Nokia has turned its attention to other projects after their smartphone division was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, one of which is a new and intuitive Android launcher – the Nokia Z Launcher.
Z launcher is a complete home screen and app drawer replacement with a unique way to quickly access apps and contacts. Z Launcher is currently in pre-beta, but it seems to work quite well, despite the limited features. As is the rage these days, Z Launcher is a predictive app that sees what you’re using and then pushes it to the front. Z Launcher has a single panel with a clock and upcoming appointment at the top of the screen and a list of contacts and apps below, that changes based on your usage throughout the day. You can draw letters anywhere on the screen to filter your apps and contacts. At the bottom of your screen is a dock with a link to the app drawer and some app icons.
All you custom ROM users, alas, Z launcher is not supported on rooted phones and very kindly tells you so!
You’ll have to actually navigate to the download page on your device to get the APK. If you have an unrooted Nexus 5, Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3, Moto X, HTC One or Sony Xperia Z1, you can give Z Launcher a go!
Android’s greatest defining feature and strength is the ability to customize. What, you ask? Well, almost everything. Being Open Source, almost every part of the OS can be customized by developers and their apps. Back in 2010, I did a post on Android launchers & home replacement apps when the functionality of Android’s stock home screen and launcher was highly lacking. Fast forward 2 years later and little has improved. It’s the same old launcher with a few additional UI/UX changes like on-screen buttons.There’s no surprise, then, that replacement android launchers exist for almost every part of Android’s stock functionality. In turn, to complete the circle of life, newer versions of Android incorporate the functionality of replacement apps. It’s the ecosystem of replacement apps, in fact, that helps drive Android’s amazingly(or disgustingly) fast iteration.
Since there are quite a few replacements, we’ll be splitting this post into 2 parts. Let us now dive head first into the world of Android Launchers & Home replacement apps and I strongly suggest you have your android smartphone ready with you to install and try out these launchers as we review them.
I’ll begin once again with my personal favourite Launcher Pro by Federico Carnales. With over 25K downloads, this is probably one of the most widely downloaded and used android launchers! I’ll stand by my 2 year old assessment that this app is very slick and smooth with absolutely no lags or delays. Apart from the previously listed features there have been quite the improvements.
Home screen looping with your choice of transition effects and support for upto 7 screens with the option of setting your choice of home screen.
Up to 3 docks(that’s a total of 15 apps being available on three separate screens) available at the bottom of the home screen with loop scrolling if you so choose.The dock supports missed call, unread SMS and unread Gmail notifications.
You can set the app to auto-rotate or not and bind your home key to a specific function or action.
The app drawer gives you the ability to hide apps you don’t need to see and has an experimental but beautiful 3D drawer!
A few updates back, support for icon packs was enabled by Federico.
There are some advanced settings related to memory and scrolling, but these features are best left to the geeky developer folks!
There is a paid version of Launcher Pro called Launcher Pro Plus that has beautiful widgets that make the app worth the money. The app has a very nice transparent look and excellent functionality. The plus version has a Gmail, Facebook and twitter widget on-screen allowing for easy access.
Kudos to the GO Dev Team, developers of the GO Launcher EX app among many others. GO Launcher EX is the team’s launcher, and can be downloaded and installed from Google Play for free! The launcher is also the core app for many of the GO Dev Team’s other software offerings, which come in the form of GO Launcher-specific widgets and plug-ins. For example, GO Locker adds a custom lock screen system to your phone while GO Notification adds an iOS-like badge notification to the icons of supported apps.
GO Launcher EX has tons of themes and awesome widgets to play around. GO Widgets are widgets that work only in GO Launcher, and they’re generally speaking more capable than standalone widgets, either technically or just qualitatively. It combines simplicity with flamboyance rather well. Information access is one use of widgets, not having to launch apps to do something is another. The only problem with this app is with all widgets running, this can be quite a drain, both battery and memory wise.
