One of the easiest ways to change up your Android experience is by swapping out the stock launcher with a new one. The word "launcher" is Android lingo for "home screen app," and it's a common term because of how easy it is to switch to a new one. So if you're looking to revamp your home screen, this guide's for you.
The cool thing about using a custom launcher is that you're in control of your experience, so you'll have plenty of chances to try out different ones and find your match. If you're looking for one that has all the tweaks you could ever want, there's plenty to fill that void without question. If you're looking for something a bit cleaner and more simplistic, there's that too, of course.
Before you can begin using a custom launcher, you'll need to browse the Play Store to find a few different candidates that sync up with your personal style or needs.
For starters, do a search for "home launcher," which will bring back a relevant list of many popular home launcher apps. Nova Launcher, Action Launcher, and CPL are three of our favorites if you need a starting point.
Since you're interested in changing up your home screen experience, you'll most likely want to download multiple different launchers, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll keep the number low for now. Download a handful of home launcher apps (maybe 2 or 3), then you can exit the Play Store and move onto the next step. You can always repeat the process and test more later.
As with anything relating to Android, there are multiple ways to do the same thing, and swapping out your home launcher is no different. Both of the methods listed below are super simple to carry out, it just depends on which way works best for you or what you're trying to accomplish.
Note for Android 10 users: Third-party launchers may disable the new full-screen navigation gestures and revert your phone back to the older navigation bar. Currently, this is an issue on all Android 10 devices except the Pixel 4. However, Google will be fixing this soon.
Once you have a few launchers installed, go to your home screen like normal, and you should be greeted with a new popup message. It will show you all the currently installed Home apps, and you can then pick one to launch by default. Select the app you want to be your new home launcher, then tap "Just Once" or "Always" to confirm.
Alternatively, some launchers will prompt you to set them as the default the first time you open them. With Android 10 gestures not playing nice with third party home launchers, you might need to do this or just set it manually in the other method below. That's all there is to it! Now you can dive into what the launcher has to offer and see if it fits your needs.
Pretty much all phones now allow you to search the system settings. This is extremely useful for finding a particular setting without having to poke around blindly. Tap the search box or icon at the top of the settings screen and type in "default apps" or just "default," and then tap the entry that matches what you're looking for.
The "Default apps" main page will be displayed, where you can see all of the apps your phone is using by default for every action. Tapping the "Home app" option will display all the home launcher apps currently installed on your device. Tap the app you want to use, then it will be your new default launcher. Then it should immediately send you to the home screen of the new launcher.
If you ever want to switch back, just repeat these steps, but select the default launcher in the above menu. You can also uninstall all custom launchers to revert to the stock home screen.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Tweaks & Hacks Celebration week. Read all of the Tweaks & Hacks Celebration stories.