The best Android launchers are the perfect way to customize your Android experience. Choice is one of the best things about the Android system, but the stock launcher your phone comes with is usually pretty limiting. A launcher gives you the chance to tinker with the best Android phones as much (or as little) as you like, without those manufacturer-imposed limitations.
Launchers can be surprisingly feature-rich too. Whether you're looking for ways to give your phone a makeover, or enjoy features you didn't actually know were possible. Some launchers are designed with minimalism in mind, while others offer an explosion of color that would put a book of paint samples to shame. But no matter what you choose, this means giving your phone a fresh new look and feel — without the added expense of buying a new phone.
There are plenty of launchers to choose from. It's just a question of finding the right one for you. We've tested a bunch of launchers to see which ones are worth having, and these are the best Android launchers we've found on the Google Play store.
The best Android launchers
1. Nova Launcher
You can't talk about the best Android launchers without a mention of Nova Launcher. Fast, sleek and highly customizable, Nova Launcher balances extensive appearance and utility customizations with a minimal performance impact, letting you set your home screen just right without slowing down performance.
There are a lot of options to work through, from color themes to icon packs, scrollable docks to app drawer customizations, to folder settings and infinite scrolling. The Nova team is never content to rest on its laurels, continuously adding new features, such as Sesame Shortcuts, animations, and other improvements.
If you want the most powerful features, turn to Nova Launcher Prime, a $4.99 version that offers more than the free download.
Download Nova Launcher: Play Store
2. Niagara Launcher
Niagara is a lean Android launcher designed to place your apps and notifications front and center, while keeping other distractions to a minimum. Notifications are displayed right on your home screen, with spam and persistent notifications automatically filtered out. The app drawer automatically surfaces your favorite apps, while also providing handy alphabetical shortcuts.
That said, Niagara's extreme minimalism means that you shouldn't be expecting any unusual visual frills and options you might expect from most third-party launchers. it is updated frequently and it shows great promise.
Download Niagara Launcher: Play Store
3. Smart Launcher 5
Smart Launcher has long been a favorite for the best Android launcher, with its simple "flower" favorites grid and sorted app folder. The latest version, Smart Launcher 5, adds a ton of features and refinements.
Smart Launcher's flower grid is still available, but it's joined by a number of other well thought-out layouts designed to keep your favorite apps within easy reach of one hand, while smart search and an intelligently sorted and customizable app drawer makes it easy to find whatever you need, whether on your phone or out in the web. Adaptive icons and colors, fully resizable widgets, and more customizations round out the package, making for a great update to a classic launcher.
You'll need to shell out $7 for the Pro version of Smart Launcher to access the many of those extra features, including pop-up widgets and expanded gesture controls.
Download Smart Launcher 5: Play Store
4. AIO Launcher
Where other launchers might offer up decluttering visual customizations, AIO Launcher is all about cramming as much info as possible on your screen in a relatively spartan format.
The app displays your frequently used apps, as well as system information, recently received calls, messages and email, as well as upcoming calendar events and more.
While AIO Launcher is free, in-app purchases unlock other features such as widget support, app icons, and Android notifications in the home screen stream. It's not the friendliest interface out there among the best Android launchers, it's still an interesting choice if information density isn't a turn-off for you.
Download AIO Launcher: Play Store
5. Hyperion Launcher
A Pixel-like launcher from the team behind the popular Substratum theming engine, Hyperion Launcher is an extremely customizable Android launcher app that lets you tweak a vast array of settings.
Besides the standard wallpapers and widgets, users can configure a gamut of settings for themes, folders, transparencies, animations, icon packs and adaptive icons. Hyperion provides a ton of its features for free, but others — like launcher-level font changes and custom gestures — are unlocked with an in-app purchase for the Pro version.
Download Hyperion Launcher: Play Store
6. Action Launcher
Action Launcher Pixel Edition was among the first of the big third party launchers to give itself a Pixel-style makeover, combining its extreme customizability with new interface features and styles introduced with the Pixel Launcher.
Action Launcher includes an adaptive app bar, the pill-shaped Google search bar, and Oreo-style app shortcuts (backward compatible to Android 5). A slide-out app drawer provides users with quick access to an app library and widgets. Special gestures such as "covers" and "shutters" allow for speedy access.
Action Launcher automatically picks out dominant colors in your wallpaper and adjusts the app drawer, folder backgrounds and search box to match.
Download Action Launcher: Play Store
7. Customized Pixel Launcher
Another excellent launcher stemming from the efforts to bring features of the Pixel Launcher to the Android masses is Customized Pixel Launcher (CPL), a free app building off the Rootless Launcher project.
