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Third party launches have exploded in the last year. The good ones got better and there have been a number of new players that stepped up to the table. With so many more options, which ones are the best? Here are the best Android launcher apps!
Loads of unique features like a sliding Quickdrawer to access all your apps at any time.
Pretty much all of the third party launcher settings you can think of.
Active development from a competent and trusted developer.
Free to use but you can buy Pro as an in app purchase.
Full tablet support.
The free version can be turned into the Pro version using in app purchases but there is also a Pro version in the Play Store. It's confusing but don't get the Pro version in the Play Store. Get the free version and use the in app purchase method.
Various (albeit infrequent) bugs reported depending on device.
First up is Action Launcher. This launcher has only been out for about a year but it’s already gathered a strong and loyal gathering. It comes packed with features and there are free and paid versions so you can check it out before buying it!
Has been around the block a time or two and has remained a solid and stable option the whole time.
Free and paid versions let you try it before you buy it.
Gesture controls which are pretty fun to use.
Theme options, icon pack support, and other various customization options.
Up to 9 home screens supported.
Hasn't kept pace with the latest features such as Android L elements and the like.
Some may argue that there isn't enough features to justify the price. We're not one of those people but they exist.
Apex Launcher has been a big Android launcher since “the golden days” of Android and was once part of “the big three” with ADW and Nova. It’s managed to remain relevant and solid with a lot of updates in the last year. You can try it for free before you buy it.
Over 500,000 Homepacks that you can use to customize your home screen.
Totally free with no in app purchases.
You can get the Buzz Widget add on and create your own widgets.
Extremely unique premise that allows you to customize your home screens unlike any other launcher on this list.
If you need something a little less ridiculous, you may not like Buzz Launcher. It's pretty ridiculous.
Less 'hardcore' features than other launchers.
Buzz Launcher is a free Android launcher that is packed with features. It utilizes a Homepack system where users upload their homepacks and other users can download them. It’s a community driven effort that has over 500,000 Homepacks to choose from (or create your own)! It’s simply astounding and worth a shot if you’re tired of the same old stuff.
Contextual launcher that does a pretty good job at figuring you out.
Their search function is awesome.
Free with no in app purchases.
Enhanced folders can be themed individually.
Plenty of other contextual features.
Sometimes the context doesn't get it right and that makes the launcher seem worse than it really is.
More customization options would've been nice.
EverythingMe Launcher is the first of several contextual launchers on this list. It analyzes your habits and uses them to recommend apps for you to use during certain situations (e.g. while driving), in certain places (e.g. at work), etc. Their search feature is pretty awesome also. We reviewed this one so check out the review video below for more details!
One of the most popular launchers ever with over 200 million users to date.
A metric ton of add ons, themes, and icon packs are available for GO.
If you get other GO products like the keyboard, they interact with one another.
Despite its bloat, it still has a 4.5 rating. That means it's pretty good.
A whole bunch of bloat. It takes a long time to get rid of a lot of it.
Bugs based on device
Next up is the venerable GO Launcher EX. It’s been around for a while and has generated a lot of interest and users. Despite its overly bloated presentation, it still manages to rock a 4.5 rating in the Google Play Store which is impressive. It also has a lot of add ons. You can also pick up GO Launcher Prime for $5.99 and negate ads, in app purchases, and other unruly features.
Because someone would have me shot if I didn't include this.
Google Now integration is awesome.
Simple launcher is easy to use for just about everybody.
'OK Google' hotword support.
Developed, released, and updated by Google so you know it's good.
Serious lack of customization options.
Not all that many features also.
Google’s own Google Now Launcher was released earlier this year after it was so immensely popular on the Nexus 5. With this Android launcher you get a more minimal launcher experience (home screens automatically disappear if you don’t use them) but you also get Google Now that’s tucked away just to the left of your main screen. Google Now users love it and we do too.
Emulates the Windows Phone 8 interface for those who want to try that out.
You can combine this with a number of other Windows Phone 8 themed apps to create an almost complete WP8 experience.
Actually more customizable than Windows Phone 8.
If you like the standard Android home screen, you're going to hate this.
If you hate Windows, you're going to hate this.
A few bugs reported here and there.
Launcher 8 is something a little different. Instead of giving a modified Android experience, it gives a modified Windows Phone 8 experience. Yes, we know it’s ridiculous but hey sometimes it’s fun to try something like this. It also shows the versatility of Android. Windows Phone can’t be made to look like Android but Android can be made to look like Windows Phone. That’s pretty cool.
The app allows for a wide range of customization if you go through the trouble of learning how to do it.
You can create one huge home screen that's like a PC desktop.
Lets you go all out with widgets and such or minimal. Your choice.
Light on resources makes it great for older devices.
The free versions are based on language. You're probably best off just buying it ($2.99 isn't that much).
