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Best Android launchers: 13 to customize your smartphone and tablet

Update: Firefox OS added

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 2 weeks 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.

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.

androidpit action launcher 3 galaxy s4
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.

androidpit c launcher galaxy s4
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 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

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.

nova launcher animation
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

Bonus: Try new apps and get rewards

If you're looking for more great ways to explore what Android has to offer, download Buzzinga

Buzzinga recommends new apps for you to discover and review. It helps developers improve their apps, and, best of all, you get rewarded for it. The premise is simple: the more apps you download and review, the more points you accumulate. You can exchange those points for the chance to win prizes, including Ultra HD TVs, the newest smartphones and other gadgets, or you can redeem them for Amazon, Starbucks and GameStop giftcards. Buzzinga is developed by App Media, which is owned by Fonpit, the publisher of AndroidPIT.

Buzzinga lets you try out new games, review them, and get rewards. / © AndroidPIT
Buzzinga: Rewards for Reviews 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 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.


Write new comment:
  • 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 1 week ago Link to comment

    Google now forever

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

  • storm 2 weeks ago Link to comment

    Google Now for the Win.

  • 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.

  • Thanks for sharing such a great Forum. Well Done

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

  • You people are posting the same content for a long time every month.. Try updating the post.

  • I've used a most every single launcher in the market. If you liked Next Launcher 3D, you should also give a try to TSF SHELL 3D. An amazingly costumizable and freakingly cool 3D themed launcher. If you're more into speed and reliability, just get the Nova and that's all you need. Google Launcher is for those Googlers and those who really wants to get their Now cards right away. If you want time-based or content-based launcher (which is pretty cool) give a try to Yahoo's Aviata Launcher. The only thing I can say for certain is you most probably want to get rid of your stock launcher.

  • Android is the largest player in the market of mobile platforms. For development of android app - One app, single objective must be your agenda. While you go to develop mobile apps, you should not try to make it a solution for many needs. Focus on offering with a single objective and develop mobile application around it, Mobileapptelligence [dot] com, an award winning Android app development company, is delivering best in class Android apps to global clients.

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  • Tried lots of launchers and I always end up coming back to Google Now and Everything Me. Mostly, I use Everything Me. It does a great job of keeping the apps I'm using front and center and adjusting them as my usage changes.

  • Lucid launcher, every time.

  • " Dodol Launcher " has changed its name to " Line Launcher ". It's one of the best launcher in available in play store. But I suggest everyone to check out " EverythingMe Launcher ". It's simple launcher and fast and easy to use. Though it doesn't have extra themes , it's one of the best launcher for android !!

  • I use Atom Launcher by DTLO. The function is flawless & they have lots of designs (clean & fun) that can be used as a screen/icon combo or mix & matched with your own photos. One screen option is to load 6 photos for screens that change everytime you turn on your phone. They have designs that spread the screen over multiple pages which is fun too. My favorite option is using my own photos for app icons. Nobody knows what any of my apps are except me. You have the option of traditional, designed or your own photo. You have the option to remove titles. Another stealth feature allows me to hide all the apps on screen & in the tray which then showcases my screen photo & not all the icons. Filters, icon size, transition options, action shortcuts, colors, widgets...the list is endless. If my Samsung S4 internal launcher did anything, I was completely unaware. This launcher is incredibly intuitive, IMO. Acess to all it's features are launched by holding down a finger on the screen or in the top notification area. Next to SideSync, this is my favorite app/feature. Not even a little curious about any other launcher. My phone is visually an extension of my personality thanks to Atom Launcher.
    I set up my friend's 9 year old's Samsung Tablet for Christmas last year and found a super cute Atom/DTLO design that made her tablet standout from all her friends. All the icons were cutesy & the page changed everytime she opened it. Extremely personal & fun.

    • i guess that u work on that launcher project or u have a friend in that project to make this nice commercial, ty anyway for the info about it

  • ihave to say something in here,all launchers on the market,that this ppl will never talk about coz they r more stupids than a chicken,all got ppl to use them,it's hard to fight actually about which 1 is the best coz none of us have same tastes in everything,i do love a launcher too,but i do try all i can get even those that r only in beta and will get soon on market,coz i always loved to try all,well,all launcher do have something special or something different,even tho some only the name coz r the same way under that,but is the thing to make some of us to like it,i like something from here,something from there,some r more in just 1 launcher and some have what we would love from another launcher,but that's the thing,they dont make them all the same for the same reason,it would be boring to see just 1 launcher but under a different name,so ppl,stop arguing about what is the best and so and ANOTHER THING,IMPORTANT,when u try a launcher,really look into it to see all it can offer,not just on the surfice,it is true that some launcher do suck the battery more than others,1 of them is in this article but is not NEXT launcher as 1 in here did said so,are those that use the location all the time,to see where u r so it will present to u more options for the place u r,now that is a lot of battery consuming,so,i think is best for all of us if we would stop fighting about others tastes,even tho some times i do that too,but i have my reasons wen i see that ppl just don't look into a launcher or a booster and they say is the best or the worst without actually look into it,search for the options it gives u,the things that can do or not,if it help or make things worse,try all the options a launcher can give u,about the idiot with this article,hey,r many launchers in the market that already come with the thing that Action launcher offers here,and r part of the launcher,so look around and learn be4 u come with this stupid things

  • Nova Nova Nova Nova Nova Nova
    Nova..........I'm a fan.. it's cool, easy, looks great, almost perfect...

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