Featured: Top 10 Best Android Launcher Apps

May 29, 2012 - Written By Justin Diaz

You know what one of the best things about Android is? Customization! No matter what your flavor, just about every inch of android can be customized, tweaked, or transformed and take on practically any kind of change imaginable to truly make your device your very own. My personal favorite thing to customize on my android devices is my Home Launcher. For those of you unfamiliar, the home launcher is your home interface. When you turn your screen on, its basically what you interact with on the home screen. Home launchers let you do tons of different things and everyone has a little bit of a different idea of what they think should be included as typical home launcher etiquette. In this article we’ll take you through the most popular launchers across the android platform, and let you what they’re capable of, and how to get your hands on them.

10: TSF Shell 3D

First up in our list of top ten android launchers is TSF Shell 3D. Right off the bat I was very impressed with this home replacement because it is completely unlike anything you have ever seen when it comes to launchers.  The entire interface gets turned into 3D playground. If traditional is your thing than this launcher would turn you on your head. Instead of an app drawer you have one main page for all your apps, and four remaining pages to customize. With 3D interactive widgets and the transition effect you get when you change screens there is more eye candy then you might be able to handle. This really is a beautiful launcher to say the least. Many features find themselves right at home just like in other launchers. Creating folders, support for android widgets, custom look just to name a few. But what you really want to know is what sets TSF shell apart. Right? Of course you do. TSF is the first launcher I’ve seen that enables multiple operations like auto arrangement, multiple choices, adding to folders and multiple deleting all with the wave of a finger. You can freely create multiple quick shortcuts for applications, drag them to any desired page in any place you want (this means no snap into place feature.) and turn the app shortcuts at an angle to make more space on the screen. You can even overlap the apps and widgets to save space. HOLY CRAP! What other launcher does that? Most of your access to features and launcher operations comes from the sidebar. And wait….The side bar column can be customized as well.

The only place I would say this launcher is a bit lacking is in the widget department. Right now, there are currently only three TSF widgets available but they are updating the app consistently and plan to add more in the near future. To truly see what this home replacement has to offer that others don’t, you have to watch the video which you can check at the play store link below. Just seeing it in action is amazing. The launcher itself is set a fairly steep price tag, one that truly shows off its originality. It’ll hit you for about $16 bucks, which might make you second guess your decision to pick this up. I almost didn’t myself. But then I thought back at the fact that I could really show this off as an original launcher that not a lot of people were probably going to be using. And when it comes to having my stuff look nothing at all like anyone else’s, I embrace that possibility. If you’re intrigued, check it out!   TSF shell

9: Nova Launcher

Next up on the list is a tribute to our ICS toting readers. As this launcher is only android 4.0 compatible. Now you may think that there aren’t enough ICS users out there and this cant possibly belong in the top ten, but I assure you, I like this launcher a lot and so do many other users out there, and it’s a phenomenal launcher application. So it deserves a spot. This particular launcher is developed by teslacoil software which you might notice also makes apps such as the popular lock screen replacement widgetlocker, tesla led flashlight and quick sshd. Nova launcher while only for Android 4.0+, has quickly become one of the most used launchers on ice cream sandwich devices. It features the popular dock down at the bottom which you can add up to 7 icons on, and have up to three separate pages for the dock. That’s 21 dock icons just on the bottom of your screen. Taking up no room at all just minding their own business, while you go about your day. Awesome! You also get things like a customizable app drawer with transparency, scrolling style and vertical continuous or horizontal paginated setup. Scrolling effects on the homescreen and in your app drawer let you do things in style with transitions like cube, card stack, and multiple others if you’re one of the paid app users. Infinite scroll lets you loop through your desktop continuously. Cause who wants to spend time going all the way back the other direction. NOT ME!! No more room for widgets on the home screen because you’ve soiled up the space with useless apps? Not to worry, if you’ve got some room on the dock you can slap a 1×1 widget on there and your good to go. A must have feature is the backup/restore option. You can quickly and painlessly do a backup before a wipe so you can restore all your settings in a flash once you have your device up and running again.