Widgets are nice, but the true beauty of GO Launcher EX is all the settings you can tweak. Listing everything that GO Launcher EX lets you tweak would take forever, but you can basically tweak anything you can imagine. From the number of icons to how the dock looks, icon labels, gesture control, screen transition effects, icon sizes, and so on. The app drawer can also be customized, including adding folders to it to organize it as much as the home screen. The GO Store widget lets you easily browse through available themes and widgets made exclusively for GO Launcher EX.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, this has almost as many if not more downloads than Launcher Pro. This is definitely an app for those who seek beauty and deep functionality!
When I first got my hands on the MXHome Launcher, i was all like wow, this quite possibly has the potential to redefine conventional Android home screens with it’s nifty 3D graphics and the best app drawers I’ve seen to date. Developed by NeoMTel, this new launcher has an original layout, a slick interface, more than a few unique features and more than enough potential to give some of the highest rated launchers a run for their money. MXHome is meant for devices operating Android 2.1 or above and is supported for screens with WVGA and FWVGA resolutions.
When you first begin using this launcher, you get this screen with a clock and a few options all of which can be user defined. The clock here reacts to the inbuilt G-Sensor as it gracefully ticks away the time and you can access your dialer, texts, and even toggle certain most used settings right from this screen. The little MX button on the dock at the bottom of this screen, brings down this screen and opens up a regular home-screen view.
The launcher’s app drawer is one of its highlights. It sports two types of views; the List view and the Icon view. Simply tap the button on the bottom-right corner to toggle the views. you can sort you applications by category, alphabetically and date wise. If you tap the headers of the various categories, that category will fold up to allow you a neat and minimalistic look at your app drawer by ridding it of the items which you don’t wish to see.
When we first used Regina 3D Launcher it was like visusal gastronomy! This launcher shows unbelievable potential with its opulent 3D interface and an assortment of new, handy features that takes home screen customization to a new level. Available for free on Google play, Regina 3D Launcher, along with all its component apps, is absolutely free.
Though it goes unnoticed at first glance, the overall render quality in Regina Launcher has been kept low, probably on purpose, for better performance. A closer look at the text and icons reveals jagged edges and dithered gradients.
Despite this, the interface looks quite amazing and is, in itself, quite a lot of fun to play with. Swipe across the screen to switch between multiple home-screens and the slower you swipe, the more “3D” the inter-screen transitions become. Swiping across the screen slow enough, and the launcher will rearrange all your home-screens in a 3D home screen browser.
Each home-screen or “workspace” can have a different wallpaper and a title. Swipe the work space to edit its properties and hold down anywhere on the screen to bring up the Add/Edit menu. You’ll find the mentioned options in the Edit tab.
The launcher comes loaded with support for five Regina widgets, some of which need to be installed separately from the Market. Hold down anywhere on the screen to add widgets, shortcuts or folders. You can directly navigate to Settings > Regina Settings > Version x.x.xx (Check For Update) for all available Regina widgets and updates.
A feature that we found particularly interesting was the Secret Workspace, a tap-sequence password for which can be set from the launcher’s settings menu. Secret Workspace is basically a second, hidden layer of multiple home screens that can be employed to house shortcuts or widgets for, ummm, personal stuff! The password is a sequence of taps, each at one of the four corners of the screen.
A very promising Launcher with more goodness to come with new updates. Keep an eye on this one folks!
Stay tuned for Part II of the review on Android Launchers and Home Replacement apps!
If you’re a frequent user of an Android phone, you’d have tried out Home Screen Launchers available on the market. Some of these are much better than the Stock Android UI, or the one bundled on the phone. None of these are as awesome as the upcoming TSF Shell Pro which is currently being developed by a team of developers who go by the name C3D.
This shell looks so advanced that it makes other Android Launchers look outdated! This new laucher features 3D widgets, Quick screen switchers, lasso selections, multiple selections for moving icons around, and tons more to make management of your apps on the phone so easy. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Here’s a demo video of the TSF shell to knock your socks off.
This launcher is currently in development and should be out in a few months. I for one am impatiently waiting for this to hit the market to snap it up. You can get more information about this from the TSF site.
