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Best Android launchers: 13 to customize your smartphone and tablet

Update: Great deal on Nova Launcher Prime

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 2 months ago

One of the most impressive ways to customize your smartphone is to install 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 more. Here are the best Android launchers for your smartphone or tablet.

Deal alert: Nova Launcher Prime, one of the best launchers on Android, packed with premium features, is on sale at just US$0.99 and 10 cents in Europe. It usually sells for about US$5, but with the release of version 4.2, the team decided to knock it down to next to nothing. Don't miss out: jump to Nova Launcher now.

Best for Windows fans: Action Launcher 3

This theme has fully embraced Android Lollipop, and works brilliantly with devices that have received the coveted update. One of its best features is a bar, similar to the Windows Start Menu, that pops up on the left side of your screen, and lets you launch your favorite apps without having them cluttering up your home screen. You can completely customize your All Apps list, as well as tweak the layout, icons and colors to your heart's content.

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Action Launcher 3 takes a leaf out of the Windows Start Menu's book, and works brilliantly with Lollipop.  / © ANDROIDPIT
Action Launcher 3 Install on Google Play

Best for Firefox addicts: Firefox OS

Functioning as a developer preview of its operating system, you can now get Firefox OS on your Android device without even needing to flash it. The OS operates as a launcher. It adds large, simple icons, access to Firefox's Marketplace and some privacy features.

It might be that the icons are so large because it's designed for a device with a lower resolution screen than what we tested it on, and its a bit laggy at times, which is natural for a developer preview. But it's worth a spin if you're interested in seeing what Mozilla is cooking up.

You can download the OS developer preview here.

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Firefox OS is available as a launcher, so you can test out the company's forthcoming OS. / © Mozilla

Best for an intuitive device: C Launcher

C Launcher is a gorgeous and economic launcher that'll let you reach every distant corner of your phone in seconds. It tracks your phone use (all on-device) to provide contextual suggestions depending on which apps you use in certain locations. C Launcher also includes an in-built system cleaner, and thousands of themes to customize it, or you can create your own using C Launcher's simple step-by-step guide.

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C Launcher is a simple and speedy launcher with some nice extras, such as a system cleaner. / © ANDROIDPIT
C Launcher Speedy Brief Launch Install on Google Play

Best for simplicity: Solo Launcher

Solo Launcher doesn’t use many of its own icons, but it does have some sweet animations, and it's lighter on bundled apps and widgets than most launchers we encounter. It has some neat gesture functions, such as making a simple upward swipe on the home screen to perform a search, but it doesn't significantly change the way your device works. It's a simple, subtle alteration that could even go unnoticed, and this is its greatest strength. 

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Solo Launcher looks great with the Doodle Style Theme. / © ANDROIDPIT

Best for the bold: Buzz Launcher

Buzz Launcher offers some of the inventive themes we've seen on Android. Its community has come up with a whole range of professional-looking ideas to suit all tastes. Buzz is unbeatable if you want a bold new look on your Android without the effort of creating it yourself, but you will need to download the additional Buzz Widget app to get the most from it.  

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Just one of the themes you can get with Buzz Launcher. / © ANDROIDPIT
Buzz Launcher-Smart&Free Theme Install on Google Play

Best for the beginner: dodol Launcher

With over 10 million installs and support for thousands of free themes, dodol Launcher keeps it simple and does themes just right. It isn’t a complete reworking of the Android system, but it is a lightweight, effective launcher, and it won't destroy your battery life with crazy effects and animations. It's another less-is-more kind of launcher, and could be a great place to start if you're new to Android customization.

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This neon-colored theme for dodol Launcher is a minimalist delight. / © ANDROIDPIT

Best for running circles round your phone: Smart Launcher

Smart Launcher really turns things 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, so if you delete an icon, the app is deleted too. It's simple and unique and has a 4.6-star rating based on more than five million installs.

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Smart Launcher gives you rings of the most commonly used apps. / © ANDROIDPIT
Smart Launcher 3 Install on Google Play

Best for 3D: Next Launcher 

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 with anything else on this list. All the best features aren't free, as with most launchers, but the wow-factor of the Premium version is worth the cost. If you want a hi-tech, attention grabbing launcher on your phone, try the free version out and see if you can resist upgrading. 

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Next Launcher is known for its futuristic look and 3D effects. / © ANDROIDPIT
Next Launcher 3D Shell Lite Install on Google Play

Best for subtle sophistication: APUS Launcher

APUS is currently one of the most popular launchers on Android, 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. It's free, so you should definitely check this one out; APUS' animations are top-notch. 

