Android Home Screen Launchers: Six of the Best

The beauty of Android is that literally everything is customizable because the platform is open-source. Other mobile OSes provide little room for home screen customization, but Android has several choices for you and your inner creativity. Called “launchers” or “home screen replacements”, these apps allow you to customize the way the screen looks when you press the Home button on your phone. The best part is that anyone can do it and there is absolutely no hacking or trickery involved; just download, install, and begin customizing.

LauncherPro

LauncherPro

LauncherPro

LauncherPro is one of the most seamless, bug-free launchers out there. With almost every aspect of the application customizable, it’s hard to make the choice to switch to anything else once you give it a go.

When you first load the application, you will see the basic home screen layout with three screens and some default widgets and icons. Unlike your default launcher, LauncherPro sports five dock icon spots for you to customize with custom icons, actions, pop-ups, and much more. These icons act as shortcuts for you to set your own favorite applications to be accessible on any screen within the home screens. By swiping these shortcut bars left or right, you will notice that there are three more shortcut bars, made up of five icons, allowing you to set 15 of your favorite applications to be accessible at any point on the home screen.

In addition, you are also able to set custom icons for the applications you choose to put into the shortcut bar as well as the dock background, ranging from the default set to any image that is appropriately sized to fit the dock dimensions.

As you begin to look through the settings, you stumble upon an abundance of things to “tweak” to your liking. LauncherPro lets you change the number of home screens, the transition effect between the screens, and the size of the grid on each home screen. Other bells and whistles include a 3D drawer, super-smooth scrolling, app drawer opening and closing animations, customizable app drawer grid size, elastic scrolling, Sense UI-style animated screen previews, and even more.

Summary: Combined with its “free” price tag, the quality of this application is well worth the time to check it out. There is a reason the majority of the Android community opts to go for LauncherPro — it will not disappoint!

Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Federico Carnales

LauncherPro Plus

LauncherPro Plus

LauncherPro Plus

By donating $2.99 to developer Federico Carnales through PayPal, you unlock the full version of LauncherPro which includes additional features, such as the ability to re-size widgets as you see fit, which comes in handy when playing around with a bigger-than-standard grid size.

The biggest and best advantage to buying the full version is the widgets, which closely resemble HTC Sense’s both visually and functionally. The list of widgets includes People, Bookmarks, Calendar, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and Friends, most of which have multiple styles for you to choose from.

Summary: For the low price of $2.99, you can support the developer in perfecting this application further, regardless of whether or not you need the extra features. Especially with a long-awaited complete application overhaul and rewrite coming soon, this home screen replacement solution will be well worth the money.

Price: $2.99
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Federico Carnales

ADW Launcher

ADW.Launcher

ADW.Launcher

While LauncherPro is my first choice of launcher, the brilliant people at AnderWeb have made a close second. With most of the settings and features nearly identical to LauncherPro’s, you may find it hard to tell them apart.

Nevertheless, there are certain things that allow ADW.Launcher to stand out from its competition in addition to the features already mentioned in LauncherPro. By flicking up on the app drawer icon, you have the ability to drag and drop an unlimited number of shortcuts and folders into the dock which is useful if you have a large pile of things you need to access quickly.

Another feature that sets ADW.Launcher apart is the app drawer styles that you are able to choose rather than being stuck with one default one. If you are a fan of the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones with the side scrolling app drawer, you’re in luck. AnderWeb has made that available to you, as well as the default Android fluidly-scrolling vertical drawer.

Another feature that LauncherPro lacks but that ADW has is the ability to long press on any icon on the home screen, which reveals a menu where you are able to change the icon and name of the application. (LauncherPro requires you to remove the icon and create a new one from scratch.)

Summary: Overall, ADW.Launcher is a solid, powerful, and free home screen replacement solution that will keep you satisfied for weeks to come. With lots of customization options, smooth scrolling, and fast response time, it is one of the best you will find.

Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: AnderWeb

ADW Launcher EX

ADWLauncher EX

ADWLauncher EX

Just like LauncherPro, ADW.Launcher also has a paid version with additional features and customization. For $3.14 USD, you can have the most customizable launcher available on the Android Market.

First off, ADWLauncher EX bumped the number of app drawer styles from two to five, which aims to satisfy all you fanatics who like change. Another big change is the ability to change the animation when swiping between home screens. You have the option to choose between eight of them which, once again, adds to that customization factor you may be considering when choosing a launcher.

