Get Stock An­droid

An­droid app launch­ers that cut the clut­ter of cus­tom UI

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - By Nidhi Sin­gal @nid­hisin­gal

No mat­ter how fancy your new phone, how su­pe­rior the cam­era or how bank­able the bat­tery is, not be­ing able to find the app you are look­ing for, even af­ter scrolling side­ways mul­ti­ple times can be ex­as­per­at­ing. As an An­droid user, you may have grap­pled with cus­tom UI ev­ery time you bought a new phone or even up­graded to the lat­est OS. This is be­cause, un­like Ap­ple iPhones – that have a fixed user in­ter­face with apps across home screens – hand­set man­u­fac­tur­ers and de­vel­op­ers are able to cus­tomise the whole ex­pe­ri­ence on the open source An­droid OS. Bloat­ware that may con­sume me­mory and slow down your phone, and a whole new user in­ter­face are the avoid­able out­comes.

Apart from Google Pixel and Mo­torola smart­phones that run on stock An­droid, ev­ery other An­droid smart­phone has a cus­tom UI. If you have trou­ble get­ting used to the new UI, in­stalling app launch­ers is a great idea. They of­fer a neat in­ter­face and help you tide over the home(screen)sick feel­ing. While the Google Play Store is loaded with such launch­ers, we picked out the best ones for you to con­sider. Google Now Launcher: This is a great launcher for those who pre­fer

the Google ex­pe­ri­ence. When in­stalled, the launcher asks you to log in us­ing your Google ac­count to start with for a bet­ter grip on web and app ac­tiv­ity. The Google search bar with voice search icon ap­pears at the top and the app tray icon at the bot­tom. The launcher set­tings fea­ture in­cludes no­ti­fi­ca­tions, se­lect­ing search lan­guage (re­gional In­dian lan­guages or English), hands-free voice search and off­line speech recog­ni­tion, auto com­plete, feed, app sug­ges­tions and more. Swip­ing right from your home screen brings up the Google Now cards – news, travel time, re­cent emails, tem­per­a­ture, sto­ries to read and more. With the launcher, you can ac­cess Google’s pop­u­lar voice as­sis­tant. The much-talked­about Pixel launcher for Google Pixel and Pixel XL is not com­pat­i­ble with most An­droid phones. How­ever, you can in­stal the .apk file if you wish to try it. Con­trary to ru­mours that Google Now Launcher would be taken off the Play store, it is avail­able for down­load and for free.

Mi­crosoft Ar­row Launcher: If you are look­ing for a neat in­ter­face with room for cus­tomi­sa­tion this is the one for you. Along with apps on the home screen, there is a Google Search bar at the top which also has short­cuts for bar­code/QR code scan­ning and voice search. The Util­ity page, ac­cessed by swip­ing right on the home screen, is use­ful as it lists fre­quently used apps, con­tacts, fetches in­for­ma­tion from the cal­en­dar, news and more. The Ar­row Hub al­lows file trans­fers from An­droid phones to desk­tops if you log in us­ing a Mi­crosoft ac­count through OneDrive. You can also use ba­sic ges­tures to get work done – dou­ble tap on screen to lock, swipe down to show lo­cal search or ex­pand no­ti­fi­ca­tion cen­tre and swipe up to ex­tend dock. The apps in the main app tray ap­pear al­pha­bet­i­cally in a ver­ti­cal or­der (like the Win­dows Phone in­ter­face); one can switch to a hor­i­zon­tal lay­out or even hide apps that are not in use.

Nova Launcher: This is the clean­est, no-non­sense launcher that of­fers an al­most stock-An­droid in­ter­face. There is an elab­o­rate process to set up Nova Launcher. Be­gin by se­lect­ing the over­all theme (dark or light), choos­ing your app drawer style – card style or im­mer­sive, then se­lect the app drawer ac­cess style – with a but­ton on the home­screen or by swip­ing up from the bot­tom. These set­tings can be changed any time. The app tray has a search bar at the top, fol­lowed by a row of re­cently used apps; the rest of the apps are ar­ranged al­pha­bet­i­cally. Nova Set­tings al­lows one to cus­tomise the desk­top/ home page, in­clud­ing the grid size for apps and wid­gets on the desk­top, icon lay­out, scroll ef­fect, page in­di­ca­tor, etc.

Solo Launcher: This one claims to save on me­mory space and of­fers av­enues for cus­tomi­sa­tion. For in­stance, there is a DIY tab us­ing which you se­lect the home screen lay­out, size, colour, turn on the sta­tus bar and no­ti­fi­ca­tion tab. To make a fixed place for apps and wid­gets on the home screen, one can lock the desk­top from the DIY tab. In the be­gin­ning, fre­quently used apps are au­to­mat­i­cally placed on the home screen; and the app tray ar­ranges apps al­pha­bet­i­cally. The only down­side to this launcher is the con­stant ads to down­load other apps such as Solo Se­cu­rity, Solo Cleaner and Solo Bat­tery.

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