if you have the paid version of Action Launcher 3?
  • Hmmm, another one of "these" situations. I was all ready to give Action Launcher another shot, but naw. No thanks. The guy is very innovative and I like his stuff (and I understand he needs $ to keep developing), but this makes me think I'll be asked to put down even more money with the next major update. Maybe even a discount for those that purchased before? Maybe give a donate button a try? I've grown to used to Nova anyways.
  • Re. theintention's stinging I wipe my ass with $6.
  • Edit: stinginess