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The APUS Launcher is feature-packed and tightly designed: its Pinko theme (above) is one of the most popular. / © ANDROIDPIT
APUS Launcher-Small,Fast,Boost Install on Google Play

Best for economy: Hola Launcher

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, and with that comes a reorganized interface, new app icons and some gorgeous themes. But it's not just its file size that is slim, Hola is also hard to beat on its use of processing power – it requires less RAM than even some of the quickest Android Launchers. 

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Some of the Hola Launcher themes are minimalist delights. / © ANDROIDPIT
Hola Launcher-Simple,Fast Install on Google Play

Best for customization: Apex Launcher

Apex Launcher is one of the most popular custom launchers available right now, with more than million downloads from the Play Store and an average rating of 4.3 stars. 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 the already-formidable free launcher.

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This is my current Apex Launcher setup – exactly how I like it. / © ANDROIDPIT
Apex Launcher Install on Google Play

Best for the everyman: Nova Launcher

Right now, Nova Launcher Prime is on a pretty crazy sale in the Google Play Store. You can get all the premium features for just US$0.99 in the US and 10 cents in Europe. Check out the Nova Prime Launcher page on the Google Play Store.

The undisputed king of alternate Android launchers, Nova Launcher, holds a spot on nearly everyone's smartphone. With over five million Play Store downloads, its fans can't be wrong. It offers an accessible and functional entry point into the world of launchers. A new feature called 'icon normalization' has become a fan-favorite, and uses surprisingly complex algorithms to make sure all your icons cover a consistent area of the screen. What this means is that rather than simply fitting the icons within equally sized frames, they are scaled to cover the same area, regardless of shape, making them far more appealing to look at.

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Nova Launcher has a vast array of options, it's easy to see why it's so popular. / © ANDROIDPIT
Nova Launcher Install on Google Play

Best for style and simplicity: GO Launcher EX

GO Launcher EX has had more than one hundred million installations, and has a 4.5-star rating, making it the unparalleled Android launcher extraordinaire. GO is as polished a free launcher as you can find, and features some excellent animations and 3D effects. The downside of GO Launcher is that there is a lot of cross-promotion,which can get a little annoying.

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GO Launcher: one of the best on Android. / © ANDROIDPIT
GO Launcher-Theme,Wallpaper Install on Google Play

Are you rocking a custom launcher that we've missed? What do you think is the best Android launcher? Let us know in the comments.

Kris is a former AndroidPIT Editor who came to the team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

135 comments

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  • Thanks for the great article. Much more comprehensive and diverse than other articles on launchers. I've now got five new launchers downloaded that I'm excited to test.

  • Has anyone tried aviate? Haven't seen anyone put it in their list, but it's a great launcher

  • I like Cube Launcher by siprdev because it has an integrated voice command listener and a field where you can add your favourite apps. You are to see that field on any screen. It does not disturb you.

  • I like Google Now launcher the best. Zero launcher is a good launcher.. You alt to give it a try. I like it better than Nova launcher witch l hate

  • Knut 1 month ago Link to comment

    whats the name of the themes as used in the rewiev of apex

  • She ain't cheap, but next launcher probably has more customization options than any other. If the high price tag puts you off, go launcher is a cheaper option. I've used both. Some of the best on the market, in my opinion.

  • TSF Launcher is the best I've come across

  • Z Launcher beta. So incredibly efficient. no frill.

  • I had a phone I bought off amazon that came pre-loaded with something called Du launcher. I didn't like the phone much but I kinda liked the launcher and the apps that came with it. I was wondering if anyone else had any experience with this launcher.

  • Arrow launcher. Believe it or not but i find it the best yet

  • I'm totally new to customization & personalization of my Android phone. I got curious/bored one day, and I've been researching about it...I have drippler & the Android central app/news. I must've tried a dozen launchers. Go, hola, smart, everything, apex, adw, apus...I came to LOVE the C Launcher! My phone looks nothing like it did prior. (LG). I discovered things I didn't know my phone was capable of. I've stick with it for the past 2 months, rather than uninstall before the end of the day. Recently I downloaded the phone app for the HTC phone. With mine, I was missing all kinds of calls. It barely rang. Now, I can send sms, call, & more from within my phone app. Happy learner.

  • dodol launcher has been bought by Line Messenger and is now called Line Launcher.

  • Google Now does not offers customization, the reason it's not included in the list. You should also add Aviate launcher for its productivity.

  • Kaleb 2 months ago Link to comment

    Google now forever

  • try scout launcher ( in beta right now but is something else) ...

  • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

    Google Now for the Win.

  • Bruce R. 2 months ago Link to comment

    Sorry to see that Google now was not included. Loved it on the Nexus and changed to it on other phones.

  • I have been using Hola Launcher and really like it. I would say give it a try, because of all the different ways to customize it to your own liking. It's got so many options!

  • I'm using APUS launcher now. I think it is easy to use. I love its booster feature. It makes my phone fast. Also love APUS themes and wallpaper.

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