While Android devices remain a dominant force in the mobile media market, they do not always deliver the most compelling experience to users. This is due to their uniform look and nature, which is a typical feature of any mass produced product that is designed to meet a wide range of consumer demands.
This is why developers have created the concept of Android launchers and home screen replacements, which enable you to customize the visual aesthetic of your device. While the concept itself may be relatively tried and tested, however, it is only recently that mainstream consumers have embraced it fully in the quest to personalize their handsets.
With this in mind, it is worth considering the best android home screen replacements and the impact that they have in revolutionizing your Android user-experience. Consider the following.
If you are new to the concept of Android launchers and home screen replacements, where better to start than with one of the more recent market additions? Aviate has evolved considerably from previous incarnations, with the result that it boasts a more mature set of customization options and smart technology that delivers relevant information in real-time. With both pre-set category sub-headings and the capacity to create unique collections, customizable images and variable homepage layout options, Aviate is the smart choice for modern Android users.
If you are a relatively inexperienced Android user with less advanced technological skills, you may prefer a simpler customization tool. Take the Nova Launcher, for example, which is a straightforward feature that enables you to subtly fine-tune your device and home screen. This launcher is unique in that it uses 3D cube UI technology, which creates a revolving home page and fluid visual effect that adds a different dimension to your navigation experience. Despite this, it does not allow you to make drastic changes to your screen layout, which means you can maintain an interface that is easy to follow and understand using preset themes.
In terms of simplicity and pre-determined layout options, there are additional tools that can help you to redefine the look of your Android device. The Themer launcher is one such program, as it delivers established themes to users who would rather not spend their time customizing unique widgets and visual effects. This simple tool appears whenever you visit your home screen, and you can access a host of layout options by navigating the Theme settings menu at the top of your interface. Not only are these options free to access, but developers are also adding new home screen replacements on a daily basis.
While the development teams behind Aviate and Themer have focused on enhancing the smart capacity of Android devices and simplifying the user experience respectively, others have taken a more ambitious route to market. Buzz Launcher is a full home screen replacement app that delivers an all-out optimization package to users, for example, which in turn enables them to create unique widgets and backgrounds while accessing numerous downloadable screen packs. The app offers a far greater scope to users and allows them access to a wider range of design options, although it is probably best suited to technologically aware individuals with experience of the Android market.
In many ways, the Apex Launcher represents the modern face of the mobile industry. Like all Android launchers of its type, it includes standard features such as customizable icon grids, transition effects and variable home screen gestures. In addition to this, however, it also offers two separate versions to customers, with the second being a paid application that supports a wider range themes and visual concepts. The free version should be more than adequate for the majority of personal users, particularly those who wish to create an easy to navigate layout.
Although a relatively new addition to the consumer market, the Action Launcher and Action Launcher Pro have made a significant impact during 2013. Once again designed as free and paid versions of the same concept, these tools are unique in that they focus on the use of applications rather than delivering a wide range of customization options. Simply by featuring a left-hand panel that offers instant access to your favorite applications, these tools enable you to navigate your menu more quickly and in a far more efficient manner. Another key benefit of the Action Launcher is that it includes an unique feature called ‘covers,’ which allows users to tap an individual icon and launch the default application associated with it.
Increasingly, there are a growing range of applications that attempt to differentiate themselves from key market players. Take the SF Launcher, for example, which borrows heavily from Google Now and the clear cut interface adopted by the world’s leading search engine. By designating nearly a third of the top of the home screen to a traditional clock and date widget, it leaves the remained of the space for you to customize with individual folders and app icons. By also offering a wide range of dark themes and visual effects, users can create a customized interface that retains a clearly iconic and instantly recognizable appeal.
Given the rate with which new Android devices and operating systems are launched, it can be hard for consumers to keep pace. The Holo Launcher is therefore an extremely viable application, as it enables individuals with older Android devices to integrate ground-breaking designs and themes into their layout. With popular features including a scrollable dock, variable icons and an excellent array of colors, the Holo Launchers provides a foundation from which users can create a modern and appealing interface. Once again there is a paid version of the tool for professional users, which justifies its fee with application drawer tabs, notification badges and additional icons.
A solid option for those in search of a free Android launcher, this tool is a new entrant to the market with a huge selection of themes and transition effects. The latter are particularly effective, as they enable you to slide between alternative home screens and any custom widgets that you have created. The benefit of this free option is that it can be easily trialed by anyone who is looking for a new launcher or viable home screen replacement, and its sheer wealth of visual effects makes it well worth further inspection.
One of the more traditional and longest standing Android tools on the market, the GO Launcher EX is completely free and easily accessible by a wide range of users. It does not have a paid version, meaning that it is easier for consumers to access a full range of features and premium themes. Go Launcher EX is therefore an extremely purposeful application, equipped with multiple features even for the broadest range of tastes. It is also compatible with all Android devices of 2.0 or above, which enables a wider range of user to enjoy its benefits.
