Five Best Android Launchers

Whether you're tired of your stock home screen or just want to try something new, there's bound to be an Android launcher that's just right for you. This week we're going to check out our top five Android launchers for customisation, speed, design and features.

Photo by Pen Waggener.

Five Best Android Launchers

ADWLauncher EX

ADWLauncher EX ($3.15), the paid version of ADW.Launcher, is a highly flexible, customisable launcher that supports Android 1.6 and higher. ADW offers hundreds of themes to choose from, customisable home screen layouts, multiple dock styles that fit up to five different shortcuts, customisable icon sets, switchable animations, a hidden dockbar with unlimited scrolling and more. It's incredibly tweakable for the advanced, fast and user-friendly for beginners, and it supports a huge number of devices.

Five Best Android Launchers

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher is free but only supports Ice Cream Sandwich devices. It gives you the flexibility to install ADW icon themes if you want to use them, additional themes to change the layout and look of your launcher, a scrollable dock with up to three pages of seven icons each, scroll effects and launch animations that you can toggle on or off, 1x1 widgets in your dockbar and more. If you have $4 to spend, Nova Launcher Prime unlocks unread count badges, the ability to hide apps, two-finger gestures and dockbar folders.

Five Best Android Launchers

Go Launcher EX

Go Launcher EX's claim to fame is how customisable it is. There are thousands of themes and icon packs you can download to customise Go Launcher EX, heaps of widgets, lock screen tweaks and more. Rounded corners, folder groups, good-looking animations, and an emphasis on customisable layouts make this launcher popular, and it doesn't hurt that it supports Android phones running 2.0 or higher. Combine this with the fact that the developers are constantly updating the launcher (which is actually a drawback for many users) and rolling out additional themes and Go-flavoured apps and widgets that fit right in, and you have a wealth of tools to transform your Android experience. Plus, it's completely free.

Five Best Android Launchers

Apex Launcher

Apex Launcher is free, but it's another one in the roundup that only supports Ice Cream Sandwich devices. It's fast and customisable, offers up to nine homescreens, seven dockbars with five icons each, replacement icons for stock Android apps, and lots of beautiful transition and scroll effects. Best of all, if there's any element of Apex Launcher that you don't like, you can easily hide it. You can lock your home screen so nothing changes, back it up in case you you want to revert a change you've made, and tweak the app drawer's appearance. $3.89 will buy you Apex Launcher Pro, which adds multifinger gestures to the ones already in the launcher, support for themes from other launchers (ADW, Go Launcher and Launcher Pro), 1x1 widgets in the dock and unread count badges.

Five Best Android Launchers

Launcher Pro

Launcher Pro is the non-stock launcher that new users often try first. It supports Android devices running 2.0 and higher, and while it's not as frequently maintained as the others, it still offers buttery-smooth transitions, customisable layouts, dock scrolling and live home screen previews. Launcher Pro supports replacement icon packs, infinite scrolling and more. It has been a long time since its last update, but if you're looking for a good, fast Launcher to get started with, Launcher Pro is a good pick.

Honourable mentions this week go out to Zeam Launcher for its minimalistic and uncluttered approach, and Stock ICS Launcher for being a huge improvement over launchers of yesteryear. Sadly, since most Android users don't have ICS yet, the latter is not an option until you upgrade your device or your manufacturer decides to throw you a bone. Also worth mentioning is Holo Launcher, which does a great job of bringing the ICS launcher experience to non-ICS devices.

Have something to say about our favourites? Is there another launcher you think should be included in this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


    How do you get a theme like the one in your intro pic? I want. Very simple and business like.

      Looks like WP7 for ADW

        I've been playing around, the icons aren't quite the same as shown but damn near close enough...

        Launcher: ADW
        Theme: AndroidPhone7
        Widgets: Transparent Clock, ExtDateWidget Lite, Circle Battery Widget (this isn't quite right size wise...)

          Further to above, I've found that you can adjust the font and circle size in Circle Battery Widget. I've got a pretty good clone of the intro pic going now :-D

      I think the icons are from MetroStation? Looks very similar if not...


        Looks great! Loads more icons, ability to pick the colour you want and they are sorted alphabetically! Nice find :-D

    Hi People,

    Just wondering if anyone knows which launcher/theme/icons the HTC in the article pic belongs to. I really like the simple black and white theme.


      See above Nome, almost 100% its MetroStation for ADW.

    After trying endless launchers and eventually tiring of the "eye candy for eye candy's sake", I settled on the minimalist Zeam because it runs so quickly. It still has a few bugs/quirks (as they all do) and is not as configurable as some of the others but it does what a launcher is supposed to do - launch. If I had to choose one from the above list, it would be Nova as I find it offers the best balance between eye candy and performance.

      I used to use Zeam on my G1 when it started getting a bit slower. I really liked it.

    I found my S2 a bit of a mess after the ICS update. But Nova Launcher seems to have cleared it up. Run's pretty smooth now.

    ICS user here with APEX because well it mimics the stock ics launcher identically but with extra options, the only reason i wanted to customise the launcher on ics was the remove the space wasting search bar from every screen, besides that the holo launcher is great i have no complaints about it at all, im sure others want to utilize the myriad of things a custom launcher allows, like minimalism, but for me i just wanted a little more control over the standard ics, although i didn't know about those pro features which sound intriguing

    also nova does the same thing as apex for my purposes but apex seems to run better at least on my gnex

    Using ADW EX on my Desire here but also enjoyed Launcher 7 as well. Fun launcher to make fun of your WP7 using friends :). Apex Launcher has been the best I have used on my Transformer Prime.

    Im using Launcher Pro (Free) with the LP New MIUI Icon Pack (Free). Works a treat and looks much better than stock Gingerbread on my SGS1, and more importantly has made my phone 10 fold quicker, easier and better to use from a UX POV.

    Using Nova, but curious about SPB Shell 3D

    I just flashed my Desire HD with IceColdSandwich 8.0 which came with Apex, Nova and Trebuchet. I played around with each and settled on Apex because it felt smoother than the others.

      Before that I was running CM7 with GO Launcher EX, and I have ADW on my Xoom 2 (stock 3.2.2).

    Forget the go dev apps. Those guys have crossed the line with pure greed. Initially they were great. Now they charge for every single function as well as holding ur shared photo's for 3 days and deleting them without permission and blocking the download function completely. I used to love the apps these guys created but now I'm disgusted at the lengths they are going to pry more money from people. Save time and moneg and avoid the go apps.

    What widget is at the top of that image? It looks great.

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