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Best Android launchers for your smartphone & tablet

Kris Carlon
39

We get asked to recommend the best Android launcher all the time and we're constantly on the lookout for new ones with which to spice up our smartphones. An alternative launcher provides tons more customization options for your home screens, app drawer, icons, fonts, folders and widgets, as well as near complete control over how your phone performs when switching screens, launching apps and so on. Here are favorite Android launchers to tweak your smartphone or tablet.

launchers
The best Android launchers!  / © ANDROIDPIT

Apex Launcher: for customization freaks!

Apex Launcher is one of the most popular custom launchers available right now, with over a million installs in the Play Store and an average rating of 4.5 stars. Like most launchers on our list it offers near-endless customization options, complete home screen and app drawer control, gesture settings, and tons of icons, themes, launch animations and transition effects. There's also a paid version which adds even more features to an already formidable free launcher.

AndoridpIT Apex Launcher KitKat
This is my current Apex Launcher setup - exactly how I like it. / © AndroidPIT/Apex

Buzz Launcher: don't like your launcher, borrow someone else's

Buzz Launcher is a little bit of an anomaly on the launcher stage, with such a unique look it's hard to forget. Buzz has left a mark on over a million Play Store user's minds, earning it a rating of 4.4 stars for good reason. What sets Buzz apart is that it allows you to install custom home screens and themes shared by other Buzz users. So you don't have to laboriously come up with your own idea, you can simply borrow someone else's. Buzz is unbeatable if you want a radical new look on your Android without investing any effort in creating it yourself.

AndroidPIT Buzz Launcher
Just some of the wild homescreens users have shared in Buzz Launcher. / © AndroidPIT/Buzz

Action Launcher: to keep your Android tidy with awesome organization

Action Launcher is a relative newcomer that has captured quite a lot of attention in a very short time. The launcher already has in excess of one hundred thousand installs on the Play Store, with a very impressive review rating of 4.5 stars. It offers the possibility of a simple one-screen launcher with swipe out app drawer and customizable widget drawer on the right (you can add as many screens as you want of course). There's also some nifty folder actions for icons, like Shutters – customizable widget banks – and Covers, which let you group similar apps inside folders, but still open the Cover icon app with a single tap.

AndroidPIT Action Launcher
Action Launcher's app drawer and Shutter widgets. / © ANDROIDPIT/Action

Nova Launcher: the every man's launcher (it's got it all)

Quite possibly the undisputed king of alternative Android launchers, Nova Launcher holds a spot on basically everyone's smartphone. With over five million Play Store installs, the fans can't be wrong, with Nova scoring an impressive 4.7 star user rating. Nova is quite similar to Apex and offers much the same functionality, but Nova is pretty much the go-to launcher for anyone not terribly familiar with launchers. You really can't go wrong with this one.

AndroidPIT Nova Launcher Beta Home
Nova has many great options so it's easy to know why it's so popular. / © ANDROIDPIT/Nova Launcher

Next Launcher: the wicked 3D launcher for a wow effect

Next Launcher is quite possibly the coolest 3D launcher available. It's hard to put into words just how radically different this launcher is compared to anything else on this list. All the best features aren't free, as with most launchers, but what the Premium version lacks in free-ness it makes up for in wow-ness. If you want a hi-tech, attention grabbing launcher on your phone, try the free version out and try to resist upgrading. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so the following video is basically a thesis on Next Launcher.

next screen
Next Launcher: the kind of 3D launchers / © GO Launcher Dev Team

ADW Launcher: all you'd want from a complex launcher

Over five million installs with a 4.4 star rating in the Play Store. Covering Android versions from 1.6 right up to 4.1, ADW launcher covers everything you could want from a free launcher: customizations, themes, widgets, skins, icon packs and gesture settings.

androidpit adw launcher
ADW Launcher has a ton of themes to choose from! / © AnderWeb

GO Launcher EX: style and simplicity

GO Launcher EX has over one hundred million installs and a 4.5 star rating, making it the unparalelled Android launcher extraordinaire. GO is basically as polished a free launcher as you can find, but there's a lot of cross promotion that can get a little annoying.

