Nova Launcher and Evie Launcher

The way we arrange, organize, and interact with our apps on Android is called the launcher. Launchers usually consist of a series of home screens, where we can arrange app shortcuts and widgets and an app drawer. Every phone comes with a launcher, but when they drop the ball, there are endless third-party launchers that not only pick it up again but knock it clear out of the park.

Previous incarnations of this article have tried to claim that there is one launcher to rule them all, that there truly is a best launcher out there. I don't really believe that's possible, even though I have a launcher I personally value over all others. You use your phone differently than I do, and I use my phone differently than my co-workers do or my friends or my family do. Everyone has their own perfect launcher, but if you haven't found your favorite yet, then here are a few launchers we think will satisfy users of every type.

Best light and easy launchers

Are you someone who doesn't want to mess with a lot of bells and whistles? Do you just want to put your most-used apps front and center, maybe a widget or two, and get one with your Android experience? You want a fast launcher, a light launcher, one that doesn't need a lot of fussing and tweaking, and these are the launchers for you.

Best light launcher: Evie Launcher

Evie evolves into your home screen

Evie Launcher is a light little launcher that just doesn't quit and uses gestures in a few really good ways. First and foremost, like so many recent launchers, Evie has a swipe up gesture to open the app drawer. Another popular launcher gesture Evie has is the ability to double-tap the screen to put your phone to sleep, either using the phone-locking Instant Lock or Smart Lock-friendly Timer Lock, just like powerhouse launcher Nova Launcher.

Evie is easy to set up and run with, but you can customize the desktop grid and turn gestures on and off as needed. It's a quick launcher that's also getting quick updates, so look forward to more optimizations and tweaks to help speed up your launcher experience. You can even back up your Evie layout and settings directly to Google Drive.

Read more: Evie Launcher review

Download Evie Launcher (Free)

Runner-up: Microsoft Launcher

Arrow Launcher

You'd think that if Microsoft was going to bring a launcher to Android it'd be a launcher that matches the launcher on Windows Phone… and you'd be wrong. Microsoft Launcher doesn't look a thing like Windows Phone, and that's great news. Not only is Microsoft Launcher a completely Android experience, but it's a top-quality launcher to boot.

Microsoft Launcher is a browser that's centered around a clean home screen, an orderly utility page for widgets and cards, and a speedy app drawer where you can easily find your apps. Microsoft Launcher is easy to set up and a breeze to navigate. It's not quite as bare-bones as Evie, but it is a light launcher that's well-worth considering, especially if you have an Outlook account for work or school that it can tie into for email and calendar appointments.

Download Microsoft Launcher (Free)

Best customization launchers

Do you want full control over your home screens? Want to set more than just an app grid and a widget or two? Want to make your home screen look and act the way you want? Then you want a customization-based launcher. Often called theming launchers because theming is one of their more obvious uses, these launchers are for far more than just making your home screen look pretty; they're for making your home screen function more efficiently and more effectively for your life.

By giving you control over gestures, advanced UI controls, and almost every aspect of your launcher experience, these launchers let you customize the way you interact with your phone in ways that truly exemplify the Android experience. These two customization-based launchers dominate much of the third-party launcher market, and there's a very good reason: they're awesome.

Best customization launcher: Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher Theming

Nova Launcher is over 6 years old, and this storied launcher has been a major player in the Android launcher market longer than most of us have used Android. The reason for this continued dominance is simple: Nova's mix of customization, convenience, and cunning is unparalleled. Nova lets your phone look more Pixel-y than a Pixel and more TouchWiz than a Galaxy S8 and does it with ease and grace. In fact, Nova's biggest strengths are things that are hidden in plain sight, like its pocket ace Subgrid Positioning or its excellent backup system.

When we build themes for our Android Central readers, 9 times out of 10 the launcher we use to build it and to share it with you is Nova Launcher. It's an excellent launcher if you want to build complex themes or if you just want a smartly laid out launcher with excellent gesture controls.

Read more: Nova Launcher review: Still king of the mountain

Download Nova Launcher (Free, $4.99)

Runner-up: Action Launcher

Lights, Android, ACTION

Action Launcher is one of the most popular launchers on the market, and the watchword of both the launcher and its users is QUICK. Quicktheme, Quickdrawer, Quickpage, Quickbar, quick, quick, quick. Action Launcher is determined to be a launcher that gets what you need doing quickly so that you can get back to doing whatever you actually need to get done. To ensure that Action Launcher can be the quickest and best launcher for users who want to set everything up just so, Action Launcher has taken it upon itself to be one of the most customizable launchers on the market. From its robust gesture controls to its ubiquitous Covers and Shutters to hide folders and widgets under a seemingly plain looking app shortcut, no matter what you want to use, Action Launcher makes it easy to set up.

Action Launcher is also quick to support features from the newest versions of Android, including Adaptive Icons, Notification Previews, and App Shortcuts. There's a reason it's the only launcher Phil uses (miss you, Modern Dad!), and that's that Action Launcher is damn good at what it does. While it's not quite as intense as Nova Launcher, it's a launcher that's incredibly... well, quick about getting you set up and on your way.

Download Action Launcher (Free, in-app purchases)

Honorable Mention: Smart Launcher 3

Get smart with yoru launcher

Smart Launcher 3 is a comfortably customizable launcher with algorithms and intelligence at its core, sorting your app drawer into five categories and putting a search bar at the top of your launcher screens. Smart Launcher 3 has some interesting theming support, including its iconic "Flower" QuickStart layout for the apps on your home screen and its Icon Pack Studio, but its implementation of widgets and item placement on its home screens keeps stranded between theming launcher and light launcher.

Smart Launcher 3's real magic come from the app drawer and the search bar, where optimization and search can help you find the apps and information you need quickly and easily.

Download Smart Launcher 3 (Free, $4.49 - $8.49)

What's your favorite?

Do you have a favorite launcher? What's on your Android phone now? Sound off in the comments below.

Updated March 2018: Best Launchers has been updated to reflect new features among its favorite launchers and Arrow Launcher's renaming to Microsoft Launcher.