Other small changes include new icons, a new look and feel, the ability to give icons backgrounds, the ability to change font sizes, and many other small new features, all of which can be saved in a new feature called “fast presets”. With these presets, you can quickly switch between your home screen styles and configurations on the fly if you get bored of one home screen too soon.

The developer has also mentioned new and better code, meaning an improvement in performance.

Summary: ADWLauncher EX is perhaps the most customizable launcher on the Android Market, and it is well worth the money if you are looking to explore your creative side and wow your friends with your creations.

Price: $3.14
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: AnderWeb

Slidescreen

SlideScreen

SlideScreen

Larva Labs Ltd have taken a different approach to the Android home screen. SlideScreen is made up of a multi-paneled screen that consists of a Phone, Messaging, Calendars, News, Stocks, and Twitter feeds. At the center of all of these is a main slider that consists of the date, time, weather information, battery status, and signal strength for both 3G and Wi-Fi, all very neatly packed into this container.

By sliding the main slider, you are able to adjust the size of each of the media section, allowing you to pick which sections you use or want the most. Access to all of your installed applications can be found through a shortcut in the menu.

By clicking on a slider section, you are greeted with the application that is associated with the section. For example, if you see that you missed a call, you tap the “phone” section, and are taken to the call history. Any upcoming appointments or important dates are shown under the “calendar” section and will take you to Slidescreen’s version of a calendar app when pressed.

Summary: Larva Labs Ltd have broken away from the generic Android-esque look and tried something new — and it’s quite polished. There is the occasional bug or poorly coded section here and there, but an update will fix those without a doubt. It’s definitely something new if you want to get away from the same old look of every other launcher out there.

Price: Free ($6.99 to remove the ads)
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Larva Labs Ltd.

GO Launcher EX

GO Launcher EX

GO Launcher EX

A relatively new launcher on the scene is GO Launcher EX by the up and coming Android development stars and authors of the GO SMS application, GO Dev Team.

One of the first things you’ll notice about this launcher is that inside the app drawer is a task killer of running applications. Rather than having a task killer running all the time and ruining your battery life, you now have the ability to shut down any running tasks on the fly, within the application, in case you are running low on memory.

By looking through the Preferences of this application, it becomes obvious that the GO Launcher Dev Team are huge fans of customizing. So many preference selections — Display, Screen, Dock, App Drawer, Operation, Advanced, and Theme Settings — may seem overwhelming at first, but after looking through all of the settings, you can customize GO Launcher EX to look like almost anything you like.

If you don’t need LauncherPro Plus’s widgets, GO Launcher Ex is definitely the best choice due to the build quality, number of features, usefulness and overall depth of the application. If you happen to have purchased LauncherPro Plus already, then GO Launcher doesn’t have any extra features that may warrant the switch after having shelled out $2.99. Regardless, it is a fantastic launcher. I cannot stress that enough.

Even though GO Launcher EX all the same features of ADW, and LauncherPro, the developers go that extra mile by including all of the incredible visual customization and are extremely active on their thread on XDA, jumping at the opportunity to include any features users suggest.

Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: GO Dev Team

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many great choices for home screen replacements on Android. Almost too many. Whether you go with one or the other, you are still making a great choice for moving on from your phone’s stock launcher which are generally awful (unless you’re rocking an HTC handset). So go ahead, try them out, customize them to your heart’s content, and see which one you like the best. In my humble opinion, they all win.


  • http://www.whatsthelatest.net zplits | whatsthelatest.net

    I use Go launcher, it’s fast and smooth. no lags..and best of all it’s free. Plus it has some cool and awesome themes.

    • http://alexpascal.com Alex Pascal

      I agree. The developers are also fantastic at getting back to feature requests and updating all of their apps which is a huge plus for me.

      • http://www.whatsthelatest.net zplits | whatsthelatest.net

        :) Are you using it too?