There is a pretty substantial learning curve. It's not like Tasker but it's not like Nova either.
Lightning Launcher was brought to our attention by our readers and after taking a look, we agree that it belongs on this list. It’s light on resources and contains a number of unique features and UI tweaks. You can try it for free or buy the eXtreme version for $2.99.
The classic MIUI look and feel for those who don't want to root or flash ROMs.
Built on top of ADW Launcher (supposedly) so it supports icon packs.
A lot of your regular stuff like transition effects, scrolling options, and widget re-sizing.
Still buggy for some people.
Not as feature heavy as we would have liked. Where are the MIUI themes?
Mi Launcher is the launcher that has been released and maintained by MIUI developers. It’s one of the few iPhone-ish launchers that people actually like. It’s apparently built on top of ADW Launcher since it supports ADW Launcher icon packs (or any icon pack that also supports ADW Launcher). It’s free to use and if you like the MIUI look and feel, there is no better way to get it than this!
Ridiculously cool 3D honeycomb (the shape, not the operating system) style home screen which looks awesome.
Transition options, 3D screen preview, gesture controls, and more help create a more immersed experience.
Theme mix mode allows you to customize your home screens even further.
From the makers of GO Launcher so you know there are some competent minds behind this.
Free trial lets you see if you like it before forking out $16.99.
Developers are fairly consistent when it comes to bug fixes and app updates.
It's expensive and we understand if that's a turn off.
Lots of visual impact. Not for minimalists out there.
Small bugs reported here and there.
Doesn't run well on older devices.
Next Launcher comes in as not only one of the most unique Android launcher apps on this list but also one of the most expensive. At $17US for the full version, it’ll set you back more than one of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy games. The free version is a trial but at least you can try it before you buy it. It’s definitely worth a shot.
Relieving people of stock launcher issues since the good old days.
Literally packed with customization and functionality features.
Icon pack and theme support lets you customize even further.
Frequent updates bring modern features before pretty much everyone else.
Gesture control, swiping dock, and unread counts help create a more immersed experience.
The free version is rated 4.6 in the Play Store. The paid version is 4.8. Lesser devs have to pay reviewers to get those kind of numbers. People love this app.
With so many features, there is a slight learning curve to figure out where everything is.
Small bugs reported here and there.
A best Android launcher apps list without Nova Launcher is simply blasphemy. It’s insanely popular, highly rated, totally trusted by millions of people, and it has enough features to make your head spin. People would be angry if we didn’t include this launcher. We’d be angry if we didn’t include this launcher. It’s pretty great.
Minimal design puts your most used apps on one home screen with slide out menus available for everything else.
Slick, light on resources, and small (2MB download).
You can theme and customize the look how you choose.
It even has Google TV support. Say what?
Plugins allow you to increase functionality without including stuff you don't need.
People who like their browsers complicated with lots of features won't like this.
Doesn't always categorize apps in the right folder. There are other small issues like that.
Smart Launcher Pro 2 has undergone some changes since we last updated this list but its central premise remains more or less the same. You are presented with one home screen with some shortcut icons (which are configurable). From there you slide left or right to access other apps and settings. It’s minimal and very small (2MB). It’s definitely worth a shot on those older devices or for people who just don’t want to deal with a bunch of other things.
There are few launchers out there that qualify as 'fun' to use. Themer is one of them.
400 themes and each theme can be further customized. That means you can do pretty much whatever you want.
Icon support, gesture support, and Themer Actions help make things better.
Integration with Zooper Widget.
Still a few bugs here and there. It didn't leave beta that long ago.
There are awesome themes, but not a lot of things that increase functionality.
Themer is a newer addition to this list but it’s made quite the splash. Like Buzz Launcher, Themer relies on a community driven supply of themes that users can apply and customize. There are over 400 themes available at the time of this writing which is a bunch. Once you apply a theme you can customize further to make it yours. It also supports icon packs and it’s free!
Takes all of the guesswork out of your home screen. Sometimes simple is better.
Automatically creates app categories and lets you browse them quickly. You can also customize these categories if Aviate messes it up.
App regularly changes its look and what information it displays based on the time of day and your location (contextual).
Yahoo has been slowly adding fun little features like showing you how long you slept.
Free with no in app purchases.
May be too simple for some.
Lack of customization options has always been a problem with Aviate. Theming options would be fantastic.
Last and certainly not least is Yahoo’s Aviate Launcher. This launcher got a metric ton of press back when it was independently owned and it’s actually grown since Yahoo purchased it earlier this year. It’s sleek and beautiful plus it keeps everything where you can find it. Android purists won’t like it but it’s actually pretty fun if you give it a chance.
As always, if we’ve forgotten an exciting and awesome launcher, let us know in the comments below! As you can see, you guys gave us a lot of feedback on the last list and now it’s been updated with a lot of your recommendations so don’t be afraid to tell us!