Smartphones

Android interface showdown: Open Home vs. 91 PandaHome vs. ADWLauncher

If you want to replace the stock UI on your Android phone, Open Home, 91 PandaHome 2, and ADWLauncher are worthy of your consideration. Jack Wallen lists the pros and cons of each Android interface.

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

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
This UI has the app drawer and a slide out drawer where you can house application launchers (Figure A). Figure A

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
Con It doesn't work well on less powerful Android phones. For instance, if you install Open Home on an HTC Hero, your phone will slow to a crawl. Price: There is a free version and a full version ($3.99). Also read my TechRepublic blog post: Consider changing your Android UI to Open Home.

91 PandaHome 2

91 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.
Figure B

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
Cons
  • Not as configurable as Open Home
  • Poor documentation
Price: Free

ADWLauncher

ADWLauncher 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
Figure C

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
Pros
  • Very light footprint
  • Highly configurable
Con If you misconfigure the dockbar, it can be a chore to get it back to the setup you want. Price: Free Also read my TechRepublic blog post: Configure your Android UI via ADWLauncher.

Conclusion

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.

About

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 getjackd.net.

5 comments
cbw5005
cbw5005

Very surprised GO Launcher and Launcher Pro were left out of this comparison. By far, two of the most capable, customizable, and down right cool Launchers available on the Market today. Both Free of charge and feature rich. I use GOLauncher and GO SMS they make for a some of the best User interface I've experienced on my Samsung Vibrant (rooted Nero V3) Neither requires you to be rooted, but they preform well, allow for countless skins and customizations as well as a hand full of other features.

robert-higareda
robert-higareda

You've forgotten the other real home replacement offerings. OpenHome & PandaHome are a joke of a home replacement among real Android users. You left out launchers like the even better ADW Launcher EX, GoLauncher EX and LauncherPro to start with. They offer a way quicker and better interface than OpenHome or PanadHome.

kschlotthauer
kschlotthauer

I use dxTop and I like it alot. It gives you 5 screens and the themes you can download are nice....they cost ususlly, but they are nice. I also like dxTop because you can take screenshots of your screens and it saves them as JPG's. This is a handy feature if you want to reformat or factory reset your phone and want to know what you had on your screens. I don't know if the other ones do this, but I know dxTop does.

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

As I understand the top 3 are: LauncerPro ADW launcher (free/Pro) GoLauncher Love to see you reveiw of those 3. I use ADW and am almost ready to go to the Pro version. Would like to see an objective reveiw of it vs. Launcherpro and Go. Thanks

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