We talk about the extensive customisation options of Android a lot, and with good reason. It’s a massive part of the operating system’s appeal, and one of the few factors which really differentiates it from Apple’s rival iOS.
But if you really want to customise your Android experience, you simply aren’t doing it right without a custom launcher. Launchers change just about everything about the Android home screen. They change the theme, the animations, the icons, the layout, the shortcuts¦ we could go on.
If you fancy a radical change then take a look at some of our favourite launchers and try one for yourself. They’re installed just like regular apps and don’t require any sort of rooting or technical wizardry. You can also uninstall them just as easily and revert to your exact previous setup should you change your mind.
1) Google Now Launcher
If you’re a fan of Google’s stock Android but own a handset who’s manufacturer has decided to do things its own way, Google Now Launcher is well worth a look. It strips things right back and places the Google ecosystem front and centre.
Google Now Cards are placed a swipe away from your homescreen and the search function is now entirely voice-activated (should you so wish, of course).
2) Nova Launcher
Nova is the first Android launcher to gain any sort of mainstream traction. As such, you know it’s a name you can trust and a program that runs extremely well thanks to years of tinkering and tweaking.
It’s almost the complete opposite of Google’s launcher, instead offering you staggeringly in-depth levels of customisation – but presented in a manner which is never overwhelming. There’s also a paid version (Nova Launcher Prime, £2.99) which offers even more, if you decide that you want to dive deeper.
3) Yahoo Aviate Launcher
Yahoo’s been on a roll with apps of late, and Aviate epitomises the company’s dynamic and interesting new direction. It’s a launcher based around the concept of streamlining. Everything is organised so as to be no more than a tap away when you need it most.
Apps automatically organise themselves depending on the time of day, analysing when you use them most. When you plug in your headphones it brings your music apps to the fore. If you’re on the go, travel apps pop up. It’s also bright and colourful whilst staying clear and minimalistic. It’s the perfect launcher for those who want everything organised but don’t want to do it themselves.
4) Nokia Z Launcher
Whilst the Lumia smartphone range may not have reached the lofty heights of Nokia’s ranges of old whilst under the Finnish company’s control, its software is better than ever.
Created to accompany its upcoming N1 Android tablet, the Nokia Z Launcher is a great way to completely overhaul the look of your device. Its most distinguishing feature is how you can draw a letter on your home screen to immediately bring up apps which begin with the same letter, massively streamlining navigation. It also boasts habitual learning, increasing in efficiency and accuracy the more often you use it.
5) Buzz Launcher
Buzz Launcher separates itself from the competition by offering an enormous number of custom themes, most of them made by users themselves. And when we say enormous, we mean enormous – there’s currently over 500,000 available for you to download, all for free.
The aesthetics are really the main appeal, although functional features like added gesture shortcuts and transition effects are also added.