Ah, the joy of Android home screen replacements. Launchers. Custom icon packs. Custom themes. Countless settings to fiddle with and fine-tune. Endless possibilities for customization.
Custom launchers are among the crown jewels of Android, tools that cover one of the most basic, yet important, rights of every Android user – the ability to decorate and tinker with their phone however they see fit. In the early days, people were easily impressed by the myriads of visual bells and whistles that GO launcher, SPB shell 3D and the likes had to offer, but as time went by, developers began embracing the more restrained and minimalist aesthetic of stock Android, not downplaying visuals, but streamlining them. It became an arms race to bring as many of the newest features of stock Android to as many people as possible, all the while implementing stand-out functionality that would set the product apart from the fierce competition. The days when people wanted a Pink Floyd light show with every transition between home screens were gone for good, and thus Nova Launcher and Action Launcher came into the limelight and are still there today, going strong. But what is the best launcher for Android in 2017?
But for how good Nova and Action Launcher are, and they are really good, they cater to a certain audience. An audience that doesn't mind adjusting desktop and dock grids, width and height margins, and is ready to download companion apps, test beta versions, and get into the nitty-gritty of Android customization. But what about the people who just want something straightforward, yet functional, a custom icon pack at the most, maybe? Well, they can still use Nova and Action, maybe stick to their base free versions, but there are alternatives that were built with this type of user in mind. That's why we set out to make a list of our current favorite Android launchers, covering the spectrum from "extremely involved" all the way to "wickedly simple."
But enough about that! Let's jump right into the list of best launchers for Android in 2017!
App and folder locking with fingerprint or password
It's own always-on display
Proximity sensor gestures
Custom search engine support in search bar widget
Flick Launcher is the new kid on the block (the app is still not officially released, but it's publicly available) and it strives to bring a lot of Android Oreo/Nougat features to older versions of the OS, much like the other popular launchers, but Flick Launcher also boasts its own set of unique features, such as app and folder locking with fingerprints, custom long-press home button actions, custom keywords for initiating voice search, and more. Many of the bells and whistles, like as the launcher's proprietary always-on display, are still in the early stages of development, and as such don't offer a lot in terms of customization just yet, but we appreciate it that the team behind the app has decided to make the accessible to users nonetheless. Just like its competitors, Flick offers Oreo-style notification dots, app shortcuts, pull-up app drawer, and Google Now integration from the home screen, but there's a lot more a-brewin' under the hood of this launcher.
Who is Flick Launcher for? Flick is for people who are looking for a stock-Android-like launcher with ample customization options that also has some really unique features to offer.
Heavy emphasis on home screen presets for your news feeds, calendar, reminders, contacts, and more
iOS-style "control center" shortcuts bar that's accessible by swiping up from the dock
Deep integration with Microsoft services
Microsoft's Arrow Launcher has had its fare share of problems over the past two years, and although I've tried to get into it a number of times, it simply could not hold my attention for too long. It had potential, that much was obvious, but it was too rough around the ages, too antiquated from a design standpoint and I just... couldn't get into it. All this changed recently, however, as Arrow Launcher received a major overhaul and was officially renamed to Microsoft Launcher. Apparently Microsoft had to make it good enough before slapping its name on it. Just kidding, sheesh! But anyway, this launcher is not focused on emulating stock Android at all. It instead offers stuff like customizable home screen pages that can display news feeds, recent photos and apps, frequently used apps and contacts, and a lot more. It is similar to the Google Now feed but it's not bound to just one page to the left of your main home screen, and you can shuffle things around a lot. Speaking of the home screen, Microsoft Launcher has its own search bar (it uses Bing, of course) that let's you scan QR codes with a single tap. Pretty neat! There's also the iOS-style customizable quick toggles that can be accessed by pulling the dock up, as well as your most frequently used apps displayed on the second row of the dock.
Who is Microsoft Launcher for? This one is for people who don't really care about stock Android and want unique features that AOSP does not offer. If you're already in the Microsoft ecosystem and are using OneDrive, Outlook, or other Microsoft services, then Microsoft Launcher is the perfect home screen replacement for you. Is this the best launcher for Android in 2017? Depending on your preferences, it might very well be.
Great beta program for testing new features early on
What can I say about Nova Launcher that hasn't been said before? It's one of the best of its kind. It is constantly being updated, there's an active community behind it, it has copious amounts of customization options, and the developers are adding the newest features from stock Android soon after they get unveiled. This year, Nova received true Google Now integration on the home screen, and recently got Sesame Shortcuts integration, which is an immensely useful feature, in my humble opinion. If you all the newest features from Oreo and Nougat—app shortcuts, notification dots, notifications badges and whatnots, adaptive icons, swipe up app drawer, and much, much more—then Nova is one of the best Android launchers you can get.
