The Best Application Launcher For Android

One of the best things about Android is being able to customise everything about your home screen, which you do with a third-party application launcher. Android has more than one great launcher, but our favourite is LauncherPro, which finds the perfect balance between incredible performance and high customisability.

Looking for something for Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and above? Check out our new pick for the best Android launcher.

LauncherPro

Platform: Android Price: Free, $3.27 Pro Download Page

  • Super-smooth scrolling
  • Animated screen previews
  • 2D and 3D app drawer with super-smooth scrolling
  • Up to seven home screens
  • Scrollable shortcut dock
  • Customisable icons via icon packs, downloadable from the Market
  • Hide apps from the app drawer without installing them
  • Uninstall apps directly from the home screen or app drawer
  • Transition effects between home screens
  • Ability to adjust the number of columns and rows for both the home screen and app drawers, so you can fit more icons
  • Unread SMS, Gmail, and missed call badges in the dock icons
  • Swipable shortcuts for the dock icons, so you get double the shortcuts per icon
  • Loads of memory tweaking settings so you can optimise it for older phones
  • HTC Sense-like widgets for contacts, bookmarks, calendar, messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Gmail (Pro only)
  • Widget resizing for any widget, not just LauncherPro widgets (Pro only)

LauncherPro's performance is what sets it apart from other launchers. Scrolling between home screens and through the app drawer is insanely smooth, even on older phones. The memory settings are really useful for speeding it up on low-powered devices, too, so no one gets left out of the fun.

LauncherPro isn't short on features, though. From fitting more icons onto the home screen to the supercharged scrollable dock to uninstalling apps from the home screen, LauncherPro just makes Android easier to use. It aims to solve a ton of annoyances with the default Android launcher, and it does it well. Furthermore, it's even got some really nice customisation options, like a fantastic suite of widgets and the ability to download icon packs from the Market and apply them in one fell swoop. It isn't quite as customisable as other launchers out there, but it's got quite a bit going for it, and has the great performance to tip the scales in its favour.

Honestly, there are very few downsides to LauncherPro. It could be a tad more customisable, like ADWLauncher, but unless you're a customisation nut, you're unlikely to be disappointed by anything LauncherPro has to offer.

Despite how great LauncherPro is, the competition is still pretty heated, which should tell you how great the launcher scene is on Android. ADW.Launcher (and its paid brother, ADWLauncher EX) are very similar to LauncherPro, though with an added bit of customisation. ADW EX has more home screen transitions and other graphical niceties than LauncherPro, though its performance isn't quite as stellar. If you're on a newer, high-powered phone, you might not notice a huge difference, but older phones might find ADW to be a bit slower. In addition, having been in the customisation game a bit longer than LauncherPro, it has more "themes" available in the Market, which include both icon packs and wallpapers that go with them. It isn't quite as easy to use, sometimes, and offers fewer convenience features (like dock gestures), instead focusing on graphical eye candy. Honestly, it's probably just as good as LauncherPro, and you should check them both out if you're in the market for a new launcher.

GO Launcher EX is for customising maniacs. Its Market themes change more than just icons: they also tweak the wallpaper, the app drawer, widgets and much more. It also has more fancy transitions than you can shake a stick at. Of course, all this comes at the cost of performance. We wouldn't say its performance is bad or unstable, but it doesn't quite wow you like LauncherPro does, especially if you use the fancy transitions (which is to be expected). That said, if you like customising your phone, it's probably worth a slight drop in smoothness.

Zeam is just about the fastest launcher on the Market, and perfect for old phones that need something lightweight and simple. It isn't nearly as feature-filled as other launchers, but it'll get the job done and get it done fast. It does still add a few other improvements, like a scrollable dock and animated screen previews, but if you're looking for customisation, this isn't the launcher to use. If you're looking for blinding speed, you've come to the right place.

Lastly, Launcher 7 deserves a mention, merely for its ability to go in a drastically different direction while still being good. Launcher 7 turns your home screen into a Windows Phone 7-style scrolling set of tiles, which you can customise to your heart's content. It won't give you quite as many features as the typical Android launcher, but if you prefer a simpler experience without actually switching to Windows Phone, it's actually a really nice change of pace — plus it can still create some pretty great-looking home screens.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.


Comments

    Ive been moving between using Zeam and Go Launcher EX, I was a big fan of Launcher pro but have found that its become a bit unstable getting force closes and system hangs from time to time. At the moment I find Go Launcher works well, the uninstall from app draw functionality is pretty handy and I don't notice much difference in performance (on Nexus S). Zeam was great for anyone who just wants the better dock and not much else.

      From my prev. exp., this only happens because of rouge widgets. What (online) widgets do you have on your home screens?

    I'm new to Android! Is this for the phone only? Would I be able to store apps without installing them? Cos that would be cool. As for the memory manager, I read an article that said your better of having the memory full, which makes it run faster!

      Hey Ecky

      welcome to android! Don't even think about memory stuff. Don't use a memory manager. Android works all that out for you and the more you fiddle with it, the more you upset the system.

      What do you mean by storing apps without installing them?

      Any my assumption would be this is for phone only, as in probably not Gingerbread, if that's what you're asking? Unless I'm mistaken.

        "What do you mean by storing apps without installing them? "
        Yeah, I've done a few factory resets, and it would be nice to have those Apps that I like stored somewhere else, then I figured something like this progy could just reinstate them, instead of looking for them and re-downloading! Then again they are tiny, so probably not worth it! #]

          Hey EckyThump,

          This is actually very easy. You can use an app called appbrain along with it's website to create lists of apps for download. It's very handy for buying a new phone and having your apps all download without searching for them.

            Ta #]

              ah, cool. what's your device btw, ecky?

                Asus TF101 Transformer.

    I've been using launcherpro for almost a month now and it's well worth it. I have it set up to be basically the same as the standard android launcher, with just a few tweaks.

    But it is SO much smoother and faster, and I can finally have selections other than that awful orange square! Plus it allows BetterCut shortcuts and standard widgets.

    Another vote for Launcher Pro full version.

    Light, stable, easy to backup (if you like me changing firmwares all the time) and very much configurable.

    So are these safe? A lot of them have ability to read sms/gmail/make calls permisions

    I was a launcher pro fan but the dev hasn't done anything in ages and it's starting to cause issues on some newer devices. He kept promising a big rewrite that is vapourware up til now.

    Switched to Go, never looked back.

    Hope the LP rewrite does happen because it was by far the best launcher for ages.

    I use ADW EX and love it, especially the themes and icon packs.

    The only thing I find missing from LauncherPro is the ability to lock widgets (i.e. disable the long press action) although I still use it a my only launcher...

    But seriously, the long press feature is stupid - it could be better utilised to give widgets a 'right click' functionality. And once you've set your home screen up how you like it, it becomes a redundant and annoying feature, especially when you pull your phone out of your pocket, and find you've somehow mucked up your home screen all over the place...

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now