Nova prime users get access to extra features like Hidden apps (which you can use to hide apps from prying eyes), dock swipe actions which allows you even more control over the way you start a program with completely efficiency by swiping up on a dock icon. Essentially doubling the amount of dock apps you can have. Unread counts for your mail and messages, and gestures. Gestures allows you to open apps or start Nova activities just by swiping your finger on the screen after you set the gesture. You can choose two flavors of this home replacement application, nova launcher and nova launcher prime. One being free and the other you can pick up for $4.00. If you want to check this one out and you use an ICS enabled device, hit the link to the play store and check it out.  Nova Launcher

8: Apex launcher

   Next up at spot number 8, and my personal favorite of all the launchers is Apex. I use this on both of my devices. My G2x running an ICS build of the kang rom and on my Transformer Prime tablet. I love it on both and it just gives my devices a nice clean feel with tons of customization. To start, you get a customizable home screen grid with up to 9 home screens, which you can of course set a transition effect that you can see when you’re swiping between them. You have the dock on the bottom on of the screen which you can throw up to 7 icons onto with up to 5 pages. An insane 35 dock icons to quickly access all your frequent apps. Can you tell why this is my favorite? Did I mention that? Well… it is! Some of the other cool features that I’ve only seen in apex launcher are the hide elements like persistent search bar, the search bar and you can even hide the dock if you don’t want to use it. Different folder styles and background make an appearance here as well does multiple drawer styles and effects. You can hide apps from the app drawer here as well if you want your privacy. Home screen gestures and back up and restore options are a couple here that I mentioned in Nova launcher as well and they are even in a couple other launchers as they are pretty common popular features. Over all Apex has a lot to offer and is worth a look. If you use an Android 4.0 enabled device then definitely check out Apex. Hands down the number one launcher in my book.   Apex Launcher



7: SPB Shell 3D

Number seven brings us to SPB Shell 3D. Surprisingly here it is remarkably similar in look to TSF Shell, our number ten on the list. SPB gives you a very different user interface experience from the mainstream android launchers as everything gets transformed into a 3D likeness. Much more traditional in look then TSF Shell though as it at keeps the same basic layout of home screens with switching and a drawer for apps. SPB gives you few options for a launcher, but they look really great. That’s the appeal here. You’ll get things like smart folders that organize all your apps on the home screen. (Pretty much the same as “folders”. But it sounds good right?) 3D home screen and launcher and a collection of widgets and panels in full 3D view are also part of the vastly different experience you’ll get when using this. Its another steep price for the look, at $14.99. But seems to be very popular and looks great. Check it out if you’re interested.  SPB Shell 3D


6: ICS Launcher-

Number 6 is up and its here to give you guys out there that are still using 2.3 and below, a little taste of Ice Cream Sandwich. You may or not remember but I talked about this in the top 10 ICS related apps as well. Well it’s back. ICS launcher is cool because it feels a lot like launcher pro to me. Which I loved and was my go to launcher every time. You get plenty to work with in this one and a Nice ICS theme and style to boot. It basically clones the look of ICS so its like your using android 4.0. And we know how much you’re all dying to get some Ice Cream sandwich. You get the in launcher status bar just like in ICS, with an ICS theme, home screen gestures and auto cache dump. Hide the labels on the desktop and in the drawer for a cleaner look and feel without all the text cluttering things up. Scrollable and resizable widgets for easier organization on the homescreen. Drag and drop crosshairs. Transition effects of course. No skimping on the eye candy. Support for all static live wallpapers if that’s your thing. Personally I think they drain the battery too much and lag your device. If you’ve been dying to get your hands on some ICS action the jump on over to the play store and pick this up for a trial run.   ICS launcher

5: Regina Launcher 3D

Next up at half way is Regina 3D launcher. Yes, another 3D one. I’m starting to see a trend. Regina 3D brings similar features to you like the last two 3D launchers which is basically the 3D look and feel to everything you do and see on your phone. It supports android 2.1 , 2.2, and 2.3. They just added the folders feature so if you like to organize your desktop and keep things in an easy to find spot for a structured feel, then this will appeal to you. Some specific things to mention about this one are the intuitive 3d work space browser with separate wallpapers for each workspace. Which is kind of a cool idea to think about. Even a privacy factor with a hidden workspace. You can position widgets freely without much restriction regarding screen grids. A full list of 3d regina widgets to choose from. My favorite thing about regina launcher is the option to uninstall apps directly from the work space. Much easier than going to apps menu and manage apps. Just drag from app drawer and drop into trash can on the home screen and uninstall will start. Very handy. You will also have various visual effects to play with like transitions and app drawer styles. If you’re a 3D fan then here’s another launcher to check out. It’s at least worth a look.    Regina 3D Launcher