go launcher ex
One of the best launchers on Android. / © ANDROIDPIT

Smart Launcher: catered to your needs and habits

Smart Launcher takes things and turns them inside out. Instead of neat rows and boxes, Smart Launcher gives you rings of the most commonly used apps and vertical cascades of categorized apps. It's linked with the app manager too, so if you delete an icon, the app is deleted too. Simple and unique with a 4.6 star rating based on over five million installs.

smart launcher lg g2 teaser
Smart Launcher gives you rings of the most commonly used apps. / © ANDROIDPIT

Yandex Launcher: for the tidy types who like an uncluttered Android

Yandex Launcher goes a step beyond the usual launcher and switches up your dialer and contacts as well. Yet another million happy customers have voted it in at 4.4 stars and some of the AndroidPIT team swear by it. It’s clean and neat with a little pizzazz thrown in for good measure.

yandex screen
Yandex Launcher also has its own dialer and contacts apps. / © Яндекс

EverythingMe Home Launcher: learns from you

This one's still in beta phase so you'll have to forgive the occasional bug, but still, over a million satisfied users have ranked it at 4.5 stars anyway. EverythingMe's special take is that it adapts what's on your phone to whatever you're interested in at that moment. So every search you make will bring a complete makeover of your phone along with it.

androidpit everythingme launcher
The EverythingMe launcher adapts to your habits. / © EverythingMe

Zeam: for the minimalist types with little storage space

Zeam is an Android favorite among many users, especially for those who are a big fan of minimalism and small app sizes (this one is only 388k). Zeam Launcher provides a clear overview thanks to the intuitive folder layouts and apps grid with vertical scroll. You can also add shortcuts to the grid and manage wallpapers.

androidpit zeam launcher
Zeam Launcher uses folders and scroll functions to organize your apps. / © ANDROIDPIT

Aviate: for those who want a lot of choice

Aviate Launcher, in comparison to Zeam, is a lot more complex: it categorises your apps depending on the time of the day, displaying the apps that it assumes you will need at that specific moment. For example, when you wake up, you’ll be greeted by the weather and schedule apps. On the road to work, it will show you Maps to get you traffic and direction info. I think you get the gist. The launcher heavily alters the look of your home screen by basically auto-adapting it to your lifestyle.

aviate uno
© ANDROIDPIT

Themer: theme-crazy users who want to stand out

You can tell by the name that this launcher focuses in on various themes like futuristic, minimal, beautiful etc. All the icons, widgets and wallpapers will transform to go with the style you have chosen, giving your user interface a unified look. Themer Launcher also comes with a smart categories function that auto-categorizes your apps, while the Zooper widget pro feature will show you all themes at once.

themer browser theme
Themer like the title says is an Android app that lets you customize the entire look of your device. © MYCOLORSCREEN

Cover: a cool way to keep your apps organized and easy to reach

Cover, till in the beta phase, is like the Glovebox launcher we recently discovered, but better. It also learns from your smartphone habits and makes it easier to get ahold of the apps you need, when you need them. The difference compared to Themer and Aviate is that it presents apps down the right or left side of your screen over the top of the app you are using at the moment as well as on your lock screen. Also, Cover allows you to set up various ringer volumes and wallpapers depending on the time of day.

cover menu apps scrollen
Cover launcher organizes the apps on either the right and left side of the screen, great for your thumbs! / © ANDROIDPIT

Scroll Launcher: for beginners with older phones

The Scroll Launcher doesn’t offer the same huge amount of features as other launchers, which has its pros and cons. On the plus side, this makes the launcher suitable for devices that have less power than the latest flagships. It’s aimed primarily at smartphones that run Android 4.0 or higher, therefore smartphone users who don’t buy a new phone every year also have a chance to change up the look and functionality of their device. The app isn’t too complex and won’t use your device’s resources, that being said, it can already do a lot. When launching the launcher, the top of your display shows the time and weather and underneath there’s room for shortcuts. The app drawer is placed directly on the home screen. 

scroll launcher
Scroll launcher is great for beginner Android users.  © ANDROIDPIT

