Have you launched your Android?

Launchers let you customise the UI of your phone, just the way you want it.
twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Print Edition: November 2013
Have you launched your Android?
Illustration by Raj Verma

There are hundreds of people who avoid buying a certain phone just because they think the interface is too complicated. But this is not an issue at all in Android phones. Actually, while most Android manufacturers come out with different user interfaces, the user can switch to a different interface of their liking. After all, this customisability is the beauty of Google's operating system.

The Google Play store is full of third-party Android launchers that set your phone apart from the rest of the pack as well as the Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense UIs, both the result of a lot of investment and research.

Here are some launchers that let your Android look the way you want it to.

1. Nova Launcher

With an interface very similar to the stock Android UI, Nova is one of the most popular third-party launchers around. This highly customisable launcher is not resource hungry and does not slow down the phone. There is a toggle notification bar that hides with a simple touch. It shows previews of all homescreens and notification can be expanded without dragging the bar from the top. Plus, there is a toggle dock to remove the default icons at the bottom of the screen. Widgets can be added to the homescreen and resized. A backup of settings can be created in case you want to restore later. A paid version costing Rs 246 gives access to gestures, folders in app drawer and unlimited custom tabs.

2. Buzz Launcher

This launcher is different for it let you download multiple homescreens. A 'b' icon takes users to the Homepack for more homescreens whereas the other dotted icon opens a line of shortcuts including app launcher, customised wallpapers, all screens, content/uploads, Buzz settings and system settings. The launcher supports gestures too. For instance, a two-finger swipe down toggles the notification bar, while a regular two-finger swipe allows a quick screen jump. The best part is that you can edit almost all elements.

3. Apex

Similar to Nova, Apex to is a plain vanilla launcher with customisation limited mostly to the widgets. Under homescreen settings, you can choose the layout of the portrait and landscape grid, margins and icon size. In drawer settings we got access to hide app icons from the app drawer along with customising layout. There is a behavior setting that lets you choose the actions for home key, pinch in, swipe down, desktop double tap and desktop long press. You can also set vibrate time. Apex menu gives instant access to wallpapers, theme settings and managers.

4. Aviate

This "intelligent homescreen" for Android devices is open only on invite at the moment. It is expected to open up once it moves beyond the Alpha version. Here widgets are placed above a row of favorite apps (Gmail, Phone, SMS, e.g.) and below a built-in date/time/weather drop-down. There is a concept called 'spaces' where swiping to the side reveals a list that lets you move between contexts like "Work," "Nearby Places," "Going Somewhere" and "Settings", as well as the default space which is based on the time of day.

5. Launcher 8

Those who are fascinated by the Windows Phone 8 user interface should consider installing Launcher 8. It brings in two homescreens - the first one with tiles and the second comprises the list of all apps. Interestingly, basic features such as resizing apps and pinning is also available for customisation.

6. Go launcher EX

This is an utility driven launcher that offers customisation of the homescreen as well as regular and Go widgets. Apps can be segregated into different folders in the app tray. The settings have three tabs for all, recent and running - the last is good to see which all apps are consuming your device's resources.

7. Espier Launcher

If you want to have the iOS homescreen on your Android smartphone, then Espier Launcher will do the job quickly. Launching the app completely changes the interface within a second. Four icons sit at the dock at the bottom of the display and all the icons in the app tray are scattered all over the homescreens. Long pressing and dragging the icon works for changing the position.


HOW TO INSTALL A LAUNCHER

Changing the UI with a launcher is like installing any other app. After launching it will either bring some changes or completely change the homescreen and allow you to customise it according to your needs. The next time you press the home key, the phone will ask you to choose the launcher - the default or the one you have installed. In case you want the new launcher to be the default, select on the always key and not "just once".



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