    • Shiven

      use spb shell 3D best launcher ever seen in my life sadly doesnt work on htc’s

      • ShyLyte

        OMG I KNOW RIGHT I WAS SO PISSED I GOT THE APP FROM 4SHARED AND LOVED IT, IT WAS SEXY AND KOOL BUT TEN MINS LATER MY PHONE RESETS TO HTC SENSE LAUNCHER EERRGGGHH SO PISSED :(

        • James

          Only does this when you press the Home button :( its sad times

          • ibnul

            Yeah, as you downloaded it from 4 shared, that means its not completely verified. So, if try to update it then it finds that it is not the original copy and blocks the user from using it. :(

        • Scotty 777

          if you download lucky patcher, then download spb shell 3d Install but DO NOT open, then go to lucky patch and when it loads find SPB SHELL 3D and hold, then click Remove Licence Verification and it makes the app genuine, Works on HTC as im on HTC Desire HD

          • anudeep

            where is lucky patcher on market cant find it

      • Janesz555

        It works. perfectly on HTC legend

      • jeremy

        When you hit home after installation, HTC sense is still considered the default home app. Once you hit home again it’ll revert back to sense from whatever app you’re trying to use. To fix, go to settings, find HTC sense and hit it, scroll down until you see something that says “clear default settings” hit that and hit home. Select spb shell 3d or whatever app you’re using, but first make sure to check the box that says use as default. Youre done.

  • Albert

    The Development of Launcher Pro feels kind of dead. The author wont even show up in his forum any more…

    • http://alexpascal.com Alex Pascal

      It’s true. Personally, I’ve switched to GO Launcher because of the amazing developers. They have added at least a couple features I have personally requested for both the launcher and their SMS application so I’m quite loyal to them.

      But yes, I doubt the update is coming anytime soon or even at all.

  • Batfan

    Love LauncherPro. Helped me deal with the MotoBlur nonsense that came pre-loaded on my D2G

  • http://TamahomeJenkins.com Tamahome Jenkins

    I used Slide Screen for a few months last year. Then the developer got lazy about updating the app and fixing problems. When I rooted my phone and installed CM6 last fall, it came with ADW.Launcher, and that’s been my home screen of choice ever since.

  • http://www.matto1990.com Matt Oakes

    I’m not sure why it wasn’t mentioned (and instead 2 spots were taken up by full versions or launchers already listed) but Zeam is my favourite launcher by far. It is customizable enough but is so blazingly fast that it doesn’t make much difference if the setting you want isn’t there. It’s free and has a dock on the bottom which scrolls so you can have any number of icons you want there.

    Honestly, give it a go :)

    • http://alexpascal.com Alex Pascal

      Mainly because it doesn’t have as many features and themes as the rest, but as always, it is a great alternative if you are looking for something new.

      • http://www.matto1990.com Matt Oakes

        I’d suggest it has all the features that most people will need. You can change the number of home screens, make the launcher full screen (no status bar), change the number of icons you can fit on each screen (doesn’t have to be the default 4 by 4), allows scrollable widgets, has gestures which you can set (swipe up, swipe down etc) and the dock like I mentioned before.

        I used LauncherPro in the past and it had all those features and those are more than most people will use.

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  • http://www.enjoycreativity.com David Needham

    Lately I’ve been using Tag Home and have really loved it. Other home screen launchers haven’t provided solid ways to categorize my ever growing list of apps. Tag Home lets me categorize my apps into tabs on the apps page and allow me to put a folder for any category on my home screens.

    It may not be as ‘customizable’ as other home screen launchers, but really, who cares? The UI and ease of use are significantly more important considerations. Also, it’s free.

  • perfecti0n

    Actually if you like SlideScreen then you should definetly check their website to get their latest beta

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  • http://socialwebtools.info Charnita Fance

    I purchased LauncherPro Plus, then found Go Launcher Ex and switched immediately. It’s has so many customization options and I love the unique look of the app drawer. At least if I get board I can still go back to LauncherPro Plus, but for now it’s Go Luancher Ex for me :)

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  • Geo

    If it weren’t so darn slow, I’d be running Sweeter Home 2. http://www.sweeterhome.com/

    It’s insanely customizable, but does require a LOT of patience and a bit of a learning curve when it comes to setting up your layout. No dragging and dropping your app icons, here. But to be able to layer items over each other just makes it cool to use.

    But it is pretty slow, and the learning curve might discourage some people.

  • Spyral

    If you haven’t checked out Regina Launcher, you haven’t seen it all. ;)

    • Jay

      Regina is nice, but you have to download 3 other apps in order to get the full experience. Downloaded a .apk file of spb shell 3d launcher….Insane!! Would buy it, but its $15.00. Way too expensive for any launcher.

