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Cut Out the Clutter

Tired of the confusing custom UI on your Android smartphone? These app launchers will help keep your homescreen clean.
twitter-logoNidhi Singal | Print Edition: August 27, 2017
Cut Out the Clutter

No matter how fancy your new phone, how superior the camera or how bankable the battery is, not being able to find the app you are looking for, even after scrolling sideways multiple times can be exasperating. As an Android user, you may have grappled with custom UI every time you bought a new phone or even upgraded to the latest OS. This is because, unlike Apple iPhones - that have a fixed user interface with apps across home screens - handset manufacturers and developers are able to customise the whole experience on the open source Android OS. Bloatware that may consume memory and slow down your phone, and a whole new user interface are the avoidable outcomes.

Apart from Google Pixel and Motorola smartphones that run on stock Android, every other Android smartphone has a custom UI. If you have trouble getting used to the new UI, installing app launchers is a great idea. They offer a neat interface and help you tide over the home(screen)sick feeling. While the Google Play Store is loaded with such launchers, we picked out the best ones for you to consider.

Google Now Launcher: This is a great launcher for those who prefer the Google experience. When installed, the launcher asks you to log in using your Google account to start with for a better grip on web and app activity. The Google search bar with voice search icon appears at the top and the app tray icon at the bottom. The launcher settings feature includes notifications, selecting search language (regional Indian languages or English), hands-free voice search and offline speech recognition, auto complete, feed, app suggestions and more. Swiping right from your home screen brings up the Google Now cards - news, travel time, recent emails, temperature, stories to read and more. With the launcher, you can access Google's popular voice assistant. The much-talked-about Pixel launcher for Google Pixel and Pixel XL is not compatible with most Android phones. However, you can instal the .apk file if you wish to try it. Contrary to rumours that Google Now Launcher would be taken off the Play store, it is available for download and for free.

Microsoft Arrow Launcher: If you are looking for a neat interface with room for customisation this is the one for you. Along with apps on the home screen, there is a Google Search bar at the top which also has shortcuts for barcode/QR code scanning and voice search. The Utility page, accessed by swiping right on the home screen, is useful as it lists frequently used apps, contacts, fetches information from the calendar, news and more. The Arrow Hub allows file transfers from Android phones to desktops if you log in using a Microsoft account through OneDrive. You can also use basic gestures to get work done - double tap on screen to lock, swipe down to show local search or expand notification centre and swipe up to extend dock. The apps in the main app tray appear alphabetically in a vertical order (like the Windows Phone interface); one can switch to a horizontal layout or even hide apps that are not in use.

Nova Launcher: This is the cleanest, no-nonsense launcher that offers an almost stock-Android interface. There is an elaborate process to set up Nova Launcher. Begin by selecting the overall theme (dark or light), choosing your app drawer style - card style or immersive, then select the app drawer access style - with a button on the homescreen or by swiping up from the bottom. These settings can be changed any time. The app tray has a search bar at the top, followed by a row of recently used apps; the rest of the apps are arranged alphabetically. Nova Settings allows one to customise the desktop/ home page, including the grid size for apps and widgets on the desktop, icon layout, scroll effect, page indicator, etc.

Solo Launcher: This one claims to save on memory space and offers avenues for customisation. For instance, there is a DIY tab using which you select the home screen layout, size, colour, turn on the status bar and notification tab. To make a fixed place for apps and widgets on the home screen, one can lock the desktop from the DIY tab. In the beginning, frequently used apps are automatically placed on the home screen; and the app tray arranges apps alphabetically. The only downside to this launcher is the constant ads to download other apps such as Solo Security, Solo Cleaner and Solo Battery.


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