One of the best aspects of the Android mobile platform is its flexibility. Don't like the way the default works? Change it. Don't like your handset's take on the Android platform user interface (UI)? Change it.
The latter lifts Android to levels other mobile platforms don't reach. With the iPhone, you are stuck with Apple's interpretation with the user interface. But with Android, there are numerous options if you want to change the stock UI. Here's my take on three of those options: Open Home, 91 PandaHome 2, and ADWLauncher. Find out which Android interface I think is the best of the three.
Open Home is one of the more feature-rich Android user interfaces available. With this UI, you get the following:
- Hundreds of free skins
- Hundreds of icon packs
- SenseUI like preview (pinch screen)
- Widget resizing
- Custom shortcut icon
- Theme music
- Quick Actions
- Fonts and color customization
- Hide apps from home screen
- Full screen mode
- Live wallpaper support
- Font and font size changes to all widgets
- Instant folder similar to iPhone
You can add launchers to the Home screen and then tap and drag them to the drawer.Pros
- Amazing number of features
- Tons of themes
- Very clean interface
- Works with most Android phones
91 PandaHome 291 PandaHome 2 might seem like the closest to the stock Android UI — with some additional aesthetics and functionality. As for aesthetics, the drawers are vertical instead of horizontal, and you can change the color and transparency of the drawers (Figure B). And, 91 PandaHome 2 offers two default drawers.
91 PandaHome 2 has nifty features that sets it apart. The features include:
- Shake to switch: Configure a drawer to open with a simple shake of the phone.
- Quick Settings: Toggle features on/off.
- Click effect: Set an effect that will display when you tap the screen.
- Quick search, alphabetized listings for apps in app drawer.
You see one drawer open with two launchers applied. You have a second drawer on the opposite side of the screen at your disposal.Pros
- Unique options that are not in other launchers
- Lighter footprint than Open Home
- Not as configurable as Open Home
- Poor documentation
ADWLauncherADWLauncher offers the smallest footprint of the home screen replacements; it is also fully open source. ADWLauncher (Figure C) offers these features:
- Customizable application drawer
- Customizable drag and drop actions
- Plenty of themes
- Ability to add unlimited launchers to dockbar
- Removable dockbar for minimalist home screen
- Customizable "swipe" actions such as for opening app drawer
This is the default ADW Launcher home screen. With a little configuring, you can get to a very minimalist interface.
My favorite thing about this replacement is the ability to remove all elements from the home screen to offer a minimalist experience that is also fully featured. I can set up my home screen with nothing more than a background and then open the app drawer with an upward swipe, open the status bar with a downward swipe, and then slide the screen to the right or left and access any launchers I want to leave on the screen.
With the swipe actions, you can configure the following actions:
- Show previews
- Open/close app drawer
- Show/hide status bar
- Open/close notifications
- Move to default desktop/open notifications
- Open/close dockbar
- Open specific application
- Very light footprint
- Highly configurable
Of these home screen replacements, ADW Launcher is hand-down my favorite. The primary reason ADWLauncher gets a gold medal is because of the ratio of configuration options to performance. ADWLauncher offers the best performance on just about every Android phone. I have installed this launcher on an HTC Hero, a Samsung Captivate, and an HTC EVO, and every phone ran incredibly smoothly with ADWLauncher.
However, if you are looking for a replacement that has loads of features with seemingly endless options, you should go with the Open Home paid version. With that replacement, you will be tinkering with Open Home for days and days.
If you're launcher happy, you might prefer 91 PandaHome 2 because the sliding drawers make it a very flexible interface with various locations for launchers.
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.