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  • SwankyShaan

    no doubt go is the way to go absolutely amazing, love the task killer n the feature for me is the App drawer customization can change the background anytime. all the other launchers only offer plain black boring background.

  • Morris

    I just switched to GO launcher, it’s insanely customizeable, and the app drawer method blows away the stock app drawer. (TouchWiz 3.0).

    It allows you to sort apps into folders, than you can place those organized folders on the “home” screen and it’s a linked. If you add or remove apps from the folder in the app drawer, it add or removes them from the folder on your home screen. BRILLIANT!

    I also like that I can stick all the crappy AT&T software into a folder titled “Garbage”.

    • Sturgelose

      Or you can directly hide them! Press options button in the app drawer and select hide items!

  • josephine

    One question, please. I’m a newbie. Now using honeycomb tablet Acer Iconia. can GO launcher run on honeycomb tablet? I used to use it for my Android phone Samsung Galaxy ACE and ran smoothly. I tried downloading it for my honeycomb tablet, it sorf of ruined the interface and grid system. Please help anyone, thank you.

    • abs sik

      If you decide to use go launcher there is a setting for tablets and larger screen devises that sorts that out

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  • shahram

    i have HTC Tattoo cell phone and i want to upgrade it to android 2.1
    i dont know hove to upgrade my phone?
    please help me!
    tanks

    • chris

      root and install custom rom…

  • gabriel

    Opinions opinions… check spb shell 3d best ever

    • chandy

      It costs 15USD. check out Regina 3D. Almost same stuff for free.

      Best launcher ever. Better than adw, go launcher or launcher pro if you have a 1Ghz phone or more

  • rob bustamante

    Hi there,
    I was using SPB at first it twas cool,when I first git my 3d EVO. But now the app is taking a dump . One of the worst symptom is when I am using my Navigation. Then all of a sudden a black screen then it would start to load SPB. That’s ridiculous. So I went back to the default loader. I don’t care what anyone says how good looking it is. But if its going to take a dump while in the middle of an important process. Forget it. I want my money back. SPB sucks ass!

  • http://jl.penjernihan1no.19d doraemon

    kalau ane paling suka go launcher ex. mantap dan sederhana

  • http://www.mohamedbhimji.com Mohamed Bhimji

    Excellent! I was afraid I’d have to root my phone, and though I like to tinker I’m not to keen on rooting. I will be trying your top picks on my LG.

  • John

    Im using Android Seven Pro and SPB Shell 3D, awesome features and UI..

  • http://www.biglauncher.com Jan Husak

    If you are looking for some simple launcher suitable for your mom’s phone, try BIG Launcher (http://www.biglauncher.com). No widgets, no small icons, it just works.

  • zeke

    I have used all the launchers multiple times. I run the samsung galaxy s 4g and the best one i have used so far is Go Launcher with honeycomb pro. If you have any idea of something better, please let me know.

  • http://forum.xda-developers.com/member.php?u=4247664 Saswat

    @ Shiven – Yeah.. SPB Shell 3D is the best launcher .. and who said it doesn’t work on htc’s ? I, myself am using it on my HTC Desire HD :)

    If you want a different and stylish experience, then go for SPB Shell 3D elz for panel lovers, Claystone Launcher is a good choice.

  • http://forum.xda-developers.com/member.php?u=4247664 Saswat

    Coming to Regina 3D, I didn’t find it even close to SPB Shell 3D. If it would have come under 2D catrgory I would have definitely recommended it but as its name suggests, Regina 3D, it falls under the 3D cayegory … but I really coudn’t find a single 3D effect. LoL :D

    Still you can check both of them and know why on earth SPB is considered as the smoothest and best launcher available :)

    In my opinion GO is second best … It gives you so much to think about with that number of cool themes ;)

  • Josh

    LauncherPro and GO Launcher are my two favorites. LauncherPro is ultimately the one I got with because it runs more smoothly for me than GO.

  • Twist2Open

    tested claystone launcher & netFront Life. both looks awesome as well. a good replacement for spb shell wc is unstable at times. i give all them 4 & half stars.

