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The best launchers to reinvigorate your Android smartphone

Update: The Poco launcher is here!

If you're growing bored of the way your Android's layout and interface looks, then it's time to install a new launcher. Launchers give you the power to customize your smartphone with themes and icon packs, as well as offering near complete control over how your phone performs when switching screens, launching apps and more. Here are the best launchers for your Android smartphone or tablet.

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Pocophone F1 Launcher: built for speed

This Xiaomi launcher is all about speed. The Pocophone F1 turned heads in our editorial office when it launched earlier this year and the software is fundamental to this speed approach. The launcher plays a huge role in that. It is the launcher I am using right now, in fact, and the thing just absolutely flies. The option to search for apps by color is also surprisingly intuitive. If you are looking for a fast, no-nonsense launcher for your Android smartphone, look no further than this one.

pocophone launcher
Fast, simple and superb! / © Google Play Store

Nova Launcher: the gold standard of customization

We have written extensively about Nova Launcher, with a whole bunch of tips and tricks. Many say this app is the reason to buy an Android phone rather than an iPhone and it's easy to understand why. Nova doesn’t look like much when you first open it, but open up the settings menu and you'll find a trove of options for customizing a whole range of features: from app margins and sizes, to font colors and appearance, to your app drawer layout and animation effects, to screen gestures, to dock settings to unread badges; the list goes on. Essentially, as far as customizing Android without root goes, Nova Launcher offers about as many options as you’re likely to find and it offers great performance.

Apex Launcher: for the theme lovers

Apex Launcher is a feature-packed launcher which offers a huge amount of customization and doesn't contain ads or bloatware apps. Apex Launcher is in many ways very similar to Nova, offering a wealth of options for the app drawer, dock bar, folders and home screen and it even includes a backup option for transferring the same settings to other devices. So it's dense, but unlike Nova it also supports a huge selection of themes. These custom-made icon packs and wallpapers can be very impressive and show off what's great about Apex. One of the coolest features of Apex is that you can make use of several dock bars, too. You can also customize the home button to house more than one action. One press will bring you to your home screen, as usual, but a second press could be used for any number of shortcuts, like opening another app, taking you to your notifications, or launching the Apex Settings menu.

Smart Launcher 5: many choices, but not too many

Smart Launcher 5 is a total overhaul of previous versions of the launcher, which is quicker and manages to remain simple. The launcher will adapt its colors to match whatever wallpaper you set, so it requires low effort to make it look nice. Icons from Android Oreo are supported, so you'll get all the shapes and sizes your heart desires. Similarly, you can go wild with widgets by using as many as you want and resizing them without grid snapping. The launcher is easy to use with one hand, and it keeps your smartphone under control by sorting your apps into folders and allowing you to protect apps with a PIN.

Microsoft Launcher: it means business

Formerly known as Arrow Launcher, the latest iterations of Microsoft Launcher have been outstanding. If you want to customize and tweak everything under the sun, this isn't the one for you, because you're limited to theme colors and icon packs. But, if you want a sleek, almost business-like launcher that just plain works, this is a prime choice. It gives you a personal feed of your calendar, recent documents, important contacts, and more. Plus, you can use your Windows PC to access documents from the smartphone instantly. Importantly, it's bloatware-free.

Microsoft Launcher
Microsoft Launcher keeps getting better. / © AndroidPIT

Action Launcher Pixel Edition: bringing material design to all

If you dig the material design look of stock Android with a Pixel twist, and want some of the latest features of Android Pie, it is possible on your device, even if you don't have a Pixel. In fact, you can have all of that and more since Action Launcher: Pixel Edition also gives you a ton of customization and color options, and some unique features. You can customize the dock search box and quickbar, and make use of "covers", which are a unique way to access folders and apps.

Niagara Launcher: for the pure minimalists

If you want a minimalist launcher, you can do no better than Niagara Launcher, which manages to be even more streamlined than the popular Evie Launcher that used to grace this list. On your homescreen, you can have a list of up to 8 frequently accessed apps. Then, you can access a full list of apps using the alphabetized sidebar, by previewing them or by opening the full list. There's no bloat, no folders, and no fuss. Best of all, it's super speedy, so it can breathe new life into lower-end smartphones or old, frustrating tablets you have lying around.

niagara launcher
Niagara Launcher / © AndroidPIT
What's most important in your choice of launcher?
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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.

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  • Great article. I have been using Buzz Launcher on my Gs7 for about two weeks, because I enjoy being able to personalize my phone, and this one has literally infinite possibilities of screens, icons, layouts, everything, plus a bonus: the Buzz Homepack community. Not only does it allow you to share your ideas, you can use other users' homepacks, as well as communicate with them, like a version of a social website. It's pretty cool.
    That being said, I'm still learning to use it, as I was slow to accept technology (my parents were genuine Woodstock hippies), and I've been playing catch-up since my first Blackberry in 2010.
    I wondered if anyone else had tried it, and what his or her thoughts were. It's taking me awhile to learn, but I'm not sure if it's because it's a complicated UI, or just my very basic beginner's skills.
    I'm having fun with all the options, but there are so many that I haven't finished a screen yet because I keep tweaking them.


