The 10 best new Android launchers that popped up in 2014

The 10 best new Android launchers that popped up in 2014
The year that just passed was a big one for Android launchers, with companies big and small braving to take on the established names like Nova, Apex or Go with their own take on how your phone or tablet's homescreen can look and perform. The trend of small, lightweight launchers with tiny footprint that won't be as much of a drain on your phone's resources as the big boys continued at breakneck pace, culminating in no-frills pieces that measure less than 1 MB, and get to the point for a fraction of a second.

Google itself issued a standalone launcher that anyone can peruse, and even a household name like Nokia chipped in with its Z undertaking. Meanwhile we got a number of context-oriented launchers that centred around theming, social networking or our own personalities. We've rounded up some of the best launchers that popped up last year so that you can make sure nothing's been missed or untried. Who knows, you might just like some of these newcomers and leave them as your go-to Android look and feel.

1. Google Now launcher



Google has been working on the Google Now Launcher (formerly known as the Google Experience Launcher) for a bit before its official launch last year, slowly expanding the availability of the app to more devices. It ultimately released the Google Now Launcher into the Play Store free for all, though. The best two features of the Google Now Launcher are, not surprisingly, ways to access Google Now/Google Search faster. If you have a supported device, and you were to install the Google Now Launcher, Google Now itself would permanently fit itself to the left of your default homescreen. And, if you want to get at Google Search, you just have to say "OK Google" when you're on your homescreen. The launcher can even import your homescreen setup from your current launcher if you want.



2. Nokia Z Launcher


The new hotness this year is all about contextual alternative launchers for Android. The list of options already includes Aviate, EverythingMe, Terrain, Firefox Launcher, and Cover; but, Nokia also wants to jump in on the fun with its Z Launcher, which is now available in the Google Play Store. Like any good contextual launcher, Nokia Z will keep track of what apps you use, and when you use them; then, it will automatically adjust the shortcuts it offers at different times a day, in order to offer you the most relevant apps at all times. Although, Nokia Z seems to only focus on the time of day, and doesn't go as far as others, like Cover and Aviate, which also use your location to serve up shortcuts when you're at work or driving. One interesting feature that Nokia Z brings is "scribble", which is basically like Google Gesture Search, and allows you to draw a letter on the screen, and it will show your apps and contacts that start with that letter.



3. APUS Launcher


Ever wondered how your phone will behave with an extremely light and extremely barebones launcher? Well, this day has arrive, as the new APUS launcher has "small" and "fast" right into the title in the Play Store. The developer mentions that APUS is just 1 MB, which is ten times less than popular launchers like NOVA, GO, or APEX. In addition, the claims are for two times faster turning of homescreens, precisely on account of the tiny footprint of the new launcher. Naturally, you can't expect the layers and layers of features and functionality that are available with most of the popular full-fledged interface replacements, either. APUS houses apps, folders, shortcuts and widgets on your homescreen, has an app drawer and basic settings and connectivity toggles in the notification bar, and that's that. The only perk you are given are smart folders for app categorization, and the ability to get curated app search and recommendations from the launcher itself. Long story short, if you want your launcher out of the way, and would like it to consume the least amount of resources, while keeping its basic functionality intact, give APUS a try.




4. EverythingMe Launcher


EverythingMe uses contextual awareness and tries to predict what app you may need at any given time. Yes, such homescreen replacement apps usually fail to deliver, but that's certainly not the case with EverythingMe – based from our experience with the app, it will successfully guesstimate the most suitable array of apps 9 times out of 10. How does it do its magic? Well, pretty simple – EverythingMe does not only take the time of day and your location into account. For example, it will show you news-related apps right after you get up in the morning, office-based ones throughout the day (while you're most likely working at the office), and even suggest you restaurants or similar venues if it finds out that you are having a walk in the evening. Being the contextual launcher it is, EverythingMe is touted as gradually becoming better and more accurate as you use it. Still, the launcher has a pretty limited set of customization options, but that's not the point of EverythingMe, after all. Thus, customization fans might see this as a potential deal-breaker, however, they may end up pleasantly surprised by the features that this contextual launchers has in tow. If you are into contextual-aware apps and launchers, such as the likes of Aviate or Cover, then you should totally go ahead and give EverythingMe a try.




5. Aviate


Another time and location-aware launcher, it sounds a lot like Google Now to us, and we’d indeed call Aviate the Google Now of launchers. Aviate features one dynamically changing main home panel called ‘Spaces’, a second one with ‘Collections’ of apps, a third one that is an alphabetical list of all your apps, and a last one with settings and nearby places. The first and the last one feel like the bread and butter of the launcher, as they are the ones you’d use the most. All in all, Aviate is about simplicity and getting rid of clutter. Minimalists will love it - it brings relevant information in a clean and modern interface.



