One of greatest things about owning an Android device is the customization. Allowing your phone to be YOUR phone is what gives Android the advantage over an iPhone. The average person can have a blast when it comes to customizing things like your wallpaper, ringtones, text tones, and keyboards, but what if you want more? This is where launchers come into play.
No, we aren’t talking about a device that will launch your device into the air like a cannon or catapult. A launcher is something you can add to your phone to give you a little bit more access to customizing things. They allow for you to do things like having your home screen go from a 4X4 to maybe a 6X6 screen perhaps. Or maybe you want to make it so you don’t have to have an icon on the screen to open your app drawer, you just want to swipe up on any home screen.
Every phone that you buy will have a basic software User Interface (UI) on it. Samsung has “Touch Wiz”, HTC has “Sense” and Huawei uses “EMUI”. This is what gives your phone the look and feel that you use on the screen. It tells the phone where it can put widgets and where you can drop your favorite apps for quick access on your home screen. Now what you have to understand is that a launcher isn’t going to get rid of the software that comes on the phone. That’s here to stay. What is is essentially doing is putting a blanket over that software to allow you to pick and choose what software you want.
There are two different kinds of launchers. Smart launchers and design launchers.
Design launchers are made to allow your phone to look better. These allow for things such as double tapping your home screen to open an app or swipe down with two fingers on the home screen to open up Bluetooth settings. The three most popular design launchers are going to be Nova, Apex, and Go Launcher EX (click the names to check them out). Go Launcher EX is basically the old “tried and true” when it comes to launchers. It’s been around the longest and has the most icon packs (we’ll get to that in a second) on the market right now. Nova and Apex are almost identical when it comes to features, and there is a borderline holy war amongst enthusiasts as to which one is better. Personally, I use Nova Launcher, but that isn’t for any good reason at all. I used to bounce around between Apex and Nova, but now I have found its just easier to settle on one.
An icon pack is something you can download from the Play Store as a sort of “add-on” to your launcher. This will allow you to change the look of your icons on your desktop and in your app drawer. I personally like very minimalistic ones like a simple black and white or flat colored one, however, there are some that make your icons look like they’re made out of metal or wood. Others add flowers to the borders of the icon. There are thousands and thousands of them for each launcher. Some cost money, and some are free. Here is an example of what an icon pack can do for your phone:
While Smart Launchers will still change the overall look of your phone, that isn’t their goal. The object of them is to give you as much information on your screen as possible. They will push a news feed to the top of your screen, with quick contacts on one side and texts on the other. Some of these launchers will even ask you to input your home and work address to allow them to add relevant information to your screen. Imagine you use Gmail, Google Keep, USA Today and 4th Floor Techs Facebook page while you’re at work. Some of these launchers, like Google Now launcher, will add information from those apps right to your home screen.
Learning to use a launcher can be difficult or overwhelming at first but giving it a solid 20 to 30 minutes of your time will give you hours and hours of fun customizing your phone the way that you want it. Also, some of the features on these launchers require you to purchase the Pro or Prime version of the app. The way we see it though, the same $5 or so you would spend on a cup of coffee is worth making your phone more customized to the way you use it. After all, you do use your phone for a greater portion of your day…right?
Let us know in the comments what launchers you guys are using and if you have any questions about what launchers to download!