If you own a smartphone, one of the most impressive ways to customize it is by installing a launcher. Launchers provide tons of options, themes and icons for your handset, as well as offering near complete control over how your phone performs when switching screens, launching apps and so on. Here are the best Android launchers to customize your smartphone or tablet.
APUS Launcher - for subtle, sophisticated design
APUS is currently one of the most popular Launchers on Android, and largely thanks to its gorgeous Pinko theme. This Launcher combines themes, custom icons, and some APUS own-brand features to make it one of the most comprehensive launchers to date. As a free app, you should definitely check this one out; APUS' own animations are top-notch.
Hola Launcher - simple, clever, colorful
Hola Launcher has made a name for itself largely thanks to how economical it is - the initial download comes in at just over 1 MB in size, and with that comes a reorganized interface and new app icons. But it's not just its file size that is slim, the processing power used by Hola also takes some beating, requiring less RAM than even some of the quickest Android Launchers. It also supports some gorgeous themes.
Buzz Launcher: don't like your launcher, borrow someone else's
Buzz Launcher has left a mark on over a million Play Store user's minds, earning it a rating of 4.4 stars, and for good reason. Buzz offers some of the most unique and inventive themes we've seen on Android, with the community coming up with a whole range of "professional-looking" ideas to suit all tastes. Buzz is unbeatable if you want a radical new look on your Android without investing any effort in creating it yourself, but you will need to download the additional Buzz Widget app to get the most from it.
Apex Launcher: for customization freaks!
Apex Launcher is one of the most popular custom launchers available right now, with over ten million installs in the Play Store and an average rating of 4.3 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.
- Apex vs. Nova: two of the best Android Launchers compared
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.
EverythingMe Home Launcher: the launcher that 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.
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.
- SOLO Launcher review: A good alternative to Apex, Nova & Co.
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.
GO Launcher EX: style and simplicity
GO Launcher EX has over one hundred million installs and a 4.5 star rating, making it the unparalleled Android launcher extraordinaire. GO is basically as polished a free launcher as you can find, and features some excellent animations and 3D effects. The downside of GO Launcher being that there is a lot of cross-promotion which can get a little annoying.
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.
Are you rocking a custom launcher we missed? What features are you looking for most in an alternative launcher?