AS 2012 approaches its final months we've decided that it would be a good idea to create an article which comprises this year's best Android home launchers. Despite all users already knowing that the APEX and NOVA launchers are some of the best apps ever hosted on the Play Store, we still think that there are users who will like to find more details about them and other similar tools.
A home launcher is the your Android device's UI and it is you main tool when it comes to customizing and giving your personal touch so that you'll feel better every time you unlock your phone.
There are many home launchers that you can use on your Android smartphone and all of them are working with any kind of ROMs, stock or custom. Usually, these application are created to change the stock launchers used by OEMs and to bring a rather fresh new approach to the whole Android OS.
All the applications/ launchers listed in this post will work with any version of Android. Also, note that some of these apps functions will work only on rooted phones. In case you can think of any other launchers that are better than the one's I've listed, then you should post them in comments and I will upgrade this post.
It is a home launcher that works only with Android 4.0 and later versions and, it was created by TeslaCoil Software. It currently holds 5 millions install and the total number of users running it on their respective Android smartphones is somewhat lower than that.
Nova Launcher free version comes with tons of features and functions that are making your phone's UI look great. It contains support for Color Themes, Icon Themes from various other launchers, Scrollable Dock for both tablets and smartphones, a highly customizable app drawer, effect for scrolling pages, infinite wallpaper, desktop and app scrolling, folder icons, a function that allows you to backup/ restore its configuration. The backup/ restore function is great for when you decide to change the ROM and most of the times, that requires a wipe data process.
You can add widgets in its dock section, you can add more than one app on your desktop screen simultaneously or even an entire folder at the same time. All of the above are functions that are working with the Free version.
If you opt to install the Prime ( paid variant ) of Nova Launcher you will get support for creating Drawer Groups where you can add folders in the App drawer, an infinite number of custom tabs which are allowing you to manage all apps via tabs and folders. Gestures feature will also be unlocked and you can use pinching, swiping and two-finger swiping actions to make your launcher perform your pre-configured tasks.
Nova Launcher allows you to hide applications, perform dock swipes, Unread Counter that tells you how many unread emails, SMS, missed calls, Gtalk messages you have. Also, this functions works with any other application that is able of showing counts in dock, desktop screen, drawer and even in folders.
There are tons of other features included within the NOVA Launcher app and you can only view the true power of this app by using it. It is simply one of the best things that ever happened to Android devices.
Get the Nova Launcher free version from HERE. In case you enjoy the free variant and you want to get your hands on the Prime functions, then you should go to the Nova Launcher Prime Play Store web page and buy the FULL variant.
The Apex Launcher is a great home launcher that has been downloaded by at least 4 millions users and it is currently one of the best Android 4.0. and 4.1 launchers along with its 'rival' Nova Launcher. It comes with tons of great features and customization options. Also, it is one of the most powerful tools that you can have currently installed on your device.
It comes with support for customizing the homescreen, a scrollable dock that allows you to add at most 7 icons per page and you can also set 5 dock pages. This will offer power users an easier access to all their favorite apps.
It features an infinite and elastic scrolling actions for home screen, drawer, dock along with several fancy effects that will make your phone look great while using these. You can hide elements just like you wish as you can use gestures to hide the status bar, the dock and even the search bar. Icons can be easily customized by simply clicking on them for a prolonged time, there are many drawer styles that you can use. The app drawer can be transparent or opaque, paginated or continuous and horizontal or vertical. It all depends on your preferences.
The app drawer also allows you to hide applications that you don't want to be accessed by other persons. The advanced theme technology allows you to download and apply entire icon packs, skins and other files that will help you customize the smartphone UI the way you want.
Apex Launcher comes with support for both Android smartphones and tablet devices. There are many other functions that you can use and configure. Set gestures to easily take control over all your phone's functions.
The free version of Apex Launcher is great, but if you really want to feel like you're in control over your device, you have to buy the PRO version.
Apex Launcher PRO comes with support for multiple drawer tabs that you can customize independently, an unread notifications counter for almost any application. Also, you will get support for dock swiping gestures along with the 'two-finger' actions. You can add themes from ADW, Go Launcher and even LauncherPro applications.
Another great feature of the Pro edition of Apex is the one that allows you to add multiple apps at the same time in a folder. You can merge contents in multiple folders and you can even add widgets into the launcher's dock. Overlapping widgets are a thing and this can be unlocked if you pay for the full version. There might be some other features but you should discover all of them by yourself.
Note that APEX is upgraded constantly and with every update you will get new features and functions that will improve the Android experience and that will make you enjoy even more your current Android phone.
GO Launcher EX:
This is one of the oldest home launchers that were released to Google's Play Store and it currently numbers almost 100 million downloads and installed. However, the number of users running it right now is lower than that, but this is still a great application for devices that aren't running Android 4.0 ICS or 4.1 Jelly Bean.
