One key feature of Google’s Android that many over look is the ability to change launcher. There is many of them out there that provide many variations of options that likely will fill the needs for nearly any user.
The customizations can range from modified/enhanced stock to extreme fringe feature/style wise. Usually the tweaks are practical and provide good usability but sometimes the end result only gets a niche set of users which is not bad but can limit its profitability. The extreme fringe can be anything from simplified to complex reinventing how the platform should look.
For this post I choose three launchers that cover the general areas… customizable but stock style, stock with a twist, and extreme fringe… The launchers are: Nova Launcher (Prime), Action Launcher Pro, and Smart Launcher Pro. Each of them has free versions but some features may be limited or non existent.
Nova Launcher (Prime unlock key) – CA$4.00
First off is Nova Launcher which started off as a fork of the stock Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) launcher and now is based on the latest Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) launcher. The features have been developed rather fast yet well implemented and the developer was fast to update the core as Google updated Android’s launcher through out the android versions.
This launcher comes in free and paid prime unlocker with the prime version unlocking many things such as new transitions, features and much more making prime worth it.
Pros: Fast, Clean pure look, Customizable
Cons: None that i know of
Action Launcher Pro – CA$3.99
Next is Action Launcher Pro which is another fork of the stock Android launcher but with a interesting twist.. it is designed around getting you to where you need to go faster while still being close to Google’s ideals. Instead of a four icon dock with item for drawer you got a 5 icon drawer with action bar on top for triggering slide out app list, search, Play store, and menu. This model does feel more speedy especially since you can quickly get to app list by pressing home again or swiping right. Based on how items on the home screen move around it appears to be based on the latest Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) launcher. How you add items to your home screen is quite different here as you can’t drag apps from the app list you got to add them via tap and hold or menu then customize and drag them from the apps list there. Over all not a bad app plenty of room for improvement though.
Pros: Fast, quick access to apps
Cons: Minor useability issues, lack of customization options
Smart Launcher Pro – CA$3.49
Now for Smart Launcher Pro which has one main goal simplicity on install it asks you what apps you prefer for browser and such and it sets what the developer calls the “Flower” to have icons to go to your preferred apps. You can add other apps to the flower if you want tho it wasn’t obvious how (tap and hold one icon to get edit mode and add is in center). The app list is accessed by larger but recognizable app drawer icon in lower left and is presorted in preset categorizes with access to search, Play Store and menu in upper right.
This launcher comes in free and pro variant with the pro unlocking a woefully incomplete widget mode that should be a fully versatile home screen mode with widget resizeablity making the pro not really worth it unless you want to support the developer is worth it tho since he is actively working on it.
Pros: Fast, Extremely simple
Cons: The woefully incomplete “widget mode” makes pro not worth it
Over all the launcher landscape for Android is quite diverse and this barely scratches the surface of it.