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Best Android launchers 2021

best android launchers
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best Android launchers offer you full control of your phone's home screen. You'll find an incredibly diverse array of options for putting your stamp on the best Android phones, with launchers ranging from minimalist skins to those that put an explosive array of color on your smartphone. 

The best Android launchers can give your phone a total makeover, from changing the look and feel with different icons and themes, to adding new functionality such as smart folders and search assistants. The look of Android may be evolving every year, but there's more than one launcher for your phone. 

Here are the best Android launchers we've found on the Google Play store and elsewhere.

The best Android launchers you can download today

Finding the best Android launcher for your smartphone is a matter of personal taste, but we'd recommend Nova Launcher. It does a good job balancing features with customization, and it's a top choice for anyone looking to to put their personal spin on their phone. Smart Launcher 5 which continues to add features and layouts that impress. Nova Launcher also does a good job balancing features with customization, and it's a top choice for anyone looking to to put their personal spin on their phone.

If you want notifications to be displayed prominently, then try Niagara Launcher, which is my (Jordan) current go-to. Lean Launcher is good if you prefer minimalist setups, while AIO Launcher takes almost the exact opposite approach, trying to cram in as much information as possible. As we've said, there's a launcher for just about everyone in the Google Play Store.

Even if none of these options appeal, read on because we've found many other choices for the best Android launcher for your phone. 

1. Nova Launcher

best android launchers: Nova Launcher

(Image credit: TeslaCoil Software)

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

best android launchers: niagara launcher

(Image credit: Peter Huber)

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 — so much so that we've included it in our Tom's Guide Awards 2021.

Download Niagara Launcher: Play Store

3. Smart Launcher 5

best android launchers: smart launcher 5

(Image credit: Smart Launcher Team)

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

best android launchers: AIO launcher

(Image credit: AIO Mobile Apps)

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 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

best android launchers: hyperion launcher

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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

best android launchers: action launcher

(Image credit: 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

best android launchers: customized pixel launcher

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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

Best Android Launchers: Apex Launcher

(Image credit: Android Does Team)

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

best android launchers: poco launcher

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

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

best android launchers: Microsoft Launcher

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

11. Lightning Launcher

best android launchers: lightning launcher

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Lightning Launcher is an old-school, deeply customizable Android launcher app designed to give you maximum customizability, with the option for gridded or pixel perfect-assigned app icons on the home screen. 

The $4.99 download also allows you to zoom in and out across an unlimited desktop, with options for separate workspaces allowing for work, play, and home desktops. Users can change fonts, styles, colors, grid lines, gestures, and more, and even add JavaScript add-ons to extend functionality. 

Lightning does come with a noticeable learning curve as you tweak the app’s settings and options, but it’s a rich premium launcher experience that’s great for users looking to get their home screen just right.

Download Lightning Launcher: Play Store

12. ADW Launcher 2

best android launchers: adw launcher 2

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The original ADW Launcher was a ridiculously good and versatile launcher back in the day, though it eventually fell by the wayside as it languished without updates. Enter ADW Launcher 2, which brings one of the best Android launchers back to the fore as a modern app. 

ADW Launcher 2 offers a wealth of features and customization options, such as a dynamically colored interface based on your wallpaper, an indexed app drawer, transitions, icon badges, app categorization and more. It also supports newer Android features, including app shortcuts.

Download ADW Launcher 2: Play Store

13. ASAP Launcher

best android launcher: ASAP Launcher

(Image credit: Tim Clark)

ASAP Launcher is another app that focuses on providing a clean, no-nonsense interface so you can get back to whatever you really should be doing as soon as possible. 

ASAP sticks to a clean Material Design aesthetic, while using slide up app drawers and settings drawers to quickly bring your favored apps and device settings within easy reach. 

Unlike other best Android launchers, ASAP isn't aiming for personalization, but the launcher does feature a number of themes, as well as support for icon packs.

Download ASAP Launcher: Play Store

14. Lean Launcher

best android launchers: lean launcher

(Image credit: Hundeva)

Lean Launcher is an open source launcher designed to mimic the official Pixel Launcher, even on unsupported Android phones, while offering a few more options than the root-free Pixel Launcher that it was based on. 

The minimalist look of Lean Launcher also includes options to hide the search bar and customize the app grid. You get a lockable home screen and support for icon packs as well as adaptive icons. 

Clean and no-nonsense while offering a decent amount of customizations, Lean Launcher is a good option for those looking for a slimmer launcher experience.

Download Lean Launcher: Play Store

15. Big Launcher

best android launchers: big launcher

(Image credit: Big Launcher)

Big Launcher is designed with seniors, children and the visually impaired in mind. It uses large, simplified interface buttons to easily access common phone functions like calls, messaging, favorite contacts, and apps. 

The launcher is built to be easy to use and simple above all else — so don't expect a ton of fancy interface features — but it's a handy launcher to set up for friends and relatives who might have trouble with a more standard phone interface.

Download Big Launcher: Play Store