It works with any Android version and it a great tool for users that are still using Gingerbread OS and lower. It comprises tons of extra features and customization options. The transition between screens is very smooth and you can choose from thousands of different themes, each of these are created by numerous users and you can find them by searching the 'go launcher theme' term into Google Play Store.
Go Launcher EX comes with tons of extra widgets and apps that you can use as an alternative to SMS, Weather, Calendar and multiple other applications. It is a powerful tool for everyday Android user as it has functions that allows you to hide applications, clean memory, refresh home screens, sort files and icons etc.
It has recently received a Jelly Bean update that mimics the Android 4.1 TouchWiz launcher. It allows you to change the icon sizes and other elements of the UI so that it will suit better to your needs. The GO Store is included and you can use it to get new themes, lockers and widgets.
This is a totally free of charge application and you can easily set it as your default launcher, especially if you're not on the Android 4.0 or later versions. Also, it features a file browsing application.
A low point of it might be the Process Management screen where you can close all apps and clear memory, but this is an unnecessary action as your Android OS already has an internal app that does all that.
Get GO Launcher EX home launcher from Google Play Store here.
ADW.Launcher / ADWLauncher EX:
The ADW.Launcher is the free version of ADWLauncher EX. It is mostly a lite version which is why I will be talking more about the paid version rather than the other one.
The ADWLauncher EX app has been launched a long time ago and it can be used with smartphones and tablet devices that are running Android versions from 1.6 to 4.1 Jelly Bean. It brings tons of customizing options and you can choose from more than one thousand different themes and skins that will improve the looks of your device's UI.
All customizing tools such as skins, widgets, notifiers can be easily mixed using other app accessories that can be found in Play Store.
This is mostly an application that replaces your home screen and after you install it, you need to simply tap its icon and it will launch. It has support for gestures and widgets.
The main differences between ADW.Launcher and ADW Launcher EX are the 10 different app drawer types which allows you to choose from a 3D waterfall, 3D Roll, 3D wall, 3D cube etc. The multiple desktop transition effects, the paid version also adds support for changing icon sizes in order to suit the theme you're currently using. You can save custom launcher configurations and then restore them back after you've finished installing a new custom ROM or an update to your Android OS.
Recently, this app was updated and now it packs support for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Also, the developers will surely launch more and more new features starting with the next update.
If you want the free version, install the ADW.Launcher app from here (Google Play link).
To get the best of this app, then you should opt to install the ADWLauncher EX app from HERE. (Google Play Store Link). It costs only $3.
This is another Android home desktop launcher and despite the fact that it isn't that well known, it still managed to gather 1 million installs. It can be used with any Android OS version starting with 2.1. It is a great alternative to all of the above memory eating launchers as it only uses a low part of your phone's memory while delivering a great and smooth performance.
It is extremely easy to use and its main features are the multiple Dock bars, you can hide the page indicator, edit the grid size for homescreen. It features a badge display for missed calls and SMS text messages, as well as support for widget resizing. You can add new themes as ZIP or SSKIN or even Go themes. The main home drawer can host up to 9 different screens. Select from multiple app lists styles. Obviously, it comes with support for expandable folders both on desktop and app drawer.
There are multiple other small features and functions that are making the Nemus Launcher an enjoyable tool for Android devices that are high-end. In case you can think of any other better function of this app, please tell us in comments; I was unable to find any special utility in it, but maybe if we'll be lucky, Nemus Launcher will get an update in the near future.
Install Nemus Launcher for Android from Google Play Store HERE.
Holo Launcher is being developed by Mobint Software and it is great alternative to NOVA and APEX launchers because it can be installed on Froyo, Gingerbread, INS and Jelly Bean. It is a great home launcher and since it has received support for Android 4.1 I had to include it in this article.
The Holo Launcher has an ICS look and feel but it is great for users that want a simply launcher which uses a low amount of memory. It is free to use and in case you want more from it, then you should update to the PLUS version.
Almost every single element in this launcher can be edited and you should give it a try. It has support for backup and restore actions, which means that you can keep the same configuration even after you install a new ROM or Android OS by simply restoring the Holo Launcher backup file (this require the re-installation of Holo Launcher of course). Gestures function is included within and you can use it for a easier access to all areas of your device.
If you opt to install the Plus version of HOLO then you will get an unlimited number of configurable drawer tabs, unread counter for app notifications, dock icon swipe up and down gesture, support for GO launcher icon packs, overlapping widgets, you can add widgets to your dock and many others.
Also, you can choose to use the Holo Launcher HD variant, which brings full support for Jelly Bean OS. Note that this one will work exclusively with Android devices that are running at least Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS.
I think that these are all the great launchers you can use on your Android devices. If you think that there are other titles, then you should tell us in comments and we will update the post with the best of them.
Note that all the download links listed above are from Google's Play Store and some of the apps listed in this post might ask for you to pay in order to use all of their functions and features.
In case you find any errors or bugs in some of these launchers, then you should notify their respective developing teams so that they will be able to fix all problems before their next release.