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Best Android launchers: 12 to customize your smartphone and tablet

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 1 month ago

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 more. Here are the best Android launchers for your smartphone or tablet.

Action Launcher 3

This theme has fully embraced Android Lollipop, and works brilliantly with devices that have received the coveted update. One of its most unique features is a Windows Start Menu-like bar that pops up on the left side of your screen, letting you launch your favorite apps without having them cluttering up your home screen. You can completely customize your All Apps list, and of course 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 book, and works brilliantly with Lollipop.  / © ANDROIDPIT
Action Launcher 3 Install on Google Play

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 usage (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 with - or just 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 - like a system cleaner. / © ANDROIDPIT
C Launcher-Speedy Brief Launch Install on Google Play

Solo Launcher

Solo Launcher doesn’t use many of its own icons, but it does use feature some sweet animations, and it's lighter on "bundled apps and widgets" than most launchers we encounter. It has some neat gestures like a simple upward swipe on the home screen to perform a search, but it doesn't deliver any huge changes in functionality to your normal device. It's a simple, subtle alteration which could even go unnoticed, and this is its greatest strength. 

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

Buzz Launcher

Buzz Launcher 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.  

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

dodol Launcher

With over 10 million installs and support for thousands of free themes, dodol Launcher keeps it simple and does themes right. It isn’t a complete reworking of the Android system, it’s a lightweight but effective launcher which isn’t going to 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 the world of Android customization.

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

Smart Launcher

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.

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Smart Launcher gives you rings of the most commonly used apps. / © ANDROIDPIT
Smart Launcher 2 Install on Google Play

Next Launcher: the wicked 3D-effect 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 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. 

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

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. 

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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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

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.

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

Are you rocking a custom launcher we missed? What do you think is the best Android launcher?

Kris Carlon comes to the AndroidPIT Editorial Team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He joined the Android community while resurfacing in civilization back in 2010 and has never looked back, using technology to replace his actual presence in other people's lives ever since. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.

81 comments

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  • morteza mohammadi 2 weeks ago Link to comment

    Pwrsonaly and technicaly, I think adw launcher specialy adw ex beats them all

    It is super simple with so much thems visual transitions and it is insanly configurable

  • Tex Ican 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    Atom is the cleanest i've found, have tried most on this list.
    It is plenty flexible but with the lightest footprint in my experience.

    • Pradeep deviSri 1 week ago Link to comment

      very true buddy.. i tried almost every launcher and nothing is better as atom. Its simple, elegant and clean and the same time with plenty of flexibility and features that too with the minimal memory usage.. i liked launchers like buzz, but after using any other launcher for one or two days i always comes back to atom. Its amusing why i dont find it in any of the best launcher list.

  • An Droid 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    Action Launcher is light, stable and fast. It also increases battery life by a substantial margin.

  • chase montgomery 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    Every thing is garbage except for nova launcher. A little secret though if you activate developer mode on s5 by going to about phone tap build number seven times and go back and right above it there is a new tab enter and go to drawing and disable all animations and it will load so much faster its like a flash.

    • David B 1 day ago Link to comment

      I've used Nova for awhile and for some reason, took your advice on how to make it better and faster and wow, best tIp I've had since somone told me how to jailbreak an iphone 3g. Any others for the S5? Tips I mean. Thank you very much. David.

  • Mike Russo 1 month ago Link to comment

    I'm lookin for one that'll help with the of my s5 any ideas?

  • Gagan Singh 1 month ago Link to comment

    Nova is the perfect choice for me when it comes to stability and usage. It has everything i need in its pro version + beta version also offers new things to try on.
    Other than Nova i think TSF Shell is a nice launcher and with its Gestures and app bundles it's different than others. Maybe the problem with it is, that it's a little expensive and so doesn't have that much hype, but it's a nice launcher with a different style and look.

    • Iftikhar Ali 4 days ago Link to comment

      totally agree with you gagan singh, am been using this launcher from past one year, and i did not find any match of it, perhaps the best on google play store i say.

  • Krupal Ashok 1 month ago Link to comment

    Anyone tried HomeUX Launcher? Will be there in top 10 when its released.

  • Colleen West 1 month ago Link to comment

    I HAVE TRIED MOST OF THE LAUNCHERS ABOVE & SOME HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR MY ANDROID DEVICE & SOME AREN'T THAT REALLY 'FANTASTIC LAUNCHERS'

  • Umer Sarwar 3 months ago Link to comment

    Find reviews of top launchers at blogging-guide.com

  • Daremo Sensanome 3 months ago Link to comment

    Launchers... KK Launcher... the same Google Now launcher with lots of options.
    Awesome piece of software.

  • MzTech 3 months ago Link to comment

    C launcher is also a great launcher.

  • JRB 3 months ago Link to comment

    Anyone besides me try Lucid Launcher yet? Just different enough to earn my keep right now. Plus it doesn't come preset up with junk. You get to start from the ground up somewhat and build it like u like.

  • Blue Carbon Analog Watch Face 3 months ago Link to comment

    One reason that some users prefer Android based smartphones compared to iPhones is their high level of customization. you can style it according to your taste and preference.

  • Rogue Tomato 3 months ago Link to comment

    Smart Launcher is version 3 now, not 2. And "if you delete an icon, the app is deleted too" is not true. You can remove icons from the home screen, but it doesn't (and shouldn't) uninstall the app. In the drawers, the long press lets you move the icon to another category, hide the app or uninstall it (and even rename, start or stop the app from the long-press menu).

  • Mohammad Al-amin Mia 3 months ago Link to comment

    In those Launcher, i like Hola Launcher.It helps me to easy and comfort.Everyone can use it.

  • Aron 3 months ago Link to comment

    How can you possibly leave Actipn Launcher off this list?! It is hands down top 3. Nova is more customizable, but almost to a fault. AL3 has many of tje same custom features and it has covers and shutters. You can have dozens of widgets on your desktop on one flick away. Super helpful and maintains a clean homepage.

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