Mobility

5 easy-to-use Android home screen launchers

If you're looking for a home screen launcher that will satisfy your need for an efficient, simple, and powerful way to interact with your Android device, Jack Wallen offers up his top five.

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Image: Jack Wallen

For many, the Android home screen is simply a place to interact with their phone: Place launchers, interact with Google Assistant (or Now, depending upon your release), and not much more. For others, however, the home screen launcher is a way of life—or, at least, a way to make mobility an efficient day-to-day experience.

A quick glance at the Google Play Store and you'll find a bevy of different launchers available. Of that list, which one is right for you? And how do you know which one is right for you? I've used many of the launchers, found on the Google Play Store, which I consider to be of relevance to business-class users. Of those launchers, I've narrowed my choice down to what I consider to be the five best in class.

What makes a home screen launcher best in class? I used three categories for this comparison:

  • Efficiency
  • Ease of use
  • Performance

With those in mind, let's take a look at the five home screen launchers I believe are best suited to handle your busy day.

1. Google Now Launcher

Of all the launchers I've used, it seems I always return to the default Google Now Launcher. With this particular home screen launcher, you get the best return on each of my three categories. One of the reasons why I constantly find myself drawn back to the Google Now Launcher is that, above all other launchers, it does not get in the way of daily usage; it works with an incredible level of performance, to make interacting with your apps and device as simple as possible. The Google Now Launcher interface is exceptionally clean (Figure A) and offers very little in the way of learning curve.

Figure A

Figure A

The Google Now Launcher on a OnePlus 3.

For anyone looking to get the most out of their launcher, while putting in the least amount of work, Google Now Launcher is for you.

2. Search Launcher

The thing about Search Launcher is that you have to understand what it is attempting to accomplish. Instead of the standard launchers and app drawer, the interface serves as a sort of universal search tool, where you can search the web, your apps, and your contacts. Once you get beyond the idea that a home screen launchers should consist of icons that launch apps and a drawer to give you access to your full complement of software, you'll see just how efficient Search Launcher is. The Search Launcher home screen (Figure B), may seem a bit confusing at first, but once you realize it serves as a means to search the things you use most, it becomes clear just how efficient and easy to use this launcher is.

Figure B

Figure B

The Search Launcher home screen is a powerhouse for locating the things you need.

3. Evie Launcher

If you like the Google Now Launcher, but wish it offered a few more bells and whistles, then Evie Launcher is exactly what you want. Imagine the Google Now Launcher with the ability to swipe down to get a listing of your recent app launch results (Figure C) or to gain more control over gestures, hide apps, and so much more. That is what Evie Launcher offers.

Figure C

Figure C

Evie Launcher is as clean as Google Now Launcher, with a bit more power.

Evie Launcher is what Google Now Launcher would be if the developers included just enough extra configuration options to make it customizable enough, without getting bogged down in a widespread feature set. Evie Launcher is every bit as efficient and user-friendly as Google Now Launcher, with a bit more panache.

4. Nova Launcher

Ask any Android power user and they will, at some point, have made Nova Launcher their default home screen launcher. Why? Because it offers one of the best ratios of power and efficiency you will ever find in a launcher. Nova Launcher includes a vast amount of configurations, while at the same time keeping things simple (Figure D). If you're concerned all of those options will cause the launcher to take a hit in the performance category, do not concern yourself. Nova Launcher is one of the smoothest launchers on the market.

Figure D

Figure D

Nova Launcher looks clean and simple, while offering serious power.

One of the best features of Nova Launchers is found in the Prime edition; that feature is gestures. You can configure a number of gestures to do things like open specific apps, expand notifications, open recent apps, search for apps, open Google Assistant, lock your screen, toggle Dock, and so much more. Finally, Nova allows for Google Now integration, so you can say "OK Google" from your homescreen, without having to touch your device.

5. Apex Launcher

If there's one feature the Google Now Launcher could use, it would be a scrollable dock. Guess what? Apex Launcher gives you that (and more). Although the default home screen for Apex Launcher (Figure E) doesn't veer too far away from the Google Now standard, there's quite a bit under the hood.

Figure E

Figure E

Apex Launcher looks familiar, but there's more than meets the eye.

A number of the Apex Launcher's options are by way of effects and transitions, but you do gain the addition of app hiding, "OK Google" integration, scrolling dock, considerable App Drawer configurations, and much more. Don't worry if you're not one to put too much time into customizing your home screen, the Apex Launcher default is quite an efficient means of interacting with your device.

The choice is yours

Whether you're looking for the simplicity of the Google Now launcher or the available complexity of Nova Launcher (or anything in between), there are homescreen launchers to be had that will satisfy any need. However, if you're looking for the best combination of efficiency, ease of use, and performance, you cannot go wrong with any of the above apps.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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