Got an Android phone? Have you dived into the world of launchers yet? Here's our pick of the downloads that'll transform your phone.
Much has been made over the years of Android’s customisation chops. That’s because when you buy an Android smartphone, you’re not stuck with a static row of homescreens – you can really tinker with it to personalise it to your own requirements, placing apps or widgets wherever you please. But when you download the right Android launchers from the Google Play store, that stuff becomes just the tip of the iceberg.
A launcher is a replacement for the way that your homescreens look and feel. There are loads in the Google Play store, many for free, and they all offer a different set of options, settings, animations and more. Android Nougat may well be coming to your phone in the near future, but if you just can’t wait, here’s a list of launchers that’ll give your phone some new features (and loads more) in a snap…
Nova is the daddy when it comes to customisation. Download it, set it as your home default home launcher, and you’ll unlock a world of tweaks and UI possibilities. By default, Nova fires up with a very stock Android look and feel, but by delving into the options you can change just about anything about it.
You can change the desktop grid to show more or less apps, increase or shrink the size of your app icons, keep or remove the dock, add cool page transitions, and make a bunch of other small but effective alterations. Our favourite features, though, are gestures – which let you define new swipes and taps to launch certain apps from the homescreen – and the ability to replace icons with either a custom image or a separately downloaded icon pack for a clean, uniform look.
Most Android phone manufacturers like to skin up Google’s mobile OS with their own UI flourishes and design tweaks, with varying results. But if you’re not a big fan of the extra bells and whistles and fancy making it look more how Google intended, the company’s own Google Now Launcher is the one for you.
The Now Launcher offers a stripped back, stock look and feel to your homescreen and app icons. It’s quick, clean, and even lets you search by saying ‘Ok Google’ from the homescreen. Better still, this launcher will put the Google Now screen to the left of your first homescreen page, ready to flag up a huge range of contextual information. Examples? ‘Google Now’ will, without prompting, let you know when to leave to be on time for meetings, bring up flight times and details from your email booking confirmations, show you the weather where you’re off on holiday, show reminders, and highlight great places to eat and drink near your location.
Arrow is Microsoft’s attempt at creating the perfect Android launcher, and the software giant has done a fine job – the app has garnered praise from sites such as Android Central, TIME and TechCrunch thanks to its battery-saving build and the way it makes finding apps, people and files a doddle.
Arrow’s main aim is to streamline your route around your phone, and to put the things you need most front and centre. To do that, it asks you to pick your eight most frequent apps to keep on the homescreen, and then – as it learns your habits – it’ll add more throughout the day to predict which apps you might want to use. Beyond that, Arrow launcher offers dedicated screens for contacts, recents (photos, calls, messages…), and documents, all of which makes finding what you’re after a breeze.
Ever wondered what life is like on the other side of the mobile fence? Every mobile operating system has its pros and cons, so why not see what it’s like to be an iPhone user for a while by downloading a launcher that mimics Apple’s mobile OS?
One Launcher does just that, giving your phone that flat, clean iOS-style look. The launcher will restyle your app icons to look like iOS’s round-cornered equivalents, too, laying them out in rows of four, and also let you create folders with exactly the same look and feel that longtime iPhone users will be well used to. Want to go the whole hog? Download ‘Control Panel – Smart Toggle’ to get an iOS-style quick settings panel that swipes up from the bottom, and ‘OS8 Lock Screen’ to replace your phone’s locker with one that looks just like the one on iPhone.
Not taken with iOS? How about Windows 10? Launcher8 has been around on the Google Play store since Windows Phone 8 was a big deal, but it’s been constantly updated since to keep its home screen replacement in line with what’s found on Microsoft’s ever-evolving mobile platform. Looks-wise, Launcher 8 is right up to date with Windows 10 Mobile.
And, as any mobile fan should know, Windows 10 means one thing: tiles. With this launcher you’ll be able to resize an arrange your square app tiles as you see fit, either in block colours or with the translucency effect found in Windows 10 mobile, while some apps even boast live-tile functionality, letting you see extra info without even having to open the app.
Get more amazing apps… Click here to read our rundown of the best new and freshly updated apps available this month.