Ah, Android and its beauty! Without a shadow of doubt, it has the upper hand when it comes to flexibility and customizability - its biggest rivals (iOS and Windows Phone) literally don't stand a chance in this one-horse race. Thanks to this fundamental aspect of Android, almost any manufacturer out there usually snaps a home-brewed user interface suite on their devices. HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz are probably the most popular custom UIs for Android, but let's face it – not everyone likes the looks and the bag of features that these come with.
Fortunately, you can easily modify the interface looks of your Android device and make it suit your liking. Probably the easiest way to do so is by installing a custom 3rd-party launcher. Not only custom launchers provide you with different looks, they also come with a wide range of nifty customization features and options that are rarely found in stock UIs.
While we are on the subject of home screen replacements, we decided to search the depths of Google Play and pick some of the best Android launchers out there. Check them out and don't forget to tell us which one is your favorite!
Our Top 5 picks
Nova Launcher / Nova Launcher Prime
Download Nova Launcher / Nova Launcher Prime ($3.99)
The best, bar none. It's been a few years since Nova Launcher has been our go-to choice for a custom Android launcher. In late 2016, this still holds true, now even more so.Unlike other apps that have gradually degraded over time, Nova is still going strong, scoring new features and polishing existing ones to the point where it can safely serve as a model of excellence, an exemplar app that everyone should strive to match.
That's why some of the best and most beautiful screenshots of Android interfaces rely on the Nova Launcher backbone -- there's hardly anything you can't do with this one. In the meantime, it plays quite nicely with almost any hardware you throw it at, providing a snappy and pleasing experience even on older phones.
Recently, Nova scored some of Pixel Launcher's lately-introduced features, like the slide-up app drawer and search bar, as well as new search view comprising a bunch of new tabs.
Oh, and if you're considering this one, we highly recommend getting the Prime version -- it's worth it.
Apex Launcher / Apex Launcher Pro
Download Apex Launcher / Apex Launcher Pro ($3.99)
Apex is one of those launchers that don't look particularly good right out of the box and required you to fine-tune and tweak this until you're satisfied with the way it looks. Some may see this as a serious flaw, but we feel like it's a feature.
However, one of the deal-breaking differences that tip the scales in Nova's favor is that it gets updated more frequently. In the meantime, Apex does not require you to purchase its 'pro' version to make use of some basic features, like icon scaling.
Google Now Launcher
Download Google Now Launcher (free)
The epitome of the vanilla Android experience, Google Now does not try to drown you with a hefty amount of options and features right out of the bat. In contrast, it feels just like 'home', providing a solid and mostly pleasing experience to the regular user who likes its clean aesthetics and having Google Now just a swipe away.
Until (and if) the newer Pixel Launcher makes an official arrival to all Android devices, Google Now is your best bet if you wish your device to appear more stock-ish.
Download ZenUI Launcher (free)
Name a feature and ZenUI will most likely have it -- from different layouts, to custom icon packs, to custom transitions, to unread accounts badges, to launcher themes, to icon/text scaling, this one seemingly has it all.
Don't want an app drawer? Fine, ZenUI allows you to have all your apps scattered across a few screens. Love that custom icon pack you've seen featured by us? No worries, just download it and apply it in ZenUI in a jiffy. Bored with the look of your homescreen? Well, might we suggest downloading a full theme for ZenUI and spicing things up?
Although it's not as snappy as some of the other entries in this pick, we'd definitely suggest ZenUI launcher if you're looking for a completely free and highly customizable alternative to your stock or favorite custom Android launcher.
Download Arrow Launcher (free)
Yes, apart from everything else, Microsoft is also maintaining a pretty impressive portfolio of Android apps as well, with its Arrow Launcher being one of the most popular and highly-rated on the Play Store. What sets it apart from everything else out there?
It's main appeal and selling point is undoubtedly the paginated screen setup, which stretches a tad further from what a regular launcher does. By default, your home screen with a bunch of apps appears right out of the bat, but swiping left or right will let you access custom screens which will be showing your favorite contacts, to-do lists, rich notification preview screen, and finally, your OneDrive documents. Oh, and the dock at the bottom sports a nifty slide-out quick settings menu, which lets you easily access some essential device functions, somewhat reminding us of iOS' Control Center.
Customizability-wise, Microsoft lets you change the icon pack, enable double-tap-to-lock, hide certain apps, and tweak several other not that notable features. The beautiful built-in wallpapers are also a nice touch. Definitely worth the time to download and set up!