  • lia

    i like espire launcher. it changes ur android looks into iOs

    • htr

      then buy an ipod…

  • James

    aOS Launcher is what I started using recently and I just love it. Sports iPhone like Dockbar and big sharp dock icons. Supports practically unlimited app icons customizations.

    https://market.android.com/details?id=com.andromobi.aos

  • Imran

    bit late but WHERE THE HELL is adb shell 3d… i bought it yesterday and it kicks ass

  • http://www.andorid-trick.com katherin

    i think fastest and smooth launcher ever seen is below.it is guaranteed launcher please download it and suggest it for others.

    http://www.android-trick.com/2011/12/2012-android-fast-smooth-launcher-with.html

  • Janet

    Tried claystone 3D from http://www.claystoneinc.com and so far so good. Bit like SPB and a definite learning curve, but a good option for something different that’s not $15 lol.

  • Soloman

    GO Launcher is the best ever!
    Brilliant stuff. :)

  • Snah

    downloaded Go Launcher for my htc desire and used it for about three months.Loved it as it was fast and smooth and gorgeous to look at.GoStore a big plus.THEN:
    I deleted it from my phone as it suddenly had unexpected errors as forcecloses,widgets dissapearing and wouldnt load the sd-card upon rebooting the phone.Spent two days trying to fix my phone when I found out that it was GoLauncher that was the problem.Back to stock now and Go-Free

  • Warner

    After reading through this article i started browsing the market i came across this launcher, its from the devs of Regina 3D https://market.android.com/details?id=com.nemustech.launcher
    its pretty small and nifty, with some huge potential

  • NINRocket

    I have tried ALL of the Home launchers everyone has mentioned. I’ve been experimenting for months. There is another one that no one seems to know about. It is by far the fastest, most customizable, easiest to use and has some major eye candy. You guys make sure you say thanks.

    Look on Android marked for DXHome. It’s from Tapas Mobile. They do try to sell a lot of themes but a LOT are free. The main program and extra apps are free.

    Go Launcher is number two in my book. It doesn’t have near as much 3D eye candy as DXHome. I do keep both on the phone and actually use DXHome with some of the Go Launcher widgets. Talk about making your Iphone buddies sick….this is the creme de la creme.

    http://www.dianxinos.com/?lang=en

    https://market.android.com …….search for DXHome

    Your welcome.

  • ever

    the best launcher is QQ pro , if u haven’t try then try now , easy to find any application on qq pro

  • deep

    How can i download this launcher for my lg gt 540 optimas with android 1.6.
    Plz give me reply or sent the site from where i can download this for free.

  • Jhon

    Nice launchers suggestions i have also found some nice nice collection of launchers over here. do check it out http://enzag.com/technology/android/top-5-android-launchers-for-home-screen/

  • OKarlOux

    Yeah I check that after about him. I’m not exactly sure where I check it however it was an page it might have been the same article you read. I remember check outing somewhere that he was paralyze he would kill himself. He was especially terrorize of bikes as he feared he would jump in front of one.

    cancer colon

  • CRianZiu

    Hi folks. problably see you around the forums.
    This site is massive!

    fitness health

  • OEdieKif

    I’m a short time browser and have now taken the plunge and connected! Love the the blogs as they cheer me up no end – particularly Liz(ard) Jones, Corrie, The Beginner, PA/KP/KK/CAN etc etc!

    prostrate cancer

  • Munjed

    Am I the only one who is using two lights at the same time. I am happy or still happy with my razr lecher and feel to appealed to go launcher ex.

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  • Sam

    I’ve been looking around for a good launcher for my rather-slow Galaxy Gio for a while and I have found that all though if I do run a lot of apps at once GO Launcher EX doesn’t slow down my phone much. This was great for me ’cause the default Samsung menus and stuff nearly killed me. :P

  • dc

    spb shell is the best 3d launcher. if you like the layout of iphones you should try espier launcher, and last but not least claystone launcher. claystone makes multi tasking easier and better.

  • vinod
  • Aadam

    espiron homescreen for apple fans with a android

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  • Ali Nawaz Malik

    Im using Launcherpro. I think its theeee best launcher i had ever used in an anroid. Its perfectly smooth, customizable and friendly to use. I prefer every Htc user to give it a try and they’ll surely never switch back to any other again :D

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  • Anon

    What about Holo launcher and Espier launcher? they are particularly popular launchers

  • Ryan Kroon

    And Regina Launcher 3D Pro??
    Thats the best!!
    Its runs very smooth and its easy to use.
    I,m using an HTC One V

  • C Sab

    Nova > all of these

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