Third-party Android launchers are a great example of how you can customize your Android phone.
A launcher is a tool that allows you to customize the Android homescreen. Launchers do more than just change the wallpaper. They also give you full control over menus, icons, colors and other screens that are handled by Android. These tools allow you to manage anything from the number and type of shortcuts that appear on your homescreen, to how notifications are displayed. They also give you more control over the look of your phone.
You might want to have oversized icons for your app drawer or all icons in blue. You might want to add a custom unread counter badge to your default email shortcut, or arrange your apps in a list instead of a grid. Launchers allow you to customize your phone in many ways. The tweaks that launchers add to Android are so valuable, Google started adding them.
There are many excellent launchers to choose from. They are easy to install and remove. Below you’ll find instructions on how to manage them, along with a few of my favorites that you can try out.
Installing and managing launchers
It’s very easy to install a launcher. I have included instructions for both Pixel phones and Samsung smartphones. Depending on the Android phone model and make, you may see slightly different screens and menu options.
- Open Settings for Pixels and select Apps >> Default apps. On Samsung Galaxy devices, it’s Settings > Apps > Choose default apps.
- You’ll see a Launcher, which is what Android calls launchers. You can either tap the entry, or look on the right side for the cog icon. Tap this to change the launcher.
You can, for instance, turn on or off the notification dots (badges) that appear on the app icons, hide or display the At a Glance Widget, or get intelligent suggestions on which apps to launch. The options you have will vary depending on which launcher is being used. Go to Home app in Pixels.
You can switch launchers by tapping Home application. To see an alternative launcher, you must have installed at least one other launcher. Once you have switched launchers, your homescreens, lockscreen, app drawer and menus will all look different. There are several options available when using the Pixel Home standard app. Launchers from third-party companies will offer different options.
Then you can customize your launcher to suit your needs. Some launchers offer more options than others. However, most come with detailed instructions so that you know exactly what to change and when. The icon of a launcher should allow you to access its settings.
You don’t have to worry about breaking the Android interface by making too many changes. If you are not satisfied with your launcher, you can uninstall it and the phone’s default home app will be restored.
Try these Android launchers
Niagara Launcher is a great option for those who like a minimalistic look. It turns your homescreen into a sleek, simple list of all your favorite apps. Smart innovations include embedded notifications, summaries and media playback controls. It allows you to focus on the most important apps and removes some of the clutter from your smartphone.
Niagara also adds customization controls – you can still customize fonts, icon sizes, and other interface elements, but this is just one aspect. A Pro subscription costs $9.99 per year or $29.99 lifetime. It offers more customizations and widgets.
Nova Launcher is often included in lists of best Android launchers. This is because it offers so many customization options. From transparent notification bars, to icon styles, to custom navigation gestures, to a night mode that activates automatically at certain times of the day.
It’s great that you can put your most frequently used apps on top of the list and there are many options for tweaking icons, including colors, shadows and shapes. Many of the customizations can be used for free, but if you want the complete set, you will need to purchase the Prime version, which costs $4.99.
AIO Launcher tries something new with the Android homescreen, beyond changing the app grid and icon colors. This launcher turns your homescreen into a densely-packed series of widgets so that you can view everything from notifications to storage space available on one screen. You can choose from a wide variety of widgets, which are all easily customizable.
You can sort apps by category and show them in different ways. There’s also a search function that will dig deep into widgets and contacts. A premium subscription is required to access all the features of AIO. This will cost you $9.99 per year or 99 cents each month.
Smart Launcher is a great launcher that offers everything you need. From innovative homescreen layouts and polished widgets to tweaks you can make to your icons, fonts and wallpapers. It also has some clever features like a search engine that searches the web, apps and contacts.
The launcher includes some really nice widgets. You can customize your lock screen, homescreen and notifications in a very controlled way. Navigation gestures and categories for apps are also supported. You can unlock all features by paying 99 cents per month or $21.99 per year.