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Top 5 reasons why Rootless Pixel Launcher is better than Nova and Action Launcher

In the Android launcher space, Nova and Action Launcher reign supreme as two of the best options available. This is a point that I have no problem agreeing with, but even so, it's important to admit when a formidable (and potentially better) alternative comes around.

There are a few different launchers that try to mimic the look and feel of the Pixel 2's interface, and while a lot of these come really close to being the real deal, few are as well-polished and feature-rich as Rootless Pixel Launcher. Rootless Pixel Launcher was recently updated to version 3.0, and if you've been wanting to spruce up the look and feel of your non-Pixel phone, it definitely deserves a place on your shortlist. Here's why.

Google Feed is enabled by default

The Google Feed hasn't aged gracefully since the introduction of Google Assistant, but even so, it's something I find myself checking multiple times each day on my Pixel 2. Apps like Nova and Action Launcher allow you to use the Google Feed on your left-most home screen after installing a separate APK file, but with Rootless Pixel Launcher, this is enabled by default.

As soon as you download and install the launcher, you can immediately access the Google Feed and everything it has to offer, including news stories you're interested in, customizations for the feed, and a tab for viewing more contextual cards. The Feed works just like it does on the Pixel 2, and the fact that it does so without the need for an additional app is pretty awesome.

The At a Glance widget is here

Although it's hated by some, I absolutely love the At a Glance widget that Google introduced last fall. Having a consistent showcase for the time and date really is quite helpful, and when upcoming calendar appointments pop up, I fall even more in love with the thing.

My personal feelings aside, At a Glance works wonderfully on Rootless Pixel Launcher. As long as your Google app is up to date, it should work without a hitch. Tapping on the weather icon will open Google Weather, tapping on the date will take you to Google Calendar, and just like on the Pixel 2, you can adjust your preferences to choose whether or not you want it to display traffic and flight information.

Notification dots are free

Both Nova and Action Launcher have been updated to support adaptive notification dots, and while this is great, you're required to pay for their respective premium versions in order to use them. On the other hand, this is something that Rootless Pixel Launcher gives you for free.

You don't have any customization over the appearance of the dots like you do with Nova and Action, but the fact that they work without having to hand over any cash is a big plus.

When you get a notification, the app that it came from will show a small dot next to it so you can quickly see which apps have notifications that need tending to. It's an admittedly small feature, but if you want to have the full Pixel 2 experience, they're an essential component.

Support for icon packs

As much as I love the Pixel Launcher on my Pixel 2, one of the things I desperately wish it had was support for icon packs. I highly doubt this is something Google will ever add to the official version, but that really doesn't matter since Rootless Pixel Launcher already allows you to do this.

Once you install the icon pack you'd like, hold down on your home screen and go to Home Settings -> Icon Pack. Choose the one that fits your mood/style for the day, and you'll have a Pixel 2-style launcher that's even more personal than what you'll find on the real deal. Yes, yes, I know this is something you can do on Action and Nova launcher, too, but hear me out for one last pont.

This is the Pixel 2 launcher

For all intents and purposes, Rootless Pixel Launcher is the Pixel Launcher that's on the Pixel 2. Developer Amir Zaidi based the launcher on the official one that ships with the Pixel 2, and as such, you get all of the little touches here and there you'd expect from the real deal.

The app drawer has a little bounce when swiping all the way to the top or bottom, the Google search bar at the bottom follows the app drawer as you swipe up, and Google logo in the search widget and app drawer background will change colors based on the wallpaper you have set. Like I said, this is the Pixel 2 launcher.

What do you think?

Now that I've stepped off my soapbox, what do you think? Is the Rootless Pixel Launcher something you'd consider using over Nova or Action Launcher? Let me know in the comments below!

