Best An­droid launch­ers

An­droid lets you change the way things look and feel by in­stalling a new launcher. MAR­TYN CASSERLY re­veals the best op­tions

Android Advisor - - Con­tents -

One of the best things about An­droid is the fact you can cus­tom­ize not only the way it looks but also how it be­haves. One way to do this is by down­load­ing a new launcher, an app that changes the stock in­ter­face with a shiny, new al­ter­na­tive. But, with so many to choose from, how do you de­cide which one to use? We’ve rounded up the best An­droid launch­ers for 2018.

What is an An­droid Launcher?

When you use an An­droid phone or tablet the part that you in­ter­act with – the icons, nav­i­ga­tions but­tons and some set­tings – are all part of the user in­ter­face that sits on top of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

Un­like with iPhones, on An­droid this can be re­placed re­ally eas­ily by down­load­ing a launcher app that opens up new visual styles, of­fers ad­di­tional fea­tures, and al­lows you to tai­lor the look and feel of the lay­out to your own per­sonal pref­er­ence.

One of the real ad­van­tages of launch­ers is that they give you the abil­ity to keep your phone the same even if you move be­tween dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers. Many of­fer free ver­sions with lim­ited func­tion­al­ity, but pre­mium up­grades are usu­ally cheap, plus they are non-de­struc­tive.

So, if you don’t like what they do, you can eas­ily swap back to the orig­i­nal launcher by visit­ing the Set­tings menu.

Google Now Launcher Price: Free URL: fave.co/2pD5R1Z

If sim­plic­ity is your goal, then the Google Launcher is one we’d rec­om­mend. Es­chew­ing some of the fancier fea­tures you’ll find in its ri­vals, this app gives you the pure, stock An­droid lay­out, just like you’d find on a Pixel, or the older Nexus hand­sets. The main Home screen has a cen­tral but­ton in the dock to open the app tray. Swip­ing right will open up the Google Now/ Google As­sis­tant page that holds var­i­ous news items,

ap­point­ments, sports scores, plus other in­for­ma­tion that you can spec­ify, and the Google search bar is a res­i­dent fea­ture on each screen.

It’s free, quick, and easy to use. Nova Launcher Price: Free (£3.99/$4.99 for Prime Up­grade) URL: fave.co/2pGpGVY Nova has long been the refuge of many an An­droid user that wants to cus­tom­ize al­most ev­ery as­pect of their in­ter­face. The app has an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion and sup­ports a huge num­ber of icon packs that are avail­able on the Play Store. In the free ver­sion you can al­ter the gen­eral colour schemes, de­cide which way the app drawer moves, cus­tom­ize the dock to be scrol­lable or even con­tain wid­gets, and plenty more

be­sides. Up­grad­ing to Prime un­locks var­i­ous ges­ture con­trols, tabs and fold­ers in the app drawer, plus an­i­ma­tion ef­fects when scrolling be­tween screens and other use­ful fea­tures. For all its op­tions, Nova re­mains a well-de­signed and clean app that doesn’t over­whelm or con­fuse. It’s pretty nippy too.

Evie Launcher Price: Free URL: fave.co/2I44jVl

An­other pop­u­lar app is Evie. Much like Nova, it al­lows you to make whole­sale changes to the ar­range­ment of icons on the home screens, tai­lor the dock to your re­quire­ments, cre­ate fold­ers, and plenty of other stan­dard stuff. A univer­sal search makes it easy to find num­bers, contacts, apps, and pretty much any­thing

else on your phone, plus there’s the in­cred­i­ble use­ful abil­ity to cre­ate short­cuts to them by long-press­ing on the re­sults and drag­ging them to one of your home screens.

Best of all, Evie is free and reg­u­larly up­dated.

Mi­crosoft Launcher Price: Free URL: fave.co/2pG980n

With Win­dows Mo­bile now con­signed to the rub­bish bin of tech­no­log­i­cal his­tory, you would be for­given for think­ing that Mi­crosoft no longer has a horse in this race. Thank­fully, that’s not the case, as its new launcher is rather ex­cel­lent.

A Bing daily wall­pa­per gives your de­vice a fresh look each morn­ing, and there’s a screen to the left of

the main home screen that con­tains var­i­ous cal­en­dar, news, weather, and other in­for­ma­tion cards just as in the Google Now launcher.

As you’d ex­pect, there are set­tings for the dock, app drawer, and home screen that al­low you to de­fine how many things ap­pear and the way they be­have. It’s not as cus­tom­iz­a­ble as Nova or Evie, but the de­sign is so el­e­gant that you don’t find you want to change too much.

If you have a Mi­crosoft ac­count, and ideally a PC, you will find a num­ber of cool and handy ad­di­tional fea­tures in this app. These in­clude be­ing able to start read­ing a web page on your phone and then au­to­mat­i­cally con­tinue on your PC (so long as you’re run­ning the Cre­ators Up­date ver­sion of Win­dows), plus in­te­gra­tion with a num­ber of Mi­crosoft apps, in­clud­ing Cor­tana.

Hola Price: Free (ad-sup­ported) URL: fave.co/2I1Jv0T

The tag line for Hola is ‘smaller, but big­ger’ and in many ways this is true. The launcher is quick, has plenty of char­ac­ter, and is some­what quirky when com­pared to the oth­ers on this list.

On the lock screen for ex­am­ple there is a per­for­mance mon­i­tor that lets you know the cur­rent charge of the bat­tery, RAM that is be­ing used, and how much stor­age is avail­able. These can be op­ti­mized by a Hola Boost, which kills idle apps and those drain­ing the bat­tery un­nec­es­sar­ily.

The news feed is very nicely de­signed, and makes it easy to select the sources you pre­fer, while block­ing cer­tain less de­sir­able out­lets. There are plenty of

in­ter­face ad­just­ments that can be made, with icon sizes and la­bels, lock screen con­tent, ges­ture con­trols, and other gen­eral tweaks.

Hola of­fers ad­di­tional apps that can fur­ther en­hance ges­tures, lock screens, and no­ti­fi­ca­tions, and the launcher does ar­rive with a few apps pre-in­stalled.

The only real fly in the oint­ment are the ads that ap­pear at var­i­ous times. They’re not hor­ri­ble, but can feel jar­ring when you’re mov­ing from one func­tion to an­other. Hola isn’t for ev­ery­one, but it could cer­tainly be fun to try if you’re get­ting bored with your cur­rent choice.

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