Recently, Alex Pascal covered five unique home screen launchers, including LauncherPro. Federico Carnales’s LauncherPro is one of the most popular replacements for the stock home screen launcher your Android handset ships with.
If you feel like your stock home screen just doesn’t cut it (whether it’s HTC’s Sense, Motrola’s MOTOBLUR or even an unskinned Gingerbread), the wealth of alternatives are there to form a solution. As I just said, LauncherPro is one of the most popular of these, and boasts a stunning, animated experience.
The main change – and some would say, attraction – is the visual redesign LauncherPro offers your device. The launcher has a five button dock that is not seen on most stock skins. Each has its own function — calling, contacts, apps, messages, and the browser — and provides a nice shortcut to these features.
However, probably the best feature is that by scrolling on this dock, you can add additional shortcuts including direct calling a specific contact. This new dock is on a loop so you can have up to three sets of five icons by changing some settings in the Preferences menu.
If you’re familar with Exposé, Mac OS X’s window management tool, you’ll love the multiple home screen view that’s similar to HTC’s implementation. By tapping your home button whilst on your home screen, the (up to) seven home screens are shown so you can easily navigate to a specific one at a greater efficiency.
The screen organisation is not unlike the launcher that came with your phone. Everything is still ordered in a grid design and all your widgets still work in a similar way.
In the preferences menu, which is easily accessed by hitting your menu button, you can change a wealth of settings to truly customize the experience LauncherPro offers. For example, you can change options such as the number of homescreens and docks, toggle looped scrolling (making all the screens appear on an endless loop), and alter notifications and animation settings.
Appearance and Animations
Possibly the biggest, and my favorite feature, are the stunning animations that are included.
Home screens can be navigated by a simple swipe of your finger, but can also have a transition effect applied. In the preferences menu, you can opt for scaling, rotation, flipping or cubed transitions. There’s a certain novelty to each one but they are extremely fun to play about with.
The scale transition resizes your home screens as you move between one, so as one comes in, the other shrinks away. Rotation acts in a similar manner but spins your screens out. The flip and cube transitions simulate a box with app “walls” where flip is inside and cube is outside. See the screenshots to get a better grasp of what these are. All of the animations look great and are fun to use even if they are just a novelty at first.
My personal preference in choosing this launcher as my primary “skin” was in its ability to rotate to landscape even on low resolution displays. Owners of the HTC Wildfire might appreciate the ability to use their home screen in landscape, something not achievable just with HTC’s Sense interface.
There’s also a few other graphical tweaks that look great. For example, you can enable an experimental 3D app drawer similar to Gingerbread. Whilst in portrait, this makes the app drawer seem like a 3D cube with apps lining the sides (perhaps a perfect compliment to the cube home screen transition?).
You’ll also note some other animation in the launcher including one when accessing or closing the app drawer is similar to that seen if you unlock an iPad.
There are further levels of customization possible with this app. For example, resizing widgets (in the Plus version of LauncherPro). You can resize not only the widgets that LauncherPro ships with, but also most conventional ones. By long pressing a widget, a yellow overlay and handle appear which let you readjust the dimensions. As I resized Android’s power control widget, the design changed very smoothly. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in the paid, plus version.
You can also define the rows of icon in home screens, as well as things like “elastic scrolling”. These options impressed me just for being there and are great if you want them.
LauncherPro also boasts a selection of included widgets specifically designed to match its style, and a few wallpapers.
I’ve mentioned this above: LauncherPro also has a Plus version. The main additions are two already mentioned: exclusive LauncherPro widgets, and widget resizing. The resizing of widgets is the killer feature here as it adds a beautiful new level of customization.
LauncherPro is very similar to HTC Sense and most of the premium widgets are identical to their Sense counterparts.
The Plus version of the application is available for $2.99 USD and must be bought from outside of the Android Market, through PayPal. Some might appreciate this as an alternative payment option (I’ve been wanting PayPal as an option on the marketplace for some time) but there is a real reason behind this: due to location, the developer cannot offer paid apps through the Android Market.
LauncherPro is a very attractive alternative to your default skin. The range of applications means that users without a preferred skin can experience something different and customized to their needs.
The killer features for me in choosing to opt for this application over rival ones are the animations between screens and the landscape orientation. I have my phone stood with the iCarpus stand on my desk in landscape whilst charging, so this is great when you contrast it to Sense’s incapability to rotate home screens.
The Plus upgrade is also worth it, if not just for the widget resizing which can be very useful on smaller screens.
Overall the home screen launcher provides a pleasing and stunning interface shift from the wide range of manufacturer-imposed skins. The landscape orientation and animation features are real killer features and the range of exclusive widgets available through a simple, $3, PayPal upgrade are well worth it.