One of the best things about Android, it gives you the ability to be different, to separate yourself from the rest and it does not matter who you are. You could be a global juggernaut bent on touchwizing the planet or a lonely Star Trek loving geek, living in your parent’s basement. It does not matter because the Android Open Source Project lets you “be together, not the same.”
This will be part one of three, in a series about Android launchers. We will look at the good, the bad and the ugly and try to be as honest as we can be about a very subjective topic – personal taste. Although i really like Android’s new slogan, “be together, not the same” and it is my preferred platform, I want to end the series with a simple question…. Is all this choice worth it?
Let’s find out……
In this post I would like to look at two of the very best launchers. They are Nova Launcher and Action Launcher 3. There are a lot of launchers out there and even more debate on which are the best launchers. I have tried a number of them and the reason i see these two as the best is customizations and stability. I have installed a number of launchers that slow my phone down and that i just can’t accept. An unstable launcher just leaves you hanging. Literally, you are left hanging waiting for your processor to work through the math.
Action launcher 3
Action launcher 3 (AL3)is clean yet customizable. It sticks to a stock android feel but adds some really beep modifications. One of AL3 key features are the icon Covers and Shutters.
From AL3’s webpage:
Covers: an innovative take on traditional folders. Tapping a Cover loads an app, swiping a Cover opens a hidden folder which you have customized.
Shutters: swipe a shortcut to reveal an app’s widget. Allows you to say preview your inbox or Facebook feed without opening the app.
Have a look at the screenshot. You can see that Games, Fitness and Google are covers, marked with a square, and contain apps within. Hangouts is a shutter, marked with two horizontal lines, and previews the app with swipe. If you look closely you may notice something about the Covers and Shutters. They are automatically coloured to matched your app! This is a small feature but it speaks to why i like action launcher. The developer wanted to do his best and it shows. When a developer takes time for the small things they gain my respect, It does not matter if you like another launcher over this one, you can’t help but respect the effort put into it and it does not stop there.
There are two other things that i want you to notice about this screenshot. Look at the yellow of the google search bar and the blue of folder(Cover) background. It all matches with the wallpaper! AL3 calls it Quick Theme and it quickly impresses. This feature can modify the status bar, search box, all apps background, quickdrawer and folder background all to match with your wallpaper. You can play with it in the setting but every time i use it i really like the chosen colour scheme. It’s not the biggest change a launcher can do but it is well thought out and the extra touches to make it complete.
There are lots of other customization and short cuts that AL3 can do but most are common to other launchers. I should mention that the search bar can be a powerful tool for someone
using this launcher. However, what really separates it from the pack is its stability and small touches like the quick theme. This is a launcher that will take care of you, it will let you pick a wallpaper and then make everything look good for you. That is why it is my second favorite launcher.
There are things that other launchers can do that Nova can’t but Nova is invisible and totally customization. I can get lost in the infinite settings and options. Nova does not coddle you like AL3 does. You can see on this screenshot that Games, Fitness and Google are not marked as folders. You need to remember how you have set yourself up with Nova. You can see that the google search bar is white. It has not been modified to match the colours of your screen. All of these things are not negatives to me because you are actually free to modify anything and everything. I could list what you can modify but that would make this article boring, just know that whatever it is, it can be modified on Nova. Is your notification bar hard to see with your white wallpaper? Change them to a dark icon theme. Don’t like unread icon badges? That’s ok, don’t use them or if you do, place them in any corner you wish. This is the tinker’s launcher but that is not why it is my launcher of choice.
Once you are done playing with the setting and options it works and works. I sometimes even forget that i am using a launcher. I will jump onto my wife’s Nexus 5 and only then do i realize “Ohh this is stock android, i forgot”.
Not sure what kind of pixie dust they are putting in the programming. What i do know is that it works well. My trusty Nexus 5 is not a slouch but it can stumble if it has too many graphic heavy games thrown at it. I notice the lag with other launchers and to a lesser degree with Action Launcher 3 but it runs like stock with Nova. You can’t notice that is it there, it becomes completely invisible and that is why it earns my spot as top launcher.
Nova may be my top launcher but it is not the most fun. Next week, in part two we will review two of the funnest launchers around. Until then let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Do you use either of these launchers? Do you have a launcher that you think kicks ass, let me know. Disagree with my opinion? What are your thoughts?
Both of these launchers took time to develop. If you have a few bucks kicking around and if you like the launcher, why not support the developer? It can only lead to more development of new and better launchers.
Until next time