Towards the end of July ’10, Federico Carnales the author of the most popular Home replacement /Launcher app ever – LauncherPro , announced a new version called LauncherPro Plus which would contain several widgets exclusive to LauncherPro Plus users only !
The list of widgets include:
People Widget – To quickly access all your contacts, or just your favorites, or a particular group.
Bookmarks Widget – Quick access to your browser’s bookmarks
Calendar/Agenda Widget – Shows you a calendar you can scroll through to switch months, and also lets you see your agenda for any particular day right within the widget.
Messaging – Scroll through a list of your SMS messages or one by one. Quick links to delete messages, reply, etc.
Twitter Widget – Three different views: Timeline, Mentions, and Direct Messages. There’s also a “Compose” button to write a new tweet.
Facebook Widget – Similar to the Twitter widget. There’s two views: news feed and wall. You can switch between the two views with the buttons at the top, or use the “Compose” button to create a new post.
Upcoming Friends Widget – Lists your friend’s status updates from Facebook and Twitter, and lets you update your own status too.
How to get LauncherPro Plus??
The early-bird price for LauncherPro Plus was and still is(as of today) only $2.99 , and you can buy it today through Paypal using this link. The price will most likely go up once all widgets are included, so you’ll want to get in now to enjoy the discount.
-Once the transaction is complete, you will get a mail directly from Federico with a confirmation and an unlock key. -Select Preferences from the LauncherPro options and scroll down to the Upgrade/unlock option. -Enter your PayPal email address and the unlock key and restart the app. We now have LauncherPro Plus !!!
-To use the widgets, long press on any screen and select the option LauncherPro Widgets !
From 1.6 to 2.0 to 2.1 to 2.2 to 2.3 … What a ride its been Cupcake to FroYo to Gingerbread and more to come … While each update significantly changes and improves upon almost all aspects of the OS, the one area which is neglected is the Launcher or the Home screen. My first experience with Android was on my Spica running 1.6 and the home screen was at best marginally ok. This got me searching, and pretty soon i ran across some of these Launchers like LauncherPro, ADW etc. These standalone Home Replacement/Launchers were a Godsend! Some of the features they had the the stock lacked include, Sense UI-like scrolling, Screen Rotation, Screen Previews, more no of screens (most stock android phones had only 3) etc etc. Here are some of my Favourite Launchers/Home Replacement Apps in no particular order.
– LauncherPro [Market Link] is personally my favourite from among the various launchers. The first thing I noticed was the speed – this launcher is blazing fast and smooth. Everything from sliding through the screens to pulling up the app drawer is much faster than stock. LauncherPro lets you have three, five or seven home screens, and also lets you choose which one out of the seven will be your default home. To adjust the screen settings, simply hit menu and go to preferences where you can adjust it to your liking. Another useful feature this launcher has is when you hit the “home” key at your default home screen, a thumbnail view of all your screens pops up, basically a preview of all your screens.
The app drawer produces a very slick “fly-in” effect and you’ll notice that the scrolling is very responsive and produces virtually zero lag. LauncherPro lets you choose how many apps shortcuts you can fit in each row for the app drawer. You can choose to organize apps in five shortcut rows on the home screen and that’s as far as it goes. If you’d like to, you can also hide icon labels, so you only see icons on the home screen and not the names of the apps below them. Another useful feature of LauncherPro is the ability to remove/hide apps from the app drawer so that your app drawer doesn’t get all cluttered up.
LauncherPro does not have the theme capability of ADW Launcher but it does offer a tiny bit of themeability to the dock. The dock here is scrollable with 3 docks, features 5 shortcuts along the bottom and lets you scroll through a total of 15 shortcuts!
LauncherPro also features many enhancements, like auto-rotation, assigning an action for the home key, and hiding the notification bar. In addition, it also has the option to display the number of unread mails, missed calls or unread messages if the corresponding shortcut is present on the dock. Another awesome feature lets you swype up or down on a shortcut in the dock which triggers an action that you can set!
