App makers offer an incredibly diverse array of options to customize your Android phone, with launchers ranging from minimalist skins to those that put an explosive array of color on your smartphone. A good launcher 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 Pixel 3 may have introduced us to a new launcher last fall, but there's more than one Android launcher for your phone. Here's a closer look at some of the best. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
Let's start with the default launcher if you get one of Google's Pixel phones. Pixel Launcher is clean and fast. It also might remind you a little bit of iOS with the round icon design and translucent menu bar at the bottom. Pixel Launcher sports features like notification dots, long-press shortcut support, a favorites bar, app suggestions, and of course, quick access to Google search. It’s only for Google’s Pixel and Pixel 2 phones, though with a little trickery you can sideload the APK yourself and give it a try. (In fact, we've got instructions on how to do so for both the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.) While the Pixel 3's launcher hasn't been put up for public download, the APK has been ripped and can be sideloaded if you've got an Android 9.0 phone.
Even if you don't have a Pixel phone, you can still field some Android Oreo-style features with the free and open source Lawnchair project. Lawnchair provides a mostly stock experience mirroring the Pixel launcher, with its Oreo shortcuts and app notification dots. But it also includes support for app icon packs, configurable icon and grid sizes, dock customizations and more. A Lawnfeed add-on also provides Google Now support if you want it.
Smart Launcher has long been one of our low-key favorites with its simple "flower" favorites grid and sorted app folder, and 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 smart 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. A premium version unlocks even more customizations, such as pop-up widgets and expanded gesture controls.
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.
Niagara is a lean Android launcher designed to keep your 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 customizations.
BlackBerry may be all but out of the hardware game, but it’s still making a big push into Android software. The BlackBerry Launcher is built to work with the BlackBerry Hub+, which which consolidates all of your emails, text messages, and other notifications into a centralized spot for quick access and response. Get the launcher and hub together to try them out, even if you don’t have a BlackBerry-branded phone.
Xiaomi's Poco F1 might not be widely available in the US, but you can get a taste of the Poco Launcher through the 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.