At this stage, it may be worth introducing an additional dimension to the world of Android launchers and home screen replacements. SPB Shell 3D is leading the current charge of three dimensional launcher replacements, featuring a full range of unique transitions and visual effects. Including a 3D home screen, widgets and the eye-catching presentation of colors and shades, it is ideal for advanced Android users who love nothing more than creating a wow-factor around their phone. While this paid launcher can hardly be described as cheap with a download price of $14.95 (£9.45), it is compatible with Android devices 2.1 or above and genuinely unique within the market.
On a similar note, those with slightly reduced budgets and a love of three dimensional interfaces may wish to invest in the TSF Shell home screen replacement app. It can be downloaded for just $9 (£4.99) through Google Play. Some have argued that it boasts even more features than the more popular SPB Shell launcher. Including intuitive gesture controls that make it easier than ever to organize and access application icons, it is equipped with cutting edge technology that enables it to stand out in the existing marketplace. So while it may be tempting to follow the crowd and download the coveted SPB Shell, more savvy Android users may well prefer the cost-effective TSF alternative.
The most expensive of all 3D Android home screen replacements is the Next Launcher, which has been designed by the same team that innovated the wide range of Go applications. Costing an estimated $16.99 (£10.50) to download, it is suitably equipped with technologically evolved features which more than justify its inflated price tag. Including stereoscopic three dimensional screen previews and a rotatable dock, it is an extremely powerful launcher that has become extremely popular on the consumer market. The developers have now also launched a free version of the launcher, which retains 3D capacity despite offering a minimal range of design features.
It is easy to forget that when Android devices first emerged, users were keen to adopt that launchers that replicated the popular iOS aesthetic. This trend has dissipated in recent times, however, especially since the release of the brand new Windows phone. The Launcher 7 application has therefore been designed to make Android devices look and behave like the Windows Phone 7, relying heavily on the integration of a 2×1 scrollable grid with tiles that can be customized according to your precise needs. If you are a fan of the tiled layout favored by Microsoft, this launcher serves as an ideal and freely accessible starting point.
On a similar note, the recent launch of the Windows Phone 8 has caused a significant stir in the mobile industry. As a result of this, many switched on Android users are looking to replicate the look of this device, and the Launcher 8 has been designed to help them achieve this. This tool features a set of Microsoft tiles that are even more customizable than their predecessors, available in variable sizes and also translucent to allow the wallpaper to remain visible behind widgets and app icons. Once again this launcher is entirely free, while also compatible with all Android devices of 2.2 and above.
Innovation breeds evolution, and this is certainly the case with regards to the 3D launcher market. One of the latest advancements has emerged in the form of Yandex Shell, which approaches creating three-dimensional home screen replacements in a far more subtle and understated manner. Borrowing heavily from the MIUI custom ROM, it adopts a clean aesthetic and simple widgets that help you to create a pleasing 3D interface with minimum fuss. While this launcher is free to access, however, it is not available in all countries and therefore, you will need to check availability before making a final decision.
The Tile Launcher Beta is another application that has sought to replicate the Microsoft experience for Android users, although it has stopped short of completely imitating the technological giant. While it has only just emerged from the development phase, it will offer a customizable and scrollable tiled interface, where each segment will contain an actionable icon or widget. There is also a sliding application drawer for instant access to your most popular items, and support packs that facilitate the switch from alternative launchers. Considering that it is a free-to-access launcher, this range of features is well worth consideration.
Another free Android home screen replacement tool, the Vire Launcher delivers many of the 3D effects and transitions offered by more renowned paid alternatives. A relatively new application, it also features automatic themeing of all UI components including icons, widgets and folders. While the design elements remain somewhat rustic and simplistic, the Vire Launcher is different from any other application on the market and well-worth a try given its immediate and freely accessible nature.
While developers seem to take variable approaches to designing their home screen replacement apps, the majority tend to focus on creating quick and easy-to-navigate interfaces. This is certainly the approach taken by the team behind the Smart Launcher, who have designed a simple home screen with five icons to represent your most widely accessed applications. In fact, so simple is the design ethos that it does not even support widgets, meaning that the free version of the Smart Launcher is ideal for those with limited technological skills. There is a paid version, however, which at least allows for greater customization and the support of widgets and more advanced features.
Finally, this list would not be complete without the inclusion of a launcher that has survived the test of time among Android users. The ADW. Launcher is something of a relic on the Android platform, and yet is has survived beyond its initial and considerable impact on the market. Today, it retains almost cult status among loyal followers, especially those with older Android devices. With configurable home screens and the capacity to use gestures as a way of navigating your chosen interface, it can certainly hold its own in more exalted company. There is also a huge array of themes and skins for users to choose from, which is not bad considering it is essentially a free application.