- Android launchers allow you to launch apps, view widgets, customize your home screen, and carry out a range of other tasks with ease.
- However, the default launcher, which comes as part of the Android skin on most Android smartphones, isn’t very customizable.
- So, if you wish to customize the appearance and behavior of your phone’s UI elements, you need to use a third-party Android launcher.
A launcher is an integral part of the Android user interface. It lets you launch apps, view widgets, customize your home screen and carry out a range of other tasks with ease.
However, the default launcher, which comes as part of the Android skin on most Android smartphones, may not suit you, especially if you enjoy customizing your phone.
In that context, it’s wise to use third-party Android launchers. Simply put, a third-party launcher is an app that replaces the home screen of your Android phone and lets you customize its appearance and behavior without permanently changing the behavior of the operating system.
Below are our picks for the best Android launchers you can use in 2022 to personalize your Android experience.
1. Smart Launcher 5 – Best Android Launcher Overall
Smart Launcher 5 is one of the current favorites among Android users. It features a pretty clean and straightforward interface that puts all the items you need to interact with more often at the bottom so you can access them quickly and perform day-to-day tasks efficiently.
However, that’s not to say that Smart Launcher 5 lacks functionality. On the contrary, it packs several customization features to help you personalize different elements of your device’s UI, everything from fonts and themes to app drawer, app icons and widgets. Not just that, you also can configure gestures and hotkeys to simplify different operations.
Talking about advanced features, Smart Launcher 5 offers an automatic app sorting feature, which keeps your apps organized into categories to save you the hassle of having to do it manually. It also has an ultra-immersive mode that maximizes the screen space by hiding the navigation bar.
Similarly, the launcher includes smart search functionality that makes it easier for you to quickly find items (contacts and apps) or perform various operations, including searching the web. No wonder it’s considered the best launcher for Android by many people.
2. Nova Launcher – Best Feature-Packed Launcher
Nova Launcher is a name synonymous with Android customization. It’s one of those launchers that offers you complete control over the appearance and behavior of various UI elements so you can personalize them to your style. Considering its high compatibility, Nova Launcher is the best launcher for Android to use if you’re into custom icon packs.
Despite being feature-rich, though, Nova Launcher still manages to be user-friendly and fluid. Animations feel smooth and snappy, even on older Android devices, and settings for different customization options are also easy to find. Plus, if you ever need to switch phones, you have the backup and restore functionality, making migrating your home screen setup and launcher settings much more effortless.
Its subgrid positioning system sets Nova apart from other launchers by giving you precise control over the arrangement of icons and home screen widgets. Besides, suppose you’d like to unlock Nova’s full potential. In that case, you can upgrade to Nova Launcher Prime to get features such as advanced gesture options, app drawer groups, custom icon swipe gestures, and the ability to hide apps from the drawer.
3. Lawnchair 2 – Best Stock Launcher Experience
Lawnchair 2 is another popular Android launcher with generous customization options. It’s based on Launcher3 from AOSP and includes most of the features of Pixel Launcher with better customization support to help you personalize different home screen elements, such as app icons, widgets, themes, search, etc.
If you’re a fan of the vanilla/stock Android experience—but enjoy some customization options—Lawnchair 2 makes for the best Android launcher experience. Overall, it’s a pretty lightweight launcher app that works smoothly even on underpowered devices.
One of the standout features of the Lawnchair launcher is the At a Glance widget. As its name suggests, this widget presents you information (and contextual data) from various sources right on your home screen. Plus, if you want, you can integrate Google Feed and Homefeeder to bring all your feeds together in one place.
What’s more, Lawnchair 2 supports plugins too. One of the best applications for this is to integrate the Sesame search right into your launcher for a simplified search experience.
4. Action Launcher – Best Customizable Android Launcher
Action Launcher is one of the highly customizable Android launchers on this list. It includes all the basic Android launcher features, from gestures to the drawer, home screen, or dock customization. In addition, it adds plenty of additional features on top to help you personalize your Android device at a granular level.
Features like app shortcuts, Google Discover integration, smart size icons, adaptive icons, shutters, covers, and quick theme, are some of the popular features of Action Launcher. Of these, while the shutters feature reveals an app’s widget when you swipe on its shortcut to help you preview your inbox, the covers feature allows you to load apps, open hidden folders, and do more using simple tap and swipe gesture controls.
As for personalizing the appearance, although theming options with Action Launcher are not as extensive as Nova, you do get options to customize the look of the dock search bar, app icons, and folders. Plus, the addition of the quick theme feature ensures that it automatically adjusts the color of home screen elements by matching them with the colors in your wallpaper.
5. Niagara Launcher – Best Lightweight Android Launcher
Niagara Launcher is another lightweight and minimalist launcher for Android. This minimal design is the biggest highlight of the launcher as it makes different elements on the home screen easily accessible with one hand. So if you’re using an Android device with a large screen, Niagara can improve its usability and make it easier to access apps and other elements on the screen.
Regarding easy app accessibility, Niagara Launcher also brings the wave alphabet scrolling, which lets you scroll through the list of apps by simply dragging your finger over the alphabet list. Similarly, when there’s an incoming message or alert, its notification pops up automatically so you can access it easily. As a result of this approach, you get a pretty fluid experience on your device with no lags or jitters in animations/transitions.