Who is Nova Launcher for? Nova Launcher Prime is worth every penny, but the free version is a good starting point to get into Android customization. This launcher is for those who want to get into the nitty-gritty of it and adjust every aspect of their home screens, making it one of the best launchers for Android in 2017 and beyond.
Extremely fast adoption of new stock Android features
Many stand-out features
Frequent updates and active community
Great beta program for getting an early taste of the newest features
Pretty much everything good you can say about Nova Launcher, you can say about Action Launcher as well (and vice versa). It's one of the biggest Android home screen out there, and for good reasons. It's fast, extremely well-optimized, and it also boasts a number of features that set it apart from its biggest competitor, including Shutters, which basically let you swipe up from an icon to reveal a widget of your choice without ever needing to place it on your home screen, and Quickbar, which is a customizable Google search bar with shortcuts and apps. Action Launcher has also been getting some of the latest stock Android features quicker than Nova. Such examples are Oreo-style adaptive icons—although the feature is available through a paid companion app—and the new Pixel 2-style dock-based search bar that Nova is yet to implement.
Who is Action Launcher for? Just like Nova, the paid version of Action Launcher is worthy every cent and offers virtually limitless possibilities for home screen customization. It is aimed at customization freaks, simply put.
Apex Launcher was once neck and neck with Nova and Action, but has played second fiddle to them for some time. We don't know what happened exactly, and when, but Apex has been on the backburner for a while. This is set to change this year, however, with the developers allegedly working on a major overhaul for the still-popular launcher. How this pans out remains to be seen. Apex is currently something of a middle ground between Nova and Action, in that it doesn't have as many unique bells and whistles, but offers many sought-after stock Android features and is very well-optimized.
Who is Apex Launcher for? Apex is for people who like the look and functionality of stock Android but don't need the copious amounts of features on offer by Nova and Action Launcher.
Evie Launcher is a free, search-oriented Android home screen replacement that's really easy to get into and intuitive to use. At first glance, Evie looks like all other Android launchers, but it has a different approach than most, in that it places an iOS-style global search function at the very forefront of the experience. You can perform searches right from your home screen by either using the search bar widget or by swiping down. It's a very effective method of finding apps or contacts quickly. Other than that, Evie also offers some sought-after features from the latest iterations of Android, including a swipe-up app drawer and notification badges.
Who is Evie Launcher for? This home screen replacement is for those who want a free, functional, and simple launcher that gets things done quick.
ASAP Launcher, as the name implies, is all about getting stuff done quick. The home screen UI is based around cards, each of which takes an entire page of your home screen and can be customized to display things like calendar events, contacts, to-do lists, and others. You can also quickly access an apps list with a search bar by swiping from the left bezel (Action Launcher-style), and there's also a quick toggles bar accessible by swiping from the right bezel. ASAP Launcher boasts an expandable dock that houses three rows of apps when pulled up.
Who is ASAP Launcher for? This launcher is for people who want to navigate their phones as quickly as possible.
FastKey Launcher is simple. It's painfully simple. What it does is basically it slaps a keyboard on your home screen. That's right, an ever-persistent keyboard that lets you fire up apps or call contacts with one or two taps. FastKey doesn't mess around with tabbed app drawers, folders, or shortcuts. Instead, it takes a search-based approach that's all about accessing different things fast. All you need to do is tap a key and all the corresponding contacts and apps beginning with the letter will immediately appear right above the keyboard. Speed-wise, it absolutely beats scrolling through your contacts list or app drawer. FastKey's dexterity really shines if you have a lot of apps installed on your device, and it offers one of the quickest launch setups we've ever seen in an app of this type.
Who is FastKey Launcher for? It's for people who want to have easy and quick access to every app and contact on their phone (and don't mind a virtual keyboard right on their home screen).
ADW Launcher used to be big back in the day, but then the developers dropped support, so now we have ADW Launcher 2. It's not exactly my cup of tea, personally, but it has a lot of features on offer, like an adaptive UI that can dynamically change color depending on your wallpaper, as well an extension pack that basically lets you make your own widgets (although it's nowhere near as involved as Zooper, for example).
Who is ADW Launcher 2 for? This home screen replacement is for a certain breed of customization aficionados.
And there you have it, folks, these are the best Android launchers, in our opinion, that you can get right now. But that's not all! Since home screen replacements are so popular on Google Play, there's really a lot of them out there. Like, a lot. That's why we're also including an "honorable mentions" section in our list. In the gallery below you'll find all the launchers that didn't cut the list but are still worth a look. Also, don't forget to find a suitable icon pack and a wallpaper for your next home screen masterpiece!
Best Android launchers of 2017 (Honorable Mentions)