We get asked this question all the time and we're constantly on the lookout for new launchers with which to spice up our smartphones. An alternative launcher provides tons more customization options for your home screens, app drawer, folders and widgets, as well as near complete control over how your phone performs when switching screens, launching apps and so on. I asked some of the other editors what they think the best Android launcher is right now, so here's five of our current favorites.
Apex 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.
Buzz 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.
Action Launcher is a relative newcomer that has captured quite a lot of attention is a very short time. Version 2.0 appeared mid-December but Action 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.
Quite possibly the undisputed king of alternative Android launchers, Nova 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.
Next 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.
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 covers everything you could want from a free launcher: customizations, themes, widgets, skins, icon packs and gesture settings.
GO Launcher EX
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.
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.
Yandex 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.
Everything.me Home Launcher Beta
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. Everything.me'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.
Are you rocking a custom launcher we missed? What features are you looking for most in an alternative launcher?
If you don't see one you like here, check out the 5 best Android launchers to spruce up your smartphone.