You might already be familiar with launcher apps, which completely reskin Android phones with different icons, app drawers and home screen layouts, but some of these launchers go way beyond a visual overhaul — they actually change the way that apps and information are presented on your screen, and can transform how you interact with your phone. These are some of the best ones we’ve come across.
1. AIO Launcher
AOI Launcher puts just about everything you need on the home screen itself: apps, device info, battery level, frequently used apps, contact information, timers, your email, the news, and so on. The idea is you spend less time staring at your phone, because everything you need is right there in a glanceable format.
You can see your tasks list, view your tweets, check stock prices, and even start an audio recording, all from the home screen — and there’s even a mini control panel, too. All of this can be customised as you see fit, so you can get rid of anything you don’t want. The app offers plenty for free, but a $4 payment unlocks more widgets and more settings for you.
If you wish modern-day smartphones were much more like old-school computers, then the T-UI Launcher is perfect for you: Basically, you operate your handset from a command line, typing out the names of the apps you want to use and the settings that you want to change, while seeing key information relayed on-screen in a long block of colourful text.
While it’s not for the faint-hearted, T-UI Launcher gives you plenty of help to get you up to speed with how the interface works, and there are plenty of different ways to configure the interface. There’s even a built-in RSS reader you can use, as well as a variety of third-party skins for T-UI Launcher that you can install to change its overall appearance.
The Indistractable Launcher is still in development, so expect the occasional bug, but the launcher is designed to make the interface on your Android phone as lightweight and as minimal as possible. Install it and right away your phone is easier to use, with just a basic task list and access to your Phone app accessible on the initial home screen.
The rest of your apps are just a swipe away, and you can easily search through them. We like the widgets that come with this launcher, which shows the weather as well as how far through the day and the year you are. A one-off payment of $14 gets you access to extra settings and configuration options, including support for third-party icon packs.
Your home screen will never look the same again once you install Ap15, because icons and grids are out and words and lettering are in. There’s only one screen, but you can set the colour, the style, and the size of the font used on it to fit whatever aesthetic you’re going for. In terms of simple minimalism, it’s one of the best Android launchers there is.
The more you launch and use particular apps, the bigger the app’s title gets, so you can easily see which apps you rely on most. You can download, customise, and use the app for free, but if you upgrade to the Pro versio for $3, then you can set a background pattern and take more control over the rules that control how the text labels get displayed.
By default, Android lets you keep your most important apps away from your less important apps — it’s how the home screens and the app drawer work — but the Niagara Launcher takes this to the next level. You can choose a maximum of just eight apps for the home screen, while the rest are kept hidden in a rather stylish scrolling side menu.
With some cool widgets and design options to play around with, the Niagara Launcher really can change the way you use your phone, though a lot of the best features of the software require a paid upgrade — for $15, you can access a bunch of extra goodies like weather and battery percentage widgets, plus more customisation options.
Ratio aims to get you to use your phone less but also more efficiently. Colours and distractions are minimised, with essential information like notes and your schedule on screen so you don’t have to dig for it. It streamlines all your messaging apps into one simple-to-follow feed called Tree and keeps tabs on how long you’re using each of your apps.
Using a system of auto-sizing drawers, the number of apps that are easily accessible is limited, and it changes through the day. In other words, you no longer have rows and rows of colourful icons shouting for your attention, and all this is complete customisable. It’s free to download and use, though the Tree feature will cost you $3 a month or $21 a year.
The Before Launcher wants to bring simplicity to your smartphone experience. That starts with the apps, which are reduced to a hand-picked list of text labels, and it extends to notifications. A built-in notification filter tool means you’re only disturbed when important alerts arrive, with the rest kept safe for when you’ve got time for them.
Despite this advanced functionality, the Before Launcher doesn’t take long to set up at all. It’s straightforward and immediately reduces the stress of opening your phone. If you pay the $3 upgrade fee, then you get more control over the way the launcher looks, the way your apps are ordered, and how big the primary font size is.