Besides, Niagara Launcher gets you all the essential personalization features as any other launcher app to help you personalize app icons, widgets, wallpapers, fonts, etc. You can also choose to hide bloatware/pre-installed apps to declutter your home screen and bring to focus items that matter more. You can get quicker and easier access to your favorite apps. Plus, the app drawer is sorted alphabetically, for quick and easy navigation.
6. Pixel Launcher – Best Minimalist Launcher
Pixel Launcher is the simplest of Android launchers on the Play Store. It mimics the appearance and functionality of the default launcher found on Pixel smartphones.
If you’re using a phone with a heavy Android skin on top and don’t like how it looks or behaves, you can use the Pixel Launcher to get a minimal and smooth user experience on your device. As a matter of fact, it’s probably an ideal launcher for underpowered phones since it’s pretty lightweight and offers smooth animations and transitions.
Talking about features, Pixel Launcher offers you easy swipe gestures, long-press shortcuts, and quick access to Google search right on the home screen. It also provides app suggestions and the Favorites row on top to conveniently help you find your most-used apps. Similarly, mimicking the experience on Pixel devices, the launcher gives personalized Google cards that contain news and information catered to your preference.
7. Microsoft Launcher – Best Productivity Launcher
Microsoft Launcher is a productivity-focused Android launcher that puts all your calendar events, to-dos, and notes on the home screen, so you always have things on your schedule right in front of you. If you’re highly dependent on Microsoft accounts (or services) for your work or personal use, this is the best launcher you can use to maximize the functionality of your device.
Similarly, if you use Windows and have configured your news feed with selected resources, you can install Microsoft Launcher on your Android device to get the same news feed on it as well. Besides, another exciting feature of the launcher is the ability to use your device in landscape mode.
As for customization options, with Microsoft Launcher, you can customize apps icons on your home screen, choose between light and dark themes, and automatically set wallpapers from Bing every day. Plus, you can customize widgets such that you have a single scrollable page dedicated to all your widgets—as opposed to a setup where you have them spread out over multiple pages—to improve accessibility.
8. AIO Launcher
AIO Launcher is not your average Android launcher. It doesn’t get you the usual stuff (colorful icons, animations, or themes). Still, it utilizes the screen space of your device to show you the most important information such as weather, notifications, tasks, notes, latest news (via RSS), system monitor, frequent apps, etc. It’s easily one of the best launchers for Android that we have right now.
POCO Launcher is the same launcher you get on POCO devices. So if you’re a fan of its design and appearance and have recently switched to a new phone from another make but don’t like its UI, you can install the POCO Launcher on it to get the same experience. It has a reasonably minimal design that goes along the lines of Material Design. You get decent personalization features, which you can use to tweak screen layout, app icons, widgets, etc.
10. BIG Launcher
BIG Launcher is an ideal Android launcher for seniors and those with eyesight issues. It increases the size of different UI elements on your Android device to make the content legible and the UI easy to navigate. Similarly, the color scheme uses high contrast to improve readability. Plus, the launcher puts features like SOS and frequent (and speed dial) contacts right on the front for easy access.
Personalize Your Android Experience With Third-Party Launchers
Being able to customize different elements of the interface is the freedom you get to enjoy with Android. So no matter what Android device you buy (and what skin it runs on top), you can personalize its appearance and behavior to suit your style.
Although this might feel like a block-by-block approach, where you modify different system elements individually, you ultimately need a third-party launcher to apply those changes. As such, the launcher apps listed above should help you do that efficiently.
FAQs About Android Launchers
In our opinion, Nova Launcher is the best Android launcher since it offers an array of customization options, which come in handy and help you personalize your device to suit your preference. On top of that, what also makes Nova the preferred choice among many Android users is that it's widely supported by various Android customization apps that deal with icon packs, custom widgets, themes, and more.
Pixel Launcher is the fastest launcher you can install on your Android device. It's lightweight, offers faster animations, and has limited customization options, which doesn't overcomplicate things and makes for a smoother user experience.
Nova Launcher clearly outweighs other Android launchers in terms of customizability. While some launchers offer a few extra features here and there, the widespread support offered by Nova Launchers gives it a slight edge over all other launchers. Thus, giving its users more control over customizing different elements of their devices' interface.
Ideally, you shouldn't face any slow-down issues with Nova Launcher whatsoever. But in case you do, it's likely because your Android phone is pretty old and running dated specs. In which case, you must use Nova Launcher with minimum customization, i.e., keep graphics-intensive elements (app icons, widgets, animations, etc.) to a minimum for a smoother experience.
Every launcher app we have recommended above is either free or a freemium app. But we recommend Smart Launcher 5 and Lawnchair 2 as the best free Android launchers for most people considering the unique features which get unlocked even in the free version of the apps. Both are lightweight and don't eat your RAM or deteriorate battery life.
Absolutely. Especially if you are installing our above-recommended launcher apps directly from the Google Play Store. Launchers are just a skin to your phone and are just as safe as any other Android apps. Go ahead and install your favorite launcher app for Android without worrying.
There are a number of Android launchers that help you hide apps on your phone or tablet. Here are our favorites:
- Poco Launcher
- Microsoft Launcher
- Lawnchair 2
- CPL Launcher
All of these launcher apps help you hide apps for free on Android.
Honestly, in 2021, any mainstream launcher app will not slow down your Android phone. But in our experience, Microsoft Launcher is the best bet if you are picky on speed and performance. Lawnchair and Nova are easy recommendations too.