One of the best things about Android is the ability to quickly and easily customize the experience to suit your preferences. Many times this simply involves arranging your favorite apps into folders or throwing in a great widget, but sometimes it’s good to dig a little deeper. Launchers, or home screen replacements, provide a quick and easy way to do this, often drastically altering the look and feel of a device. Read on, as we highlight five great options for customizing your Android experience.
Google Now Launcher
If you like Google’s own treatment of Android, but don't own a Nexus device, then you’ll want to give the Now Launcher a try. Unsurprisingly, the software puts a focus on the company’s Now service, dedicating an entire home screen panel to the card-based notifications and reminders. Having a dedicated panel helps make the service more convenient and, as Google would no doubt be delighted to hear, encourages you to use it more.
Looking past the Now integration, the launcher essentially mimics stock Android, providing clean-looking home screens with big icons and slick transition animations. It might lack some of the bells and whistles of other popular launchers, but it’s a simple and attractive option.
Google Now Launcher (free)
When you first install Themer, it instantly makes its intentions clear with the promise that you’re about to “make your phone look amazing”. The launcher provides access to a wide range of themes that drastically change the look and functionality of your home screen, and are wildly different from each other. The software also makes some changes to the app drawer, adding a "categories" view that groups similar applications together.
If you’re looking for an easy way to overhaul the look and function of your phone’s software, then Themer provides an array of options for doing so. It can be a little daunting when you first fire up the launcher, but pick a popular theme like Tiled or Minimal White (both pictured above) and you’ll be right at home in no time.
Nova takes a more traditional approach to Android, providing a familiar looking, but highly customizable take on the classic home screen. Animations take on a more three-dimensional feel, icons can be placed more freely and you can customise the dock to look and behave as you want.
You can also adjust icon font style, hide the notification and search bars, add customizable pinch gestures and much more. Overall, the Nova Launcher is a good option if you’re looking to tweak your home screen experience, but not to change its functionality in any significant way.
Nova is available in a free version, and a premium "Prime" variant that unlocks a few extra features.
Yahoo Aviate Launcher
Aviate is a well thought-out, attractive launcher that alters Android in eye-opening ways. The software does away with the conventional app drawer shortcut, instead opting for two home screen panels dedicated to the purpose. One left swipe reveals a range of categorized, expandable app drawers, and a second swipe brings up a more conventional (alphabetical) list.
Swiping the other way reveals a customized panel that can be used for controlling music, showing helpful information such as weather and news, and more. You can also swipe up from the central home screen to access favourite contacts.
Yahoo Aviate (free)
Cover Lock Screen
We're cheating a little here, as Cover is more of a lock screen replacement than a home screen replacement. Cover seeks to augment your launcher's functionality, providing an all new lock screen that gives you a location-aware list of apps that can be opened with a simple swipe. It also provides a quick new way to switch between apps.
Over time, Cover learns which apps you use often and puts them on your lock screen at the times when you’re most likely to need them. It can even do things like change the audio profile based on time and location – switching to vibrate at work, and silent at night.
Cover Lock Screen (beta) (free)
Any other great launchers we forgot? Drop us a line in the comments below to let us know what you love and why.