Four offbeat Android launchers to transform your phone

March 23, 2014No Comments

Want to give your phone a new look, without having to design it yourself? These four launchers have you covered.

Most Android phones are great out of the box, but the beauty of the operating system is that you can customize everything about your device to suite your needs. With the help of the right launcher, you can give your phone a whole new look with one tap or streamline its design so that it’s easy enough for even your tech-phobic relatives to use.

If don’t already know, a launcher is an app that replaces your phone’s home screen, and occasionally the app drawer, to give it a new look or add special features. Popular launchers Apex, Nova, and Go Launcher seek to customize the design of your home screens — the main screen on your phone where your wallpapers, app, and widgets live. With those apps, you get complete control over your app icons, widgets, and screen layout.

While I enjoy spending hours tinkering with Nova and the like, sometimes I want the launcher to do the work for me. I’ve rounded up four launchers take over your Android phone with an arsenal of unique features, but don’t demand that you spend time customizing every tiny detail.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of alternative Android launchers, just a few that are particularly useful and well-built. Let me know what your favorite launcher is in the comment section below.


(Credit: Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET)

Aviate (Free)

First up is a personal favorite, Aviate. It’s a free Android launcher from Yahoo that shows collections of apps on your home screen that it thinks it might be useful, depending on where you are and the time of day.

Aviate groups your apps into themed collections, such as Home, Morning routine, Photography, and Going somewhere, which you can edit at any time. Then, as you go about your day, the launcher pulls specific collections to the top of your home screen, so they’re handy when you need them.

For instance, when you’re at your house, Aviate will show the Home collection in that space, with the apps you’ve selected for that collection, plus options to set an alarm or put your phone in do-not-disturb mode. You can choose to set your home and work locations in the app, and if you do, Aviate automatically detects when you’re at home or at work so that it can show those collections when you arrive.

Great for: People who like to stay organized, especially on their phone.


(Credit: Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET)

EverythingMe (Free)

Like Aviate, EverythingMe groups together your apps into categories, such as “social” and “weather.” The difference is that EverythingMe uses a more traditional Android design and takes a different approach to bringing you apps when it thinks you need them.

EverythingMe organizes your apps into pages called Smart Folders, which all have a specific theme, such as productivity, funny, or sports. Some folders even have widgets that show your daily agenda or help you find points of interest and businesses nearby. There are far more Smart Pages than there are collections in Aviate, which makes this launcher more versatile.

Your home screen is filled with popular Smart Folders, including social, games, and photography. Toward the bottom of the screen, there’s a widget that shows the time. If you swipe up on the clock, you’ll see a frequently-changing row of apps and Smart Folders recommended by EverythingMe.

This launcher is packed with extra features, including a wallpaper search, simplified app drawer, and voice search from the home screen.

Great for: Anyone who wants to take the idea of Aviate a few steps further, but still wants to tinker with their phone’s design.


(Credit: Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET)

Wiser (Free)

Not everyone with a smartphone is tech savvy, and Wiser gets that. Using large icons and bright colors, this launcher simplifies your phone’s operating system so that it’s easy for just about anyone to use. It’s also dead-simple to set up — just download and install from Google Play.

The home screen has large circular icons for your phone dialer, camera, applications, and more. You can add favorite contacts on one page, so you can quickly call or message them. The other two screens let you add your favorite applications.

Great for: Kids, seniors, or anyone who feels overwhelmed by their phone’s stock operating system.


(Credit: Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET)

Themer (Free)

Though still in beta, Themer gets a mention here because it lets you add unique and heavily-customized home screen designs to your phone with very little effort. The app was built by MyColorScreen, a site where Android users show off their home screens, many of which look more like graphic design projects than stock Android.

With the app, you can download hundreds of themes that range from iOS 7 lookalikes to intricate geometric designs. Like the other launchers I’ve mentioned, Themer groups your apps into categories in your app drawer, so they are easy to find. You can even program gestures, so that if you, say, swipe up on your screen with two fingers, the phone dialer opens.

Great for: Those who want to tweak their phone’s design, but don’t want to spend time picking out icons, wallpapers, and widgets.


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