Best, lightest, and most awesome Android launchers
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. What's more, most of the 3rd-party ones are usually a whole lot lighter and smoother, which is always welcome, isn't it?
Okay, but... how does one change the launcher of their device? It's pretty simple and straightforward. Installing it is easy, but setting it as the default launcher requires an additional tap or two. Android will automatically ask you which one of the installed launchers to be the default one when you press the home button of your device for the first time after the installation has been completed. Most launchers will also guide you through the process of setting them as default ones. In addition, if your device is running Android 4.4 KitKat or higher, you can also select the default launcher via the Settings menu – just head there and look for the Default Applications submenu.
While we are on the subject of home screen replacements, we decided to delve in Google Play and pick some of the best and most popular Android launchers. Check them out and don't forget to tell us which one is your favorite!
Note: The launchers below are sorted in no particular order.
Download: Nova Launcher (Android)
Nova Launcher screenshots
Download: Apex Launcher (Android)
Apex Launcher screenshots
Google Now Launcher
Download: Google Now Launcher (Android)
Google Now Launcher screenshots
GO Launcher EX
Download: GO Launcher EX (Android)
GO Launcher EX screenshots
Smart Launcher 2
Download: Smart Launcher 2 (Android)
Smart Launcher 2 screenshots
Yahoo Aviate Launcher
Download: Yahoo Aviate Launcher (Android)
Yahoo Aviate Launcher screenshots
Download: Apus Launcher (Android)
Apus Launcher screenshots
Download: Mi Launcher (Android)
Mi Launcher screenshots
Download: dodol Launcher (Android)
dodol Launcher screenshots
Download: Action Launcher (Android)
Download: Solo Launcher (Android)
Solo Launcher screenshots
Download: Buzz Launcher (Android)
Buzz Launcher screenshots
Download: EverythingMe Launcher (Android)
EverythingMe Launcher screenshots
Download: Atom Launcher (Android)
Atom Launcher screenshots
Download: Lightning Launcher (Android)
Lightning Launcher screenshots
6. tadaa (Posts: 250; Member since: 18 Apr 2013)
super light and customizable, though not for everyone. i use it with meeui icon pack to for an n9 experience
57. itsdeepak4u2000 (Posts: 2694; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)
PA, you should give ratings to this launchers out of 10.
33. a_tumiwa (Posts: 280; Member since: 16 Mar 2012)
yes Lightning Launcher is the lightest launcher, the original version even has size less than 100kb
2. tadaa (Posts: 250; Member since: 18 Apr 2013)
there are 2 launcher 8s in the play store. the one made by the OG launcher 7 dev works better and is more polished.
3. AfterShock (Posts: 2812; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)
Number 12 ought to rub some the wrong way lol.
And with a tap of the app drawer button, you have the look of the another OS.
Both make my skin crawl.
14. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3422; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
True that bro, themer has such beautiful homescreens, but no app drawer customisation at all. That really made me to ditch it. BTW TSF shell sucks, its such a mess and lags(January 2012) like hell. I bought it for $17(3D skeuomorphism was all rage those days) and boy what a mess. I regret that waste of money.
And what is GNFTW.
17. AfterShock (Posts: 2812; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)
Google Now, no matter how much I like a couple of these, I come back to GN after a bit.
25. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3422; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
I see. Whats so special about it? If its about Google Now hotword, then latest Nova update includes that, and works like a charm.
4. enthasuium (Posts: 90; Member since: 21 Nov 2013)
Beauty of Android. New feelings everyday. No boring UI like iOS for years and years
29. uRiBiTo666 (Posts: 28; Member since: 02 Jun 2013)
Very true. Android looks like YOU want it to look like, not like some company thinks it should
59. Smarter (Posts: 39; Member since: 18 Jul 2014)
I totally agree. iOS may be a little big boring but is not bad. Unlike WP, tiles are really very boring and nobody wants the bad user interface from Microsoft.
5. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 3422; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)
Nova launcher FTW! Go launcher is fugliest, buggy and stutters, I have tried to like it, but I simply keep coming back to Nova.
10. Tsoliades (Posts: 213; Member since: 22 Dec 2012)
It's basically the TouchWiz of custom launchers. I agree. Nova is the best.
18. babak7712 (Posts: 2; Member since: 27 Apr 2012)
I agree. Nova launcher is the best I have ever experienced.
30. uRiBiTo666 (Posts: 28; Member since: 02 Jun 2013)
Exactly the same for me. i try to like it, but there's somethink i dont like. NOVA is best
7. jayd3n (Posts: 26; Member since: 15 Apr 2014)
i think NOVA, KK and Solo are the best launchers for me and i like the customer support of KK launcher, they are so active and yes ive seen KK when its still a baby and i can tell they really did a good job developing it. The laggy KK back then is now super smooth.
50. user996 (Posts: 187; Member since: 25 Feb 2013)
not just launcher but keyboard and lockscreen are good too
9. Xperia_droid (Posts: 25; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)
launchers are good but we can't use default widgets with them which is painful. between nova is my fav.
11. ghanemsam (Posts: 64; Member since: 21 Nov 2012)
the best are :
1. GO Launcher ... the king of customizations
2.Nova Launcher .. the lightest one
12. LikeMyself (Posts: 290; Member since: 23 Sep 2013)
Great article! Never had time try all these interesting launchers!
Apex for me! Nova doesn't give gesture swipes for free! And Apex is lighter on RAM!
Next Launcher is wonderful! I've used a modded version with Lucky Patcher some time ago before its major updates! The effects when swiping are amazing! Too expensive though even when on sale it was about $8!
