I'm often reluctant to use a home screen launcher other than the stock one on my Android. Once you're well acclimated with something, complacency sets in, welcoming change with much resistance. Well, my friends, I have seen the error of my ways...
After using various different third-party launchers on my device, I have to admit that the stock option should be your last. There are developers out there dedicated to making the best launcher experience for Android users which, more often than not, offer features that can't be matched by your stock launcher.
While there are plenty of third-party launchers that act much like a stock launcher—like Google Now Launcher, Nova Launcher, and Apex—there are droves of others that really change the game. So to help narrow down your decision for a home screen replacement, today I'll be going over six free and unique launchers you should definitely try out.
Z Launcher is something we previously covered before it was available on the Google Play Store, and it's the stock launcher for Nokia devices (that run Android). But what makes this launcher worthy for devices outside of the Nokia realm is its simplicity.
The main home screen displays the most recently used apps for faster access to something you're more likely to use. Additionally, you can simply draw on the home screen to search through apps, contacts, or the web. If you need widgets, these can be applied to the left home screen, leaving your main page minimal and clean.
In addition to conveniently compartmentalizing your apps into folders, like Music, Entertainment, and Social, this launcher also includes a nifty little Prediction Bar that anticipates your needs, delivering you the apps you need based off context and activity. There's also a Quick Contacts page to the left of the main home screen, and some simple gestures that make basic tasks a cinch to perform.
For some people, functionality is a secondary need over the aesthetically pleasing, and that's' exactly what Themer is.
Themer does exactly what its name implies; it themes your device with ease. All the themes are free and fully customizable, and ten new themes are added every week, so it'd be difficult to not find something you can enjoy. The themes include unique icon packs and custom widgets so you can easily transform your device as frequently as you want.
Although it has over 800,000 free themes, Buzz Launcher doesn't have that one thing that makes it particularly unique, rather it's just really well-rounded and a great alternative to any stock launcher.
Buzz Launcher has the theme department down, but additionally, it also included gestures that make accessing various aspects of the launcher much quicker. It's difficult to go over all the customization options this launcher has, but I will mention that you can apply some cool transition effects when swiping through home screens.
While most of these launchers provide customization or functionality options, CM Launcher, from the devs that brought you Clean Master, looks to boost performance and keep your device secure.
The unique features that this launcher includes is an antivirus engine, memory booster, and a Power Saver app, which attempts to help you extend battery life. The Booster feature is found on the home screen and simply requires you to tap it to start cleaning up memory.
To those of you who love immersing yourselves in social media, you have to try out Flow Home. It essentially turns your home screen into a live feed of your favorite social media platforms, like Facebook, Feedly, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. And although it's still in beta, all you need is an activation code that the developers provide on the @FlowHomeApp Twitter page.
For some, the sole purpose of a phone is to keep up with social media, so Flow Home makes this simple while also providing you with the basic tools conventional launchers also provide you with.
Once you sign into your social media accounts, your home page is a live feed of posts from the people you follow. To the right, you have the app drawer with a useful search option, and you can add your favorite apps to the shortcut menu that's easily accessed from the main home screen.
All of these launchers contain additional options and features that are worth exploring, but hopefully one of these sway you enough from your stock launcher by providing that extra something that you were looking for.