6. Terrain Home


A custom Android launcher called Terrain Home that functions similarly to Google Now has arrived on the Google Play Store, but with even more cards to show you all the information you need at a quick glance. The launcher aims to make your Android user experience “simpler and more streamlined by putting everything you care about in one place,” and the app is made by a developer, sponsored by Samsung’s Accelerator start-up incubator. Terrain Home has three home panels: a central one that looks like regular Android, one on the left (swipe to the right to bring it up), with a Google Now-like card interface, and another one on the right, with an app drawer that you can easily search through. After playing with it for a while, we are definitely left with the impression of this being a mix of Google Now ideas and Aviate-like aesthetics. It is indeed a simple launcher that allows a bit more flexibility than Aviate, and it takes pride in having no battery impact. You can take a look at it below - it’s free to download.




7. UR Launcher


UR Launcher is an amazing new piece, just released a few days ago, and already amassing accolades. It features the oh-so-trendy minimalistic and lightweight take on the Android launcher paradigm. It's a no-frills launcher that helps you get to your apps faster, fitting everything you need in a handy pop-out bar. Just touch the tab and get access to your recent apps, phone settings, and customization options. No more endless searching in your app drawer. Apps are sorted by profiles, called UR moods, that group together your apps by activity. Apps you need most are shown right when you need them. Moods are changed according to activity, location and preference.

In addition, UR Launcher sport a Recommended Apps section, where you can preview curated apps for each mood, discovering up-and-coming apps before everybody else. Lightning-fast search filters results from the web, your apps and your contacts. Get results fast, sorted by what you use most. Last but not least, there are tons of HD wallpapers and beautiful icon packs to make your phone one-of-a-kind. You can even assign a different wallpaper to each mood, how about that.




8. Blur


From the guys that brought us the Talon Twitter client, and the excellent EvolveSMS messaging app, now comes a new attempt at the Android launcher concept, called Blur. As crazy as it sounds, this gratis launcher attempts to take on the ultrapopular Google Now one, and introduces the ability to use it with third-party apps. Any app that is tailored for the launcher, which, for now, are the developer's own Talon and EvloveSMS, can appear as a separate page on your homescreen, so you can just swipe around to get access to these tailored apps. This is different than the plethora of sidebar add-ons and launchers out there, and resembles the Google Now Launcher in a great way. Naturally, Blur also supports the goodies you can find with most popular interface replacements out there, like widgets, text, icons, homescreen and drawer grid resizing, landscape option, and so on. Hiding apps and unread counts are added as well. Even the "OK Google" buzzword is active on Blur, so if you want to give a nice sidelined alternative to the Google Now launcher a try, hit the source link below. Make sure you watch the clip first, since a video is worth a thousand pictures, as the old saying goes.




9. Flow Home (Beta)


Don't let your hopes up, Flow is still in beta, but that pesky invitation process is no more, as you can take the latest iteration for a spin from the link above, and have fun with the widget system that was just added, for instance. Flow's simple premise is organized around social media as an endless feed on your homescreen, as you can see in the video below. It currently lets you interact there with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Feedly, with Reddit on the way.



10. ZERO Launcher



ZERO got released back in October, and recently received such a major update that it feels like a brand new piece. ZERO prides itself on being just 1MB in size, and yet offering some fancy 3D effects, animations and transparencies. It is amazingly fast, too, with 0.2 seconds to launch, and offers free premium themes, as well as HD wallpapers and icons, with easy switching between them. As for fucntionality, besides the usual frills, you can speed up games and apps by cleaning up memory (RAM) and boosting performance with a single tap, or perform fast app search and quickly lock of the phone in a single touch.

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26 Comments

1. jmonteiro829

Posts: 261; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

I have tried almost all of these and still go back to Nova!

2. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

NOVA is the only option

10. sid07desai

Posts: 290; Member since: May 03, 2012

Go and Apex are also pretty decent

3. Neros

Posts: 1016; Member since: Dec 19, 2014

TW is my favourite launcher along with the stock samsung keyboard. Why change sth that works fone?

9. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I tried Solo (not mentioned) and I liked it at first. But then it gets very laggy after a while. I just tried the ZERO one for the first time. It looks cool in that photo, but not on my device. I have tried Nova and others, but I always go back to TW. Te icons in the other launchers just look so ugly. The GS4 and GS5 have the best looking TW launchers IMO. The Note 4's TW launcher is pretty much like the S5, but I really wish they would drop the weird colors.

13. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Same. Bought a few launchers from the Play Store use a few weeks get bored go back to TW. The only other launcher I like is MIUI. That I can live with but I have a habit of keep changing their theme every few weeks.

4. robertlwalters

Posts: 6; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

Ummmm Hello ... Action Launcher 3.

17. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

ikr !

5. iphonexus

Posts: 130; Member since: Jan 04, 2015

my phone looks elegant and works smoothly ... without any of these launchers however ... i am going to try z launcher ...

6. shahrooz

Posts: 792; Member since: Sep 17, 2013

GNL + XGELS setting + gravity box, the awesomeness of this combo made me not to ugrade to android 5

7. toby91

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

Yeah right, terrain commercial!!! The guy is the one who is using his phone just trying to get dressed and out of the house while the girl is at work and listening to music while she does it? NOT been my experience with women

8. defcon888

Posts: 39; Member since: Nov 03, 2014

I am a Nova launcher. I like that I can back up my homescreen so when I have to do a factory reset or if I rearrange my screen and don't like it, I can always reload a previous one...and you can back it up to Good Docs or Dropbox as well. I am thinking of trying a couple of these just to see. One they didn't mention is "Buzz Launcher" that is pretty cool. Huge community of people creating custom themes.

11. Cyberchum

Posts: 1068; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

If not Nova then apex, if not either, then stock.

12. GeekMovement unregistered

Another Nova user here. I might check some of these out, but I'm not as obsessed as I was before about trying different custom launchers. Thanks for the list!

14. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Where are all the articles on the best launchers and icon packs for iOS?

23. AndroidShiz

Posts: 154; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

Don't worry- that's coming. As the years go by and iOS runs out of ideas and keeps hitting walls, they'll definitely be implementing more and more Android like features. Pretty much guaranteed that they will not be bringing anything really all that new that Android isn't already doing for years to come.

15. effimote

Posts: 20; Member since: Jan 06, 2015

some models i haven't heard before ,but as per their price and specs, they are costly .and apart from this list ,i guess one another cellphone should be listed, xiaomi 4

16. gaara6775

Posts: 738; Member since: May 20, 2014

Zero launcher is fastest among these.

18. KingOfAndroid

Posts: 34; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

Buzz Launcher is the one i use and i can customize it the way i want

19. thegolubgeneration

Posts: 4; Member since: Nov 27, 2014

Next is by far the most advanced launcher, there is no comparison. All of you NOVA, and Go users are obviously happy with limited use of your device. Next is 3d, fast, complex, has the most screens. It's the best launcher for accessing as many apps and wigets as you want without having to go through your entire list of apps and widgets. Perhaps some earlier editions were weak. I have unlocked the full power of my phone, and the launcher that managed everything flawlessly, rapidly, without crashing was and is Next. And in terms of pure aesthetics, again nothing compares. So enjoy limiting your phones with launchers that are barely different from stock. Next is the only unique launcher out there.

22. AndroidShiz

Posts: 154; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

I tried next. For the price compared to Nova it's not that great. For me, its just got too much goin on, definitely very overdone. But that's just my opinion. I believe the reasons Nova just works for millions of people is 1, it just works. 2, it doesn't get in the way. 3, it's simple with the perfect amount of options for casual users and power users alike, and 4, see reason number 1.

20. iLovesarcasm

Posts: 589; Member since: Oct 20, 2014

Nova is the best.

21. AndroidShiz

Posts: 154; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

Only thing I wish Nova had was that Google now launcher option in settings to have it launched by swiping over to the left. Everytime I try a different launcher, even Apex, I always end up with Nova. Nova just has the perfect amount of in the only launcher that doesn't leave me wanting.

26. durrav

Posts: 25; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

When I used Nova I used swipe up for Google Now.

24. clarkjeferson

Posts: 67; Member since: Dec 22, 2013

Lightning Launcher and Colour OS are the best homescreens.

25. durrav

Posts: 25; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

I have used Nova since ICS was released. I have tried Aviate and Action Launcher 2 but went back to Nova. But when Action Launcher 3 was released I tried that and has stayed since. I miss some of the gesture actions from Nova (swipe up on app to launch whatever I want) but I also love swiping on apps to open its widget in AL3. Now I have much cleaner homescreens. I only have two homescreens and only two visable widgets (Dashclock and weather). The rest of the widgets are accessed with a swipe on its app icon. Lovely! But the biggest thing that kept me on AL3 is the option to theme your google search field and folders/drawer.

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