Rootless Pixel Launcher 3.0 is basically the Pixel 2 launcher on steroids

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

60 Comments
  • I'm glad to see this article. I've actually been really liking this launcher. I've been using Nova and Action with the separate Google now feed but it just doesn't seem as smooth. I've also been using the app that gives me the at a glance widget but it seems to have sporadic update problems for me. This has been really smooth and minimalist for me and I'm a fan for now . . Hopefully a few more customization options will be forthcoming.
  • It's the first version that actually works on my Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, and I must admit that I am impressed. It works smoothly and has simple, sleek design, and also seems very stable. I wouldn't really compare it to Nova though, as the customization options are very limited. It's cool to have icon pack support, but being able to manually assign icons in Nova is much better and gives you far more control over the appearance of one's desktop. You can't hide apps, can't really affect how the app drawer looks and so on. Those looking for a pure pixel experience should be happy with it but it is not as feature/option packed as I would prefer. For a similar experience but with more control over how the phone looks and works it's worth trying Lawnchair Launcher IMO.
  • Love the pic! "Mickey Free, is not a girl!"
  • Lolololol! "Y'all see that new girl in Shalamar? She bad!" RIP Charlie Murphy
  • I don't know about some of this.
    - Isn't the feed just baked into Chrome?
    - Too many widget options to name, and many are more customizable. I guess it's nice having it just be part of the launcher for convenience.
    - Dots are free, but dots are dumb. =P
    - #4 isn't a reason, you even say so...
    - It's a nice launcher, for sure. And as a temporary launcher, I think it's a great break. But Google changes their mind about stuff every month it seems. Action and Nova keep up with new design languages and features, and often implement them in ways that are better than Google's. Sure, it's a nice copy now, but what about 6 months from now? Android is nice in that you can swap around at will, but, honestly, with Nova and Action, you never have to swap because what's new is always there.
  • - It is baked into Chrome. This made it uncomfortable to use. Like moving a piece of furniture to your attic, it's still there but using it is more of an hassle.
    - Agree.
    - Agree but at least you can turn them off, unlike on my Oneplus 5 -_-'
  • Odd, I get all this with HTC Sense, except for Google Feed. Perhaps because they works so closely with Google?
  • Why the heck would I want to my my Note 8 look like a Pixel? That's just stupid. This article is a stretch. Nothing you mention as a perk would want me to pick this over Nova Prime. In fact, your perks would cause me to avoid this launcher at all cost.
  • We use Nova because it's not the Google Launcher
  • Nova is still my go-to You can’t take me away from the sheer amount of customization on it
  • Thanks for the article and the option for feedback. I currently use Nova Launcher Prime on my Moto Z Force Droid (Verizon.) It is a very stable launcher and works very well for me. One of the main reasons that I like Nova the best is because I can set up a centered Home screen, with left and right screens as well. This format suits my needs the best. I use the Google app to take care of my Google Feed. So, at this point, I don't see that the Pixel launcher would offer me much more. However, it could be a great option for many who would like to try some new features for free.
  • If I wanted a Pixel 2, I'd buy a Pixel 2. Then I'd install Nova launcher on it.
  • You win the internet for today, Sir!!
  • That's me! I hate the default pixel launcher. That search bar takes too much place, I don't care about the news feed and the cards are very hard to dismiss, and the app drawer is way too crowded.
  • I did buy a Pixel 2 XL - and I did install Nova beta on it. It is really hard to beat Nova and how they pad the widgets. Done deal. 👍
  • Most people with Pixels aren't using 3rd party launchers
  • L O L. How much are these developers paying AC? Icon packs is a top reason? You've got to be kidding me..
  • Right, independant devs that make apps available for free are paying AC to write these articles. Not EVERYTHING is a conspiracy you know. ;)
  • Just an observation. This launcher is an improvement over the Pixel launcher but there is no way that this launcher is better than Nova or Action.
  • Really, it's all a matter of perspective. Some use Nova to just simply clean up the mess that the manufacturer put on their phone. For them, something like this might be faster for them to set up and configure. Personally, I could never give up the customization I can achieve with Nova.
  • You don't need a 3rd party launcher with Pixel. Of course you can use one but I stopped using Nova Prime after buying the Pixel.
  • 😂 😂 😂 true.
  • How do you change the font and color of the icons on this
  • Yeah, you're a good comedian.
  • This is a sad attempt at discrediting other Android launchers . Biased and weak points . Is icon pack even a reason ?
  • Two reason it's not:
    1. No gestures =(
    2. Can't create categories on the apps drawer =( My only two downs and the only two reasons i stick to nova launcher =P
  • Smart Launcher fan, here.
  • Here, too. I can see why people love Nova Prime. I just got tired of managing all the folders, customizations, etc. Smart Launcher does 90% of the management for me.
  • I was too. I really have no idea why I stopped using it although I'm sure I can load it up on my phone and be comfortable with it anytime.
  • Nova launcher it is!
  • I'd like to see the top 5 reasons why you keep hawking this launcher.
  • So true. Not only are features almost non existent but lawnchair launcher is way better with more options and even has a backup feature.
  • I see nothing game changing between pixel launcher and GNL. However since it is no longer supported by the xposed module, XGEL's, I've been using a launcher called Evie for quite some time now. Its quite smooth, and has a quite a few more features than Pixel Launcher (afaik).
  • Does it have double-tap-to sleep on the desktop? Because I can’t live without that and I use Nova for that feature alone. Still don’t understand why the Pixel has tap-to-wake but not tap-to-sleep. That makes zero sense.
