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, 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, or at least the one that comes on your phone if you get one of Google's Pixel 2 phones. Pixel Launcher is clean and fast. It also might remind you a little bit of iOS with the new 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 (the Pixel 3's launcher isn't available yet), 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.)
Even if you don't have a Pixel phone, you can still field some of the newest 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.
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.
You don’t have to have a phone built by Asus to get the look the company has developed for its handsets. The ZenUI launcher lets you go with a particular color theme and bundle up apps in the drawer by category if you want to keep things neat and tidy. The Manage Home screen puts phone customization and system settings within easy reach, and a quick swipe down brings up a search bar, frequently used apps, and contacts.
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, but an interesting choice if information density isn't a turn-off for you.