LauncherPro now has a plus version which costs $2.99 and comes with some really useful widgets. You can read more about it Here
2. ADW Launcher
The ADWLauncher is a 3rd party open source home replacement app, that is highly customizable. It is also probably the most popular launcher out there, and is the default launcher of the very popular CyanogenMod custom ROM. AnderWeb has incorporated some of the finest features that you would find on certain high end devices, and with this latest release, AnderWeb has included the new FroYo launcher look.
ADW offers up to 7 screens, which is pretty standard for a custom launcher, but if you need to fit even more shortcuts, ADWLauncher offers the ability to choose how many rows and columns of apps you want on your home screen—up to eight each which is pretty unique, so that you can squeeze in as many shortcuts as possible. You can also do the same with the app drawer, remove/hide labels and set the background colour.
ADW, like LauncherPro has the option of setting a custom action to the home button like hiding the notification bar or showing a home-screen preview. It also has a few built in gestures like swiping up or down to show or hide the notification bar.
One of the biggest attractions of ADWLauncher is its themeability. It’s pretty simple, you download the theme from the market and select it in ADW’s preferences. Applying a new theme changes everything from the wallpaper to the icons.
Some other features include the Nexus One screen dots, the horizontal app drawer that is found on the Samsung Galaxy S, Sense UI home-screen previews, and a invisible “secret dock,” that gives you the option to add six more icons.
While many people swear by ADW and claim to have flawless performance I along with many others feel that this app can at times become extremely slow and sluggish and even Force Close. Try it out and let us know what you think. [ad#ga-480-break] 3. Zeam Launcher
Zeam [Market Link] is a lightweight launcher alternative available for free on the Android Market.
According to the Market description, Zeam is still “Work in progress, but is a pretty good Launcher/Home Replacement app anyway. Zeam is listed on the Android market as being only 268kb in size, so it’s much lighter than some of the other home replacement apps, I’d say the lightest!
Some of the features are – Provides up to 9 screens, Designate a default screen, User-selected animation for the app drawer, Remembers the last scrolled position of the app drawer, Provides a doc bar at the bottom of the screen, Supports all of the default widgets, Allows the user to hide desktop icon labels, Can be set to run full-screen, hiding the notification bar etc ..
4. Helix Launcher
Helix Launcher is an excellent home screen replacement and replacement launcher.
Helix Launcher works pretty smooth and is lightning quick and works just as smoothly in landscape mode as in portrait mode. Upon a double-tap, an index of thumbnails is displayed showing all your screens. Even with 7 screens, any screen is only a double-tap and a touch away.
Features – Standalone Launcher, 3 to 7 screens (swipe scrolling between pages), Double tap action for screens preview, Rotation enabled, Android 2.0 , compatible, Full-screen app menu (with notification bar still), Quick Shortcuts, Drag & Drop and shortcuts to the QuickBar .
5.Tag Home (Launcher)
Available on the market as 3 different files for 1.6, 2.1 and 2.2.
Tag Home(Launcher) [Market Link]is a heavily customizable home screen and launcher replacement for your Android device. Tag Home allows the user to assign “tags” that appear at the bottom of the launcher tray to any application they have in their menu. Users can also create their own custom tags and assign those as well. Some of the tags that come pre-installed with the app are All, Google, Communicate, Multimedia, Games, etc. When you click on these tags they filter the apps out of your entire app collection that fall into these categories. You can assign any application in your launcher tray to any tag that you have available.
Tag Home also allows you to organize your apps based on a user defined priority. So, instead of opting for the standard alphabetical sort option of your apps in the launcher, you can assign each app a weight from 0 to 100. The higher the weight the app has, the higher it goes in the order of your launcher. Another nifty option is going into the “edit mode” of your launcher and tapping “Tag to Folder” which puts the current tag you have open on your home screen as a folder.
This is an app for power users with loads of apps and the need for tags and level functionality. Definitely an app for the advanced user.