  • Google still hasn't figured out how to toggle things.
  • If you are counting support for icons against nova/action, you are delusional. This has at best 3 reasons against nova/action. Felt like clickbait article.
  • The seriousness of the article is hilarious, I can't believe I read the whole thing..😂 😂
  • You guys want the pixel to succeed and/or beat samsung so bad. It's sad. And it won't happen.
  • Why wouldn't they want the Pixel to succeed? We all should want that. Right now its Samsung and there is nothing close in the Android market. i don't use a Pixel phone but hell yeah I would like them to succeed.
  • I want Google and all OEM phones to succeed. More and better competition is a good thing. AC seems dedicated to advancing Google's vision over anything that competes with Google, and that's not a good place for a publication to be unless they state it clearly as their mission.
  • This has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever seen on AC. Ignoring the countless reasons why just about any third party launcher is better, let's look at the reasons they're saying this one is: Google Feed is enabled by default — so? Someone who needs something to be enabled by default rather than just easily enabling it probably isn't the kind of person who's installing a third party launcher anyway. Not a reason for. The At a Glance widget is here — and like the Pixel launcher, it's basic. It might not also be what everyone wants. Or they want it, but they wish they had more control over it. Sorry, but I'll take Another Widget so it shows exactly what I want to see. Notification dots are free — and notification dots are terrible. An unread counter or Nova's dynamic badges are far more useful. And why is this article encouraging people NOT to support app development? A few bucks for a paid launcher is nothing. God forbid you have one less cup of coffee or you don't super size your French fries. Support for icon packs — let me get this straight... This is better than Nova, which also supports icon packs, because it supports icon packs? Does it also let me change each icon individually so I can use multiple icon packs? The fact that this was even included on the list makes me believe that the writer is trying to convince themselves that it's better.... This is the Pixel 2 launcher — and I can think of no better reason to not install this. The Pixel launcher is a canvas. Nova is the painting.
  • Not to mention the custom gestures that you can set up. And also being able to swipe up on apps to open a different application. Absolutely idiotic article.
  • NOVA LAUNCHER HANDS DOWN!!!
  • Google: Be together, not the same.
    AC: Be the same.
  • I want to try this.
  • Maybe part of the problem is the title "Top 5 reasons why Rootless Pixel Launcher is better than Nova and Action Launcher" Better for what purpose? We all know it always depends on how you use your phone and what you like. Perhaps it is the easiest way to emulate the Pixel launcher but not better if that's not your goal.
  • But AC says the Pixel 2 is the best Android phone you can buy. So I'm sure they believe that's everyone's goal.
  • The 2 features I like are the At A Glance and the swipe-right Feed.
  • I think it's still a far cry from Nova Launcher Prime.
  • Seriously, what a bad article. Oh well, people are free to post things, even if they make no sense.
  • Does it still not work on pixel devices?
  • The more I read this, the more I keep shaking my head. If this was "Top 5 reasons to check out Rootless Pixel Launcher", then we would be fine. But not only is the title itching to cause controversy, but almost all of the reasons are just poorly thought out and explained. "Google Feed is enabled by default": And? Nova and Action have ways to enable the Feed, albeit in a manner that's not as direct. But if you're even thinking of putting a third-party launcher and itching to customize it, you would've already known how to. "The At a Glance widget is here": Again, why? Action also comes with that widget and you can utilize multiple widgets from the Play Store to get the same functionality. Having a singular widget as a reason to why I should switch launchers is silly, especially when it's something that a mere app on the Play Store can also do. "Notification Dots are free": I don't think Notification Dots are worth it. Not when Nova offers notification badges, which are by far and away one of the very best implementations of notifications on app icons I have ever seen. Since switching from numbers to badges, it's been a staple and a mere dot isn't going to change that. "Support for icon packs": What? I just....like....what in the world? Icon packs are a staple in almost every third-party launcher. I'm sorry, but this shouldn't have been on this list in the first place. "This IS the Pixel 2 launcher": Okay, this is a fair argument, except that if one really wants to, they can emulate the same on Nova/Action, and perhaps even make it better for their personal tastes. Just to be clear, this isn't a bad launcher. It's a fairly good one, especially if you want the look and feel of a Pixel 2 on your current device without a big faff. But I just don't feel that it's objectively better than the established duo, and none but one of reasons actually make sense in relation to why it is better.
  • I've been rocking with Action Launcher, and this isn't enough to convince me changing launchers...
  • It's trustable? Why should we install from known sources correct?
  • Make it available on Google Play - or no go.
  • It looks great but on the Note8 it messes with the nav bar. If you have it hidden then you have no bar on the home screen. If you don't have it hidden then it is always on the screen. Probably going to stick with Nova.
  • Nice but I'll stick with Action Launcher.
  • I need help, I'm using 1+5T with this launcher and i want the desktop grid to be of 4 horizontally but it makes the apps and widget scale so that 5 apps can be occupied horizontally and i don't like it. Is there any solution?
  • is there a way to move the Google Search bar back to the top? my only issue with it.
  • Tried to install this on my T-Mobile Note 4 running unofficial LOS rom, but it failed every time. The developer say it only support official version. Does anyone know how to get around this?