13. johnsons (Posts: 31; Member since: 16 Jun 2014)
The 1st one, reminds me the days I had an android phone....
15. alrightihatepickingusernames (Posts: 409; Member since: 29 Dec 2013)
I'm using Nova Prime on my Nexus 5 and 10, I'd like to use Next 3D but it's just flat out overpriced, I wouldn't pay more than $4.99 for it. How they justify a price of 16.99 is beyond me.
16. dmakun (Posts: 208; Member since: 06 Jun 2011)
What about "Aviate" ? Although you need an invite to start using it but if definitely put it amongst one of the best replacement launchers for Android.
47. notmadeofbeef (Posts: 2; Member since: 25 Jun 2014)
They just dropped the requirement for an invite for the latest version. Not sure if it's fully rolled out yet or not but I got it yesterday and it's a great update in my own opinion.
19. kkmkk (Posts: 92; Member since: 06 May 2013)
nova launcher is the best for reasons only who use it would know it
31. uRiBiTo666 (Posts: 28; Member since: 02 Jun 2013)
Dont like... UI colors are horrible and is bloated with Samsung's s**t
60. Industriality (Posts: 26; Member since: 08 Sep 2014)
No this sucks, in fact it's the worst UI among all smartphones.
21. foreverjin08 (Posts: 27; Member since: 10 Sep 2013)
I use inspire launcher, pretty good to use. Easier than any other launchers.
23. mike2959 (Posts: 249; Member since: 08 Oct 2011)
Keep in mind that your stock launcher is still running. You are actually adding to the amount of RAM being used. Running these launchers does not really disable your stock UI, touchwiz, sense.. All still running.
24. Tuxedo (Posts: 160; Member since: 19 Mar 2013)
Anyone know the name of the wallpaper shown on 2,4, and 5?
35. PeterK. (Posts: 100; Member since: 13 Nov 2013)
Hey there, Tuxedo! If you really dig the wallpaper, you can find it within this app:https://play.google.com/store/
apps/details?id=com.ryanmkellyIt's in the "Blur" section. .me.murum
26. LikeMyself (Posts: 290; Member since: 23 Sep 2013)
Jolla is putting a beta version of the launcher of Sailfish OS on Play Store next week! Preferable devices are Nexus and GPE!
27. gigaraga (Posts: 1232; Member since: 29 Mar 2013)
Who would even use Launcher 8? looks terrible. I like dodol launcher...works well ;)
28. promise7 (Posts: 471; Member since: 03 Jul 2013)
I find Go Launcher extremely bloated and ad heavy, but it does have like a trillion themes.
34. admeenp (Posts: 3; Member since: 20 Jun 2014)
WHAT'S THE ICON PACK OF ATOM LAUNCHER? THE LAST LAUNCHER #15.
36. PeterK. (Posts: 100; Member since: 13 Nov 2013)
Hi there, admeenp! That'd be Velur:https://play.google.com/store/
39. refillable (Posts: 641; Member since: 10 Mar 2014)
Nova still seems the best for me after trying many launchers :).
41. Elfmonster (Posts: 81; Member since: 23 Dec 2013)
I tried lots, settled on Nova's fastest settings.
But Buzz would be the best future because it's essentially a launcher umbrella offering tons of its own sub launchers, like an Android customization carousel within an Android customization carousel.
42. Tech_Junkie1996 (Posts: 42; Member since: 29 Aug 2013)
What about Aviate? Sure, it is invite only, I but think it's one of the best contextual launchers available.
43. Gzoref (Posts: 2; Member since: 09 Feb 2014)
I like to change things up once in awhile, but I always find myself going back to either Atom Launcher, Apex, or Solo. I love Solo's weather clock, and Atom is so clean, smooth and extremely light.
I've, and I love the idea of Buzz , but I just find that when you find a template that you like, it's so difficult to customize it without ruining the template itself, with the layout. I'd love a launcher with a choice of templates and drag and drop apps or widgets.
44. ePoch270 (Posts: 93; Member since: 26 Sep 2013)
I love Action Launcher Pro. I'm bummed he didn't mention covers and shutters. The ability to view a widget of any size temporarily with a simple swipe is unbelievable. I can have dozens of widgets on my home screen without actually wasting real estate.
46. na7noo7 (Posts: 264; Member since: 29 Mar 2014)
Best launcher for me is Samsung's terrain launcher with no bloatware.
Worst one is probably the Z launcher because it lacks customization.
48. notmadeofbeef (Posts: 2; Member since: 25 Jun 2014)
Personally, I don't understand the inclusion of Go Launcher in a "Best Launchers" list simply due to its bloatware. I also definitely thing Aviate should be included in this list despite its lack of customizability that it gets so much grief for.
53. Planterz (Posts: 898; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
So, a 3 month old article gets bumped because Android Authority does a similar one?
69. ViewFromTheTop (Posts: 12; Member since: 08 Sep 2014)
AA's article itself is an year old one that was bumped LOL!
I guess these guys should just write up completely new articles and give them Sept. 2014 or Jan. 2015 monikers so that you know which is the latest article. :-)
54. kaikuheadhunterz (Posts: 751; Member since: 18 Jul 2013)
The only reason why I don't use 3rd-party launchers is because of the lack of support for transparent status bar on MIUI v5
70. Planterz (Posts: 898; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
Nova does transparent status bar on AOSP. Does this not carry over to MIUI?
You could always root (if you haven't already) and use an Xposed module to make your status bar transparent.
55. boosook (Posts: 1039; Member since: 19 Nov 2012)
Google Now launcher is the best, and once you start saying "ok, google" you can't go back.