SideControl: easy organization and gesture controls

This launcher follows the same trend as the sidebar launcher, but has managed to take it a step further. Side Control has integrated an additional gesture control. The launcher can be used from anywhere on your Android device, whether apps, shortcuts, contacts, bookmarks and more. Rather than functioning as a simple sidebar, the application allows the user to define up to eight gestures by creating your own touch area combinations on the display. You can create up to four favorite lists for app categorization.

androidpit sidecontrol
SideControl lets you create lists of app categories. © SideControl

Lightning Launcher: for more experienced Android users

Some users might already be familiar with Lightning Launcher. The main perk is this: this launcher comes with no frills, so no 3D animations for screen changing or storage consuming widgets. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of settings that you can adapt to your needs. You can also generate as many home screens as you like by simply swiping up, down, right and left. In the free mode, you are able to rotate, move or zoom all the items freely. However, the launcher is recommended for the more experienced Android enthusiasts due to its complexity and the design freedom.

androidpit lightning launcher
Lightening Launcher is a no frills launcher. © PierroX

Are you rocking a custom launcher we missed? What features are you looking for most in an alternative launcher?

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Comments

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  • Amat Mulisha Dec 20, 2013 Link

    nova launcher is the best.friendly ui.anf easy to use.you never regrets with nova.

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  • Avinash Naik Dec 20, 2013 Link

    nova is Best.... ha kitkat style

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  • colsec Dec 20, 2013 Link

    you need to mention Aviate launcher! it may be invite only still but is fantastic!

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  • Shanaka Fernando Dec 21, 2013 Link

    Nova Launcher is the best

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  • Asad Ali Dec 21, 2013 Link

    Nova is best of all.. because it is super smooth and user friendly

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  • David D. 11 months ago Link

    GEL?

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  • bisot p. 11 months ago Link

    nova and smart launcher are good for simple navigation :)

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  • User picture
    Guy Devos 11 months ago Link

    Apex need to fix their cardstack scrolling. It lags like hell.

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 11 months ago Link

      Hey @Guy. What card stack scrolling is lagging for you? In Google Now or another app? I'm running Apex now and haven't noticed the problem.

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  • iMaC74 11 months ago Link

    Nova! I've purchased them all and kept the best. Nova Launcher running flawlessly on my GPE S4 4.4.2 👌😉

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  • Virgil Bates Jr 11 months ago Link

    I have the cover launcher, works perfect, has Customable screens and the right app tray for what I do the most....

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 11 months ago Link

      Very true @Virgil, the only reason it didn't make the list is because technically it's a lock screen. But you're right, it's awesome.

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  • Shane Shaheen 10 months ago Link

    Apex Launcher ..The Best. and consume less RAM comparing to others. The best part about Apex and Nova is that, it retains the default Android user interface with some additional features. At first glance anybody will think that it is the same default android launcher , but they will wonder when i show the unique features. For some reasons, Apex stands higher than Nova for me....

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 10 months ago Link

      Me too, although I came to Apex before Nova and then just couldn't find enough about Nova to make me think it was any better than Apex.

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  • Kayla McKinney 9 months ago Link

    I love android, but have been craving a new look lately. So I decided to find a windows 8 launcher. After a couple of days of research, downloading, and customizing, I have finally landed on Launcher 8 Free (fake wp8) by QiHang Dev Team. Granted this launcher could still use some work, but of all the windows 8 launchers this is my favorite. Its the most customizable and offers plenty of features. Definetly worth sticking around for. This launcher has the opportunity to go far.

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  • Mohammed van de Kraats 7 months ago Link

    Holo Laucher
    Another good launcher with a good reputation.
    1.000.000 downloads and rated 4,5 by almost 50.000 users

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  • Mohammed van de Kraats 7 months ago Link

    A star rating for an app is nice, but more important is to look at how many users rated the app.

    A rating of 5 stars, rated by say less then a hundred users is less valuable then a 4 star rating by several thousand users.

    Another important detail, I am missing here is how healthy the app is.
    In other words, how good is it maintained.
    How frequently is it updated
    How old is the latest update (is the app still alive ??)
    Which Android versions are supported
    Does it support the latest Android versions
    How good is the response on issues

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 5 months ago Link

      You can grab most of these details in the Play Store listing in the Additional Information section. You can see when the last update was posted and take a guess at how frequently it gets looked at based on the version numbers in the What's New section. if the developer has a website you can check to see how often they post about updates too.

