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Best Android launchers: 12 to customize your smartphone and tablet

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 1 week 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.

Action Launcher 3: one for Windows fans

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

C Launcher: the intelligent solution

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

Solo Launcher: subtle and effective

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

Buzz Launcher: for when you want a radical new look

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

dodol Launcher: keeping it simple

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

Smart Launcher: run rings around your phone

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

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 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

APUS Launcher: subtle, sophisticated design 

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

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, 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

Apex Launcher: the one for customization freaks!

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

Nova Launcher: the everyman's launcher (it's got it all)

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

GO Launcher EX: style and simplicity

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 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.


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  • Next 3d is a monster battery eater if you try the paid version; Nova, Apex and ADW are fast. Those who want a change try Aviate and those want just to keep everything simple (elderly people) can go for "Wiser" launcher it has got bigger fonts and icons which they can use with ease.

  • After trying pretty much all of them, I'm gonna go ahead and say that ALL LAUNCHERS SUCK. We have smart phones but our launchers continue to be inefficient and poorly designed. Can someone tell me why I need to organize my own apps when they are already categorized in the app store? Why do I need an infinite number of homescreens AND an app drawer?? Why do folders use the screen real estate in such an unappealing and cluttered way?? App docks don't have enough space to be useful without adding folders and icons to the screen--so what's the point?? IMO a launcher's priority should be to simplify and organize a phone's visual layout. Next, it should take advantage of the technologies that our phones have to add useful and automated functionality. A bunch of launchers get one or the other ok, but none get them both.

  • I used Nova on my old Samsung and must say it was okay for a while but Touchwiz have a better layout and is just easier to use in my humble opinion.

    • Dave 2 days ago Link to comment

      I use Nova on my Samsung for two reasons... One, it allowed me to copy my existing Touchwiz layout so that I didn't have to re-set everything up again. Two, it allows me to back up everything so I can restore it later. I wish Touchwiz could be easily backed up so that we didn't need to use launchers at all. You're right that the stock Touchwiz is just fine.

  • Try out why.Not
    Ir changes the text model where enterprises earn the right to send why not messages for free to why not users
    Its really unique and great potential
    Check out the blog and app!

  • Zero launcher is the best. Very fast, beautiful design, almost every day new theme and wallpaper and easy to boost the phone.And It takes very little place in the storage. It is really perfect

  • Rusty 1 week ago Link to comment

    Do you guys have something against CM apps? They are never mentioned when you do these articles, I have em and I know a lot of other people do too but they are never mentioned!

  • I don't think any body have tried dodol (line) launcher cause if it so, I don't think that any body would talk about other launcher cause dodol is the best and I'm not ready to stop using it

  • Mike 1 week ago Link to comment

    Nova for me

  • Nova Launcher FTW!

  • No Aviate launcher in the list, r u serious

  • 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

    • I used to really like adw on my tablet running ics but it doesn't seem to have had a ui update in years. I use nova now as it has pretty much the same functionality but with a lollipop theme

  • Tex Ican 2 months 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.

    • 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 2 months ago Link to comment

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

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