Which Android Launcher is Best for Me?
Nearly everyone these days has a smartphone, and, if we're honest, most phones look the same. We're all carrying around little black rectangles in our pockets, but that doesn't mean that you can't have a phone that's a little more individual. Android is an excellent choice for an operating system because it's so customisable, and one of the best ways to customise how your Android looks is to download a launcher. But with so many launchers to choose from, what's the best choice for you? That depends a lot on what exactly you're looking for…
Wait, What's a Launcher?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we should first take a quick look at what exactly a launcher is. In very basic terms, a launcher is an app that changes the way the home screen of your phone looks. All phones come with a pre-installed Android launcher that determines what icons look like, how many icons fit on your screen, how the status bar and notifications look, what kind of fonts are used on screen, and all kinds of other design type things. But because this is Android, you're free to change that pre-installed launcher if you like.
Changing launchers is pretty much as easy as downloading a new one from the Play store and following the instructions that the app gives you when you open it (and it's no more complicated than that, if you can follow simple instructions, you'll be fine). And if you don't like what a launcher has done, then you can just uninstall it in the same way as you'd uninstall any other app and your phone will go back to normal.
So, why get a new launcher? There are all kinds of reasons, many of them very techie, but the reason most people get a new launcher is so that they can design the way their phone looks. You'll be able to do all kinds of things, from changing app icons (using downloadable “icon packs” from the Play Store) to changing how many apps appear on your home screen. Cool, right? So what kind of launcher should you go for?
If You're Looking for Top Notch Customisation
Okay, if you're looking for a launcher, you're almost certainly looking for customisation, but we're talking real top end customisation here. Nova Launcher will let you customise pretty much everything on your phone. And that's not limited to design features; you can play with battery life and all kinds of other things as well. Plus, there are tons of icon packs and theme packs available for Nova Launcher too. You can even do things that you've probably never thought of before (like turn on Nova Launcher's “infinite scroll” feature letting you scroll down seamlessly between your home screen and your app drawer).
That's not to say that Nova Launcher is the best launcher for everyone. It's a little more complicated than many of the other options (mostly because it gives you so many choices), so can be tougher to set up the way you like it. It is free though (a paid version is available with even more options). And since Nova Launcher is so popular you'll find plenty of free downloadable icon packs and themes, though again, there are some paid options too.
If You're Looking for Easy
If Nova Launcher is too much for you to handle right now, then you might want to check out Evie, which is the lightest and easiest launcher available right now. Set up is simple, options are clearly and intuitively laid out, and you should be able to set up everything the way you want it in less than half an hour. And given that Evie is a lightweight app it should run just fine even on older phones or those with low memory.
Again, there's a trade-off. Evie doesn't give you anywhere near as many customisation options (you'll be able to do the basics though, dealing with icons, home screens and basic design stuff). And since it's not quite as popular, you'll find fewer icon packs and themes available. But Evie is entirely free; there are no in-app purchases and no ads either. And given how easy it is to use, Evie is an excellent choice for a first-time launcher.
If You Want Customisation AND Simplicity
There is a compromise option between Nova Launcher and Evie, and that's Action Launcher. Action Launcher lets you do a whole bunch of things, just like Nova Launcher, but it is set up in a way that's far easier to use. You tick off the options that you want on a list. Action Launcher is all about efficiency, and its features include things like shortcuts, and “shutters” (which opens a widget attached to an app). In short, you get lots of customisation with not a lot of work.
The downsides? Well, if you are techie enough to appreciate Nova Launcher you probably won't like Action Launcher since while it does have plenty of customisation it doesn't let you “play” with settings in the same way as Nova does. Other than that the only real downside of Action Launcher is that the free version doesn't offer many options. To get real customisation, you're going to need to fork out for the premium version.
If You're a True Android Fanatic
Finally, there's one more great launcher that we need to mention, and that's the Google Now Launcher. Here's the deal. When you buy a phone, you generally buy an Android phone with an added interface. What that interface is depends on what kind of phone you buy, so a Samsung phone has Android plus TouchWiz, for example. This is what makes different brands of phones look and behave differently. The exception to this is “pure” Android phones, like the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, which run only Android.
Some people find the “pure” Android experience to be better and more efficient, and there's certainly less bloatware associated with it. But if you're not willing to buy a new Pixel phone then you can get that pure Android feel on any phone you like with Google Now Launcher. You'll get a clean and easy to use interface, though there are far fewer customisation options than you'll find on other launchers. But for a real Android experience, Google Now Launcher is the way to go.