4: ADW Launcher EX

If you haven’t heard of or tried ADW launcher EX, then you should have. This is one of the most popular home replacement apps out there. Some originals here include the screens editor so you can add, remove, and swap your screens, and an icons editor so you can create your own customized shortcuts. There are hundreds and hundreds of themes to choose from which is big selling point of ADW launcher EX. You get the dock bar here so you can add shortcuts to home screen without really taking up space on your home screen. (add up to 5 dock icons) If 5 icons isn’t enough, then just take use of the hidden dockbar below the main one. Swipe up with our finger to reveal the hidden dock, which has support for unlimited icons just by swiping left or right. Swipe back up to go to the main dock again. Pretty cool if you ask me. I loved this feature when I used ADW. Some other features to note are the app drawer styles which include 2 iphone like styles, 2 plain vertical styles, and the 3D nexus one style app drawer. You can also resize the desktop icons and tweak your screen transitions for some eye candy. Definitely deserves its place towards the top and its easy to see why it has as many downloads as it does. If your game, hit the link and go take a look at ADW launcher EX. Just be prepared to shell out a few bucks as it will cost you $3.32 from the play store.   ADW launcher EX


3: ADW .launcher-

This a more slimmed down version of ADW launcher but in its own right is even more popular. Not as many features here but you get the important ones like the hidden dock bar, (just flick up to unveil it and swipe down to go back to the main dock.) only 2 customizable app drawers in this one, customizable drag and drop action buttons for convenience, and of course it has the ever popular theming feature. There are hundreds and hundreds of themes to choose from. Give your device an original look. Hop on over to the play store and check this one out.

ADW .launcher

2: GO launcher EX

Number two in the list is GO launcher EX. Arguably one of the best home launcher replacements. It offers a decent amount of options but keeps it fairly simple compared to some others. To start, you get themes. The themes, which are probably in the thousand + numbers at this point, will really let you customize the look of your device. This launcher comes with various widgets and screen lock options for you to change out. User defined folders let you customize and structure your apps and shortcuts in an easy to use and easy to find spot. Transition animations are available as well so if you like that feature then you will be happy to know that GO has not let you down in this area. You can resize the icons as well so if they are too small or too big then just modify them to your liking. Most of the themes and lockers are available through the menu button at the bottom of your device. Just tap that and  hit preferences where you will find themes and an option that will take you to an in app store, then link you to the play store once you have chosen the theme you like. You can also just search Go them, GO widget, or GO locker in the play store for a more complete list of what’s out there. The other really great thing about GO launcher EX is their dev team. GO dev has put out tons of other apps that you can use on stand alone with other launchers, or with their own to match up nicely with GO launchers features. GO launcher EX

1: Launcher Pro

Finally the number one. There’s not a whole lot in terms of features when it comes to launcher pro. Its more set on the simple aspect of things. That’s the great part about it though. They have taken the best features and thrown them in to a launcher to make it simple, fast, clean and easy to use. Themes of course is a big part of launcher pro. And one of my favorite things about it when I used it. They have the dock bar down at the bottom so you can load up your frequently used apps without taking up screen space. Swipe gestures on the dock icons to customize even more shortcuts to apps. But you can also set the gesture to open up tons of different launcher pro created shortcuts or different activities. You get up to 7 home screens and two different style app drawers. One 2D and one 3D. They added in a fly-i-effect to the drawer so when you open it the apps come flying towards you. Smooth scrolling is also an important feature to note. The shortcut dock I scrollable, which I forgot to mention above, but this is a nice thing to have so you can add more dock shortcuts. Up to 3 docks. Launcher pro widgets which are only available in the paid version, give you a specific set of widgets you can add to the home screen for things like  facebook, twitter, gmail, contacts etc. Even the widgets have themes. Way awesome. Like I said. Simple, yet fast and clean make this launcher a must have. Definitely check this launcher out. It is well deserved to be in the top spot of this list. Launcher pro