All About Launcher Apps

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on June 5, 2015, App Guides

One of the biggest selling points of an Android phone is that an Android is far more customisable than any other kind of device. But chances are, you might not be taking advantage of all the options that you really have. There is a way that you can make your mobile exactly what you want it to be, changing everything from how letters look to how your phone uses its battery power. Interested? Then you’re going to need to learn more about launcher apps…

What is a Launcher App?

A launcher app is an app just like any other. You download it from the Play Store, install it, and then any time you turn your phone on the launcher app immediately starts running. How you install and switch the app on can depend both on your phone model and the app you’re using, but you’ll be sure to find clear (and simple) instructions on the app’s download page, or on the webpage for the app itself. Installing and using a launcher app is not difficult, and you won’t need much technical know how to get one up and running.

So why would you want one? Well, a launcher app opens up a whole new world of customisation to you. Once you’ve installed one, you’ll be able to go into the app and modify all kinds of settings. The app over-rides the settings that the manufacturer and operating system put onto your phone by default, allowing you to do nearly anything you want (depending on which app you get).

What Can a Launcher App Do for You?

Seriously, really pretty much anything. You can change the way your phone looks, change the icons on your home screen, change the layout of home screens in general. You can change which apps open automatically, how data is stored, how your phone uses its power and battery juice. Depending on the app you have and the amount of time you’re willing to spend modifying settings to meet your needs you can tweak all kinds of things on your mobile.

Is this tough? Again, depends on the app you have and what you want to do. For the most part, no, it’s not. Playing around with different options and downloading different extensions to the app (such as themes) will show you what an app is capable of. Things such as processor use and battery power use can be tougher to get your mind around, but again, a little experimentation should show you what can be done.

The good news is that it’s close to impossible to really screw anything up. Simply uninstalling the launcher app you choose should be enough to send your phone right back to the way it was before you downloaded the app. So really, there’s nothing to lose. What are your best launcher app options? Well, here are some of our favourites…

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher is one of the most popular launcher apps on the market, basically because it’s very versatile. It can be as simple to use as you like, or as complicated as you want it to get. There are tons of themes available, making your phone look the way you want it to look. Plus, you get lots of folder options, and options to add icons to icons (letting you add a read or unread icon to something, in the same way as an email app often does). The basic Nova Launcher version is free, but the paid pro version has the ability to add gesture control to your phone too. If you’re willing to put the work in by tweaking all the settings, Nova Launcher probably has more options than any other launcher app.

Google Now Launcher

Google Now Launcher

Google Now Launcher

For real novices, Google Now Launcher is ideal. Basically, this app strips away anything that your phone’s manufacturer added to your mobile and gives you a clean Android experience. The Google Now Launcher is already the default on Nexus devices. You’ll get a fairly customisable phone that plays well with other Google apps, and you’ll also get a dedicated Google Now home screen if you’re already into using that particular app. The bad side is that you don’t get as many options as you do with other launcher apps, but if you’re a beginner then that could also be a good thing. Google Now Launcher is free.

Action Launcher

Action Launcher

Action Launcher

Action Launcher is another popular choice, and one that’s all about efficiency. The main benefit of Action Launcher is that it allows you to access content, apps and data faster. You can customise this as you like, but, for example, rather than going through a four step process to get to your WiFi settings, you can change your phone so you open a sliding tab and it’s right there. This isn’t an easy app to use, there is a learning curve, but once you’ve got everything set up you’ll be wondering why you ever wasted time using your phone in any other way. For those pressed for time, or efficiency experts, Action Launcher is a great little app. It’s free, but there is a paid pro version that gives you even more time saving options.

Go Launcher EX

Go Launcher

Go Launcher

Finally, if you’re all about the looks, then Go Launcher EX is probably going to be your best bet. This app isn’t fantastic for changing other settings, but it’s awesome at making your phone look however you want it to look. From 3D screen transitions to flashy lock screens, Go Launcher EX has them all. There is a free version, however the paid version has a couple of features that are pretty awesome, including the ability to lock certain apps with codes (meaning your kids can’t open your email…).