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  • Byron Garay 6 months ago Link

    NOVA Launcher 👌 Super Smooth, never had any problem so far.

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  • paulo 5 months ago Link

    action launcher. just because I love minimalist launchers also with one screen and lots of shutters ands covers.

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 5 months ago Link

      @Paulo, did you know Action Launcher Pro is discounted at the moment? if you don't already have Pro, now is a great time to grab it!

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      • paulo 5 months ago Link

        yes and I have it. thanks

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  • Ariston Collander 5 months ago Link

    I've been using Terrain and it's been working quite nicely so far. It's in Beta and is US only, but it's pretty nice.

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 5 months ago Link

      Hey @Ariston, we just wrote about Terrai n Launcher. I haven't checked it out yet but I like the interface. How do you think it compares to Google Now?

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  • Shubham Gothi 5 months ago Link

    Tsf shell is the best launcher i have ever used so try that...
    U will really love it...

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  • Shubham Gothi 5 months ago Link

    Tsf sheel is the best launcher i have ever used...

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  • John Tribolta 5 months ago Link

    New android launcher pre-released from the company Jolla, officially opened access to its installation launcher for the Android operating system to those who held a special reception at the official site. As expected, the popularity of real estate development community portal XDA did not sit idly by and published the original installation file.

    When you first hear about something called «Jolla Launcher», then the application - the interface add-on for the operating system Android, representing a complete copy of the user interface of the mobile OS fresh Jolla - Sailfish. By the way, the official port "Sailfish" is available for the latest version of the smartphone LG Nexus 4.

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  • Kamal 2 months ago Link

    the best launcher is the nova launcher, am i right or there is another launcher more faster, lighter and simple launcher as like nova launcher,
    i my opinion with the nova launcher the best icon pack is belle ui icon pack

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  • Amir R 2 months ago Link

    nova is best

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  • corey spell 2 months ago Link

    U sure u put the right description to lightning lol its honestly the most powerful customizable launcher made and widgets in folders swipe any direction on an icon for any action.. It's extremely complicated and hard to learn but once u do wow! I swipe icons to popup widgets all kinds of crazy stuff custom fonts everywhere every aspect of this launcher is tweakable in any way.. The old lightning launcher and lightning launcher extreme are jus as capable.. Jus saying lol

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  • steve 2 months ago Link

    I love aviate

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  • Risky Wahyu Nugroho 2 months ago Link

    i love nova launcher

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  • Craig Lewis 2 months ago Link

    I have been using Terrain Launcher for quite some time now. It has a card based left side bar that allows for the addition of feed content as well as some system controls. There is a right side bar that alternates between widget selection an application choice. The application choice bar is alphabetized allowing you to select the first letter of the app you wish to start. I highly recommend it.

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  • Arun karthikeyan 2 months ago Link

    You missed one awesome Mobo Launcher. Even apex cant match the features... so many inbuilt features like battery saver (really works), files manager , Cleaner , even more features... i used many launcher before but mobo launcher is the best one among all other launcher...

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  • Reg Joo 1 month ago Link

    360 launcher is great for older phones, can do as much as most of these launchers, is lightweight, doesn't crash like holo launcher( not updated anymore), and doesn't get in the way. Some of these launchers, can affect the performance of the phone, if they try too hard to satisfy(built in cleaners, battery savers, etc..). I'd rather have non-launcher functions , off the launcher, xposed modules are a better way to have what you need, especially the android tuner module, tinted statusbar, etc.. Having too many launcher functions, makes the launcher stress too much.

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  • User picture
    Techlady57 1 month ago Link

    Aviate, without a doubt, is the best. Can't imagine my phone without it anymore.

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  • Merra Merra 1 month ago Link

    Thank you so much for your article .

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  • Sam496 3 weeks ago Link

    I agree that Nova is the best! :)
    Only downside is that u have to find new themes manually, which isn't really a problem.

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  • Danchapman 1 week ago Link

    Try out App fetch. It finds any app without scrolling

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