One quick and easy way to refresh an aging Android smartphone phone is to replace the home screen with a Launcher.
Launchers are skins with themes and unique behaviors, like transparency and scrolling styles. Here’s a look at the top five, best-performing free launchers for the Android operating system.
About the Operating System
Android Launchers are considered apps, and are found in Google’s Play Store.
Browse to the Play Store — it’s in the mobile device’s app drawer. Then search for the app.
No. 1: Nova Launcher
Nova Launcher claims 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.6 stars out of a possible 5 from 251,197 reviewers. Requires Android 4.0 and up.
Nova launcher is an extremely customizable launcher app designed to speed up performance.
Neat tricks include substituting KitKat-styled icons for the aging Ice Cream sandwich versions. KitKat is the latest incarnation of Android.
Adding splendid, depth-inducing subtle shadows to the home screen border is another example of why this launcher reigns.
No. 2: ADW
ADW claims 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.4 stars out of a possible 5 from 120,657 reviewers. Requires Android 1.6 and up.
A massive subculture of skin designers, plus compatibility with very early versions of Android, account for the popularity of this launcher.
Themes from third-party designers include Black Glass, Ubuntu, Minimalist and themes that base themselves on replicating existing hardware, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note III themes.
Got KitKat and miss an old Android OS like Gingerbread? Then use ADW to recreate it.
No. 3: Action Launcher
Action Launcher claims 100,000 to 500,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.3 stars out of a possible 5 from 9,159 reviewers. Requires Android 4.0.3 and up.
Chris Lacy’s Action Launcher is nipping at the heels of big dogs Nova and ADW with some innovative interactions. They include a way to create and launch widgets by swiping at an app’s icon.
Quickage lets you launch a Home page from the right edge of the screen; Covers is an advanced form of folder that lets you group icons; and Shutters lets you group widgets on the home screen.
No. 4: Apex Launcher
Apex Launcher claims 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 4.4 stars out of a possible five from 94,962 reviewers. Requires Android 4.0.3 and up.
Another major Launcher, this skin provides elastic scrolling and a lockable desktop to prevent changes.
Transition effects, multiple drawer styles, and an advanced theme engine with icon packs and skins from third-party developers, including a copy of the much-loved HTC Sense UI, round out the mix.
No. 5: Transparent Screen Launcher
Transparent Screen Launcher claims 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 installs and has an average Google Play Store rating of 3.9 stars out of a possible 5 from 33,050 reviewers. Requires Android 2.2 and up.
ForU naveen’s Transparent Screen Launcher is a wonderful idea, with an unfortunately misguided execution. The concept is that your home screen becomes transparent, using the device’s camera. It’s a kind of augmented reality where you can see behind the phone as you’re looking at the screen.
The developer pitches it as ideal for pedestrian safety — you can look at your screen while seeing where you’re going.
It does look awesome, and it does make your phone look transparent, but it’s full of junky apps — so be warned if you want to try the experience.