On the surface, CPL hews closely to the look of the stock Pixel launcher, with rounded edges, notification dots and badges, while also throwing in support for theming, icon packs, adaptive icons, gesture controls and font customization.
CPL also supports the Google feed and the At A Glance widget, and Assistant features, though you’ll need to install an additional app from GitHub to get the feed to work on CPL.
Download Customized Pixel Launcher: Play Store
8. Apex Launcher
Apex Launcher lives up to its name as another excellent Android launcher with a good balance of features and performance.
Core features include the ability to customize the home screen grid size, with up to nine screens, as well as a scrollable dock with up to five pages. Infinite scrolling, transition animations, numerous folder styles and multiple app drawer styles add even greater customization.
The paid version of Apex Launcher unlocks more options, such as more drawer options, additional gestures and theme support. That's an $8.99 download.
Download Apex Launcher: Play Store
9. POCO Launcher
Xiaomi's phones, like the new Xiaomi Mi 11, might not be widely available in the US, but you can get a taste of the Poco Launcher through the Google Play Store. The Poco Launcher deviates from Xiaomi's usual design sensibilities, offering an app drawer complete with smart category tabs that automatically sort apps into groups like Communication and Photography.
The launcher offers a customizable screen layout, transition effects, icon pack support, and notification badges. It doesn't offer as many deep customizations as rival launchers, but it does look nice and is designed to be on the streamlined end of things. And recent additions include dark mode support and the ability to lock your phone by tapping the screen.
Xiaomi says that Poco Launcher is compatible with Android 10.
Download Poco Launcher: Play Store
10. Microsoft Launcher
Microsoft rebranded its excellent Arrow Launcher into the Microsoft Launcher, keeping Arrow's compact, context-sensitive app pages and customizable feed, while also working to improve the interplay between your Android phone and Windows PC.
Users can quickly snap photos from the phone and view them on their desktop; they can also open web links from mobile to Edge on PC, or start editing Office 365 documents from their PC and continue on the go with their mobile phone.
All of this is in addition to Microsoft's universal search bar, customizable themes, and configurable gesture controls.
Download Microsoft Launcher: Play Store
How we picked the best Android launchers
We went hands-on with every launcher on this list, which is how we drew the above conclusions on ranking. A launcher is a very personal thing, but we value the ones that give you a lot of functionality, even if the feature set itself is minimal.
In the end, we encourage you to try out different launchers to see which one you like best. You might find the more feature-packed options to be overwhelming, in which case you may want to look at one of the lighter ones.
We've used some of these launchers extensively over the years, which also influenced our ranking here.
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Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.
Custom Pixel Launcher has been gone from the playstore for over 5 months.Reply
Says story was updated or I guess rehashed 2 days ago...
May want to put a replacement or link to a different source for install.
Lynx Launcher doesn't get anywhere near its due credit. Rather than offering the same article 60 other sites have written about the most surface-level launchers (real good job, laboriously scrolling through Google's recommended apps), try looking for unique ones of quality.Reply
Anyone searching for this sort of thing has already heard about the top-listed ones on Play. Dig a little!
Take Nova Launcher off the list. They just sold out to the analytics company Branch. Now a company that makes money off of collecting data on users will have access to everything you do in your phone. You will have to "OPT OUT".Reply
Here to find an alternative to Nova explicitly for this reason. It's a shame to see it stuck at the top of a list after the aquisition. Nova is exceptional, but the launcher is now essentially just a tool for an invasive data mining company. Phones are invasive enough without having the launcher compromised. Makes one a bit suspicious if they're paying to run some positive marketing to drown out the community's pushback on it. 🙄 Just gross.Reply
I'm using Hyperion. It's pretty darn good.Reply
I think that's the one I'm going to give a shot. Back on Samsung's default launcher until I've had a chance to do some research. I'm going to miss Sesame and it's search integration in Nova. That was a killer duo. Does Hyperion have some of that search bar functionality?Reply
Hyperion supports Sesame but be careful, Branch owns that functionality. If you use it, you might as well stay with Nova.Reply
Yes I understand that, which is certainly disappointing. I'm hoping to find similar search functionality that sesame offers from another app or already bundled into another launcher. Want sure if Hyperion had some good built in search functionality that didn't rely on sesame. 😕Reply
It may work. Give it a try.Reply
I would like to say Nova Launcher is #1 but I have privacy concerns ever since it was taken over, and because there have been no updates nor attention given to it by the new owners since December 2021 in terms of refinements, improvements, etc. It's interesting that a site like Tom's Hardware can continue to put it in the #1 slot based on past accomplishments for the launcher.Reply