Android Home Screen Launchers: Six of the Best

The beauty of Android is that literally everything is customizable because the platform is open-source. Other mobile OSes provide little room for home screen customization, but Android has several choices for you and your inner creativity. Called “launchers” or “home screen replacements”, these apps allow you to customize the way the screen looks when you press the Home button on your phone. The best part is that anyone can do it and there is absolutely no hacking or trickery involved; just download, install, and begin customizing.
LauncherPro
LauncherPro
LauncherProLauncherPro is one of the most seamless, bug-free launchers out there. With almost every aspect of the application customizable, it’s hard to make the choice to switch to anything else once you give it a go.
When you first load the application, you will see the basic home screen layout with three screens and some default widgets and icons. Unlike your default launcher, LauncherPro sports five dock icon spots for you to customize with custom icons, actions, pop-ups, and much more. These icons act as shortcuts for you to set your own favorite applications to be accessible on any screen within the home screens. By swiping these shortcut bars left or right, you will notice that there are three more shortcut bars, made up of five icons, allowing you to set 15 of your favorite applications to be accessible at any point on the home screen.

In addition, you are also able to set custom icons for the applications you choose to put into the shortcut bar as well as the dock background, ranging from the default set to any image that is appropriately sized to fit the dock dimensions.
As you begin to look through the settings, you stumble upon an abundance of things to “tweak” to your liking. LauncherPro lets you change the number of home screens, the transition effect between the screens, and the size of the grid on each home screen. Other bells and whistles include a 3D drawer, super-smooth scrolling, app drawer opening and closing animations, customizable app drawer grid size, elastic scrolling, Sense UI-style animated screen previews, and even more.
Summary: Combined with its “free” price tag, the quality of this application is well worth the time to check it out. There is a reason the majority of the Android community opts to go for LauncherPro — it will not disappoint!
Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Federico Carnales
LauncherPro Plus
LauncherPro Plus

LauncherPro PlusBy donating $2.99 to developer Federico Carnales through PayPal, you unlock the full version of LauncherPro which includes additional features, such as the ability to re-size widgets as you see fit, which comes in handy when playing around with a bigger-than-standard grid size.

The biggest and best advantage to buying the full version is the widgets, which closely resemble HTC Sense’s both visually and functionally. The list of widgets includes People, Bookmarks, Calendar, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and Friends, most of which have multiple styles for you to choose from.
Summary: For the low price of $2.99, you can support the developer in perfecting this application further, regardless of whether or not you need the extra features. Especially with a long-awaited complete application overhaul and rewrite coming soon, this home screen replacement solution will be well worth the money.
Price: $2.99
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Federico Carnales
ADW Launcher
ADW.Launcher

ADW.LauncherWhile LauncherPro is my first choice of launcher, the brilliant people at AnderWeb have made a close second. With most of the settings and features nearly identical to LauncherPro’s, you may find it hard to tell them apart.

Nevertheless, there are certain things that allow ADW.Launcher to stand out from its competition in addition to the features already mentioned in LauncherPro. By flicking up on the app drawer icon, you have the ability to drag and drop an unlimited number of shortcuts and folders into the dock which is useful if you have a large pile of things you need to access quickly.
Another feature that sets ADW.Launcher apart is the app drawer styles that you are able to choose rather than being stuck with one default one. If you are a fan of the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones with the side scrolling app drawer, you’re in luck. AnderWeb has made that available to you, as well as the default Android fluidly-scrolling vertical drawer.
Another feature that LauncherPro lacks but that ADW has is the ability to long press on any icon on the home screen, which reveals a menu where you are able to change the icon and name of the application. (LauncherPro requires you to remove the icon and create a new one from scratch.)
Summary: Overall, ADW.Launcher is a solid, powerful, and free home screen replacement solution that will keep you satisfied for weeks to come. With lots of customization options, smooth scrolling, and fast response time, it is one of the best you will find.
Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: AnderWeb
ADW Launcher EX
ADWLauncher EX

ADWLauncher EXJust like LauncherPro, ADW.Launcher also has a paid version with additional features and customization. For $3.14 USD, you can have the most customizable launcher available on the Android Market.

First off, ADWLauncher EX bumped the number of app drawer styles from two to five, which aims to satisfy all you fanatics who like change. Another big change is the ability to change the animation when swiping between home screens. You have the option to choose between eight of them which, once again, adds to that customization factor you may be considering when choosing a launcher.
Other small changes include new icons, a new look and feel, the ability to give icons backgrounds, the ability to change font sizes, and many other small new features, all of which can be saved in a new feature called “fast presets”. With these presets, you can quickly switch between your home screen styles and configurations on the fly if you get bored of one home screen too soon.
The developer has also mentioned new and better code, meaning an improvement in performance.
Summary: ADWLauncher EX is perhaps the most customizable launcher on the Android Market, and it is well worth the money if you are looking to explore your creative side and wow your friends with your creations.
Price: $3.14
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: AnderWeb
Slidescreen
SlideScreen

SlideScreenLarva Labs Ltd have taken a different approach to the Android home screen. SlideScreen is made up of a multi-paneled screen that consists of a Phone, Messaging, Calendars, News, Stocks, and Twitter feeds. At the center of all of these is a main slider that consists of the date, time, weather information, battery status, and signal strength for both 3G and Wi-Fi, all very neatly packed into this container.

By sliding the main slider, you are able to adjust the size of each of the media section, allowing you to pick which sections you use or want the most. Access to all of your installed applications can be found through a shortcut in the menu.
By clicking on a slider section, you are greeted with the application that is associated with the section. For example, if you see that you missed a call, you tap the “phone” section, and are taken to the call history. Any upcoming appointments or important dates are shown under the “calendar” section and will take you to Slidescreen’s version of a calendar app when pressed.
Summary: Larva Labs Ltd have broken away from the generic Android-esque look and tried something new — and it’s quite polished. There is the occasional bug or poorly coded section here and there, but an update will fix those without a doubt. It’s definitely something new if you want to get away from the same old look of every other launcher out there.
Price: Free ($6.99 to remove the ads)
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: Larva Labs Ltd.
GO Launcher EX
GO Launcher EX

GO Launcher EXA relatively new launcher on the scene is GO Launcher EX by the up and coming Android development stars and authors of the GO SMS application, GO Dev Team.

One of the first things you’ll notice about this launcher is that inside the app drawer is a task killer of running applications. Rather than having a task killer running all the time and ruining your battery life, you now have the ability to shut down any running tasks on the fly, within the application, in case you are running low on memory.
By looking through the Preferences of this application, it becomes obvious that the GO Launcher Dev Team are huge fans of customizing. So many preference selections — Display, Screen, Dock, App Drawer, Operation, Advanced, and Theme Settings — may seem overwhelming at first, but after looking through all of the settings, you can customize GO Launcher EX to look like almost anything you like.
If you don’t need LauncherPro Plus’s widgets, GO Launcher Ex is definitely the best choice due to the build quality, number of features, usefulness and overall depth of the application. If you happen to have purchased LauncherPro Plus already, then GO Launcher doesn’t have any extra features that may warrant the switch after having shelled out $2.99. Regardless, it is a fantastic launcher. I cannot stress that enough.
Even though GO Launcher EX all the same features of ADW, and LauncherPro, the developers go that extra mile by including all of the incredible visual customization and are extremely active on their thread on XDA, jumping at the opportunity to include any features users suggest.
Price: Free
Requires: Android 1.6
Developer: GO Dev Team

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