One of the arguments frequently used by Android fans to establish their platform’s superiority is the wider range of customization options available on the platform when compared to iOS. Widgets afford a certain degree of customization on the default launchers that come with phones, but there are also 3rd party launchers available on the Play Store that offer additional features or greater customization. Here are my favorite launchers you can install to change the experience to something a bit more personal than the out-of-the-box setup almost everyone has.
With a free version and a $4 paid “Prime” version, Nova Launcher is probably the most popular 3rd party launcher. The free version offers an impressive array of features, including icon pack support, resizable widgets, and flexible icon grid size for the homescreen. The paid version adds features like homescreen gesture support and unread notification counts. You can change almost everything about the layout and functionality of this launcher, enabling you to make everything look and function exactly how you want it. The free version never feels limited, but the added features of the “Prime” version are definitely worth the $4 for the improvements on a screen of your phone you probably see more than any other.
While still in a closed beta test, Aviate launcher provides a look at what the next generation of launcher might look like. The layout and the apps it presents change based on the time of day and where you are, attempting to make your phone more useful based on context. When at home, it may put Netflix or Play Movies closer to the top of your list, while if you’re at work it will put apps like Evernote and Drive closer to the top. These applications are chosen initially by default categories, though you can resort applications that it may not have sorted correctly at first. Once it’s set up, it should make the phone more useful at all times. You can’t just download this right now, but it’s definitely worth signing up to get a beta key sent to you.
Obviously, there are more than just these two options available to replace your homescreen app. These are just my two favorites that I’ve used. Google’s Google Now Launcher is very nice, but it is only currently available (officially) for Nexus and Google Experience devices that have KitKat. Other launchers offer degrees of customization similar to Nova Launcher, or try to compete with Aviate’s context-aware app presentation. No matter what you’re looking for, there is something out there for you to customize your device exactly how you like it.