  • I loved your list of launcher but you missed ilauncher for android where we can use iphone feature on adnroid phone.


  • I like reading comments by users who have completely different ideas from mine, like the one below saying the stock launcher is part of a new device's innovation. My opposite preference is for always the same across a phone and couple of tablets, so no learning curve or spending weeks learning whether the OEM's is any better, and no confusion among three current devices. I've stuck with the original ADW v1 set up exactly the same as on Gingerbread (and so small it's lightening fast on new hardware.) I like a single blank screen for my own photos, with tabbed app drawers, which ADW v1 perfected and current ADW trashed. When the drawer icon started disappearing on Android N, I experimented with Nova which has drawer tabs, but very clumsy by comparison. Unfortunately, Nova won't work on Android J and surprisingly caused strange icon changes on Android L. Nova's gone, and back to ADW v1 with a minor workaround.


  • This is good ap


  • I always use Nova Prime, I like trying other launchers though. I tried Lighting launcher about ten times, couldn't get into how long it takes to customize every single detail. it's too customizable. But it feels smooth and it can look any way you can imagine.


  • I've always used and loved Nova, but needed a change. I use a Pixel 2XL and wanted something close as possible to the Pixel Launcher; but with icon theming et al.

    Also I want my Google Now feed via swiping left on the home screen (what I'd call the 'signature' feature of the Pixel Launcher). In its defense, Nova recently saw the release of a companion app for this.

    Still, the LAWNCHAIR launcher, along w/ its Google Now companion app 'Lawnfeed', have been JUST what the doctor ordered!

    It's smaller, faster and more simple than Nova; yet more robust than the Pixel Launcher. I couldn't be happier. Again, I was a long time Nova user and don't mean to put it down. But I won't go back any time soon. IMO, Lawnchair should eventually surpass Nova in total downloads/active users. I'm really surprised its not on this list and frankly it seems like an oversight. Give it a try!


  • About Smart Launcher.

    I've seen this article several times before and it is still not actual. You CAN change the different categories, the number of categories, the order and place and much, much more. You can also move apps from one categorie to another if you want.

    I am a happy user of SL 3 PRO for some years now and simply had to mention this.

    Dirk Gatsonides van Vlaanderen


  • I actually use Touchwiz on my S8 Plus and I've had no problems at all


  • BruinGuy 10 months ago Link to comment

    Here's the thing about launchers. You can back up and restore your settings when you get a new phone. Cool, right? But of course, over time your phone looks exactly the way it did 5 years ago making your brand new shiny phone feeling old and tired.

    Part of the benefit of a new phone is the new look and feel. So, for that reason, I don't use a launcher.


    • That's an interesting viewpoint. But the thing is, there has to be SOME sort of launcher on your phone; if you're not using a launcher app, you're using the default launcher of your phone manufacturer. For example if you're using a Samsung phone, you're using the TouchWiz launcher by default. When you buy a new Samsung phone that'll be the same launcher on your new phone. If you want to change THAT, you'll have to switch manufacturers every time you buy a new phone. Better idea is to change launchers if you need a fresh look.


  • Hi,
    On my phone, I am using nova launcher. Actually, it lags phone. Can you please tell me the better one?


    • Mukesh, any launcher would result in a slight lag. However it shouldn't bother you too much if you keep your phone clean of trash. Compared to a high quality launcher like Nova, many other launchers would result in greater lag.


  • For me it's always been and remains Aviate Launcher. By far the best and I've tried them all. Fast, no blotware, no malware and does what it says on the tin. Try it, don't think you'll be disappointed


    • I admit I haven't tried Aviate yet. I'll take a look. Thanks for the suggestion. However, the one issue that bothers me is that Aviate belongs to Yahoo. Considering that the future of Yahoo is a little bit shaky currently, I hesitate placing my trust in Aviate, with regard to maintenance and updates.


  • Nova prime is one of the best launcher.


  • Too bad Buzz has so many bugs/issues/crashing & lags like crazy now. I really have loved it for quite a while. I'm in search of a replacement (which is why I came across this)


  • I'm having a problem finding a home launcher where you can change the font color of the weather and clock. The ones I have tried let you change the label color but not the weather and clock. This limits me on my wallpaper because the clock and weather doesn't show up. If anyone knows of a home launcher that can do this please let me know and thank you.


    • You don't need a launcher to accomplish this. Try UCCW, or MinimalText widgets. There's also Zooper & a bunch of other apps that allow you to custom design widgets to your exact specifications, easily. You can use any fonts, colors, images, whatever. Dynamically. Pretty easy, too. Just look up custom widgets or something


  • I like Lightning Launcher because you can customize everything (even implement new features yourself) and share your themes.

    There are some nice themes out there.
    Best one is called 'zunish' (just search on playstore). Microsoft ZuneHD for Android if you want, also including rss news feeds, weather widget, Dev is very responsive.


  • My vote is too for the Nova Launcher

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