I recently got my first Android phone, the Samsung Droid Charge, and let me tell you, I have seen the light! I have messed with iPhones and Windows phones before, but the one thing that really struck me about the Android operating system (OS) is how incredibly customizable it is.
I still have buckets of knowledge to learn about my new phone and Android OS, but one aspect that has really piqued my interest (and frankly fascinated me) is the whole slew of launchers that are developed for Android phones. And of course the ease that you can install these launchers is a godsend.
The beauty of the Android OS allows you to simply download a different launcher from the Android Market, install it, and then try it out. To change your user interface (UI) for an iPhone you usually have to jailbreak it, which can be a little nerve racking and technically voids most warranties you might have on your phone. A similar process has to occur for changing the UI on Windows Phone 7s too.
With Android phones, however, you are never stuck with the launcher initially installed onto your phone. You can change interfaces in a matter of seconds. And many of the launchers are free, though some of them charge for a “premium” version which offers there more useful widgets. The only problem I’ve found with the plethora of Android launchers, is deciding which one to stick with, so I decided to offer a quick write-up for any other Android newbie making the same decision:
From what I’ve seen and heard (and the fact that the app has somewhere between 1,000,000-5,000,000 installs according to the Android Market), LauncherPro is a very popular launcher. And for good reason. If you like having everything on your home screens rather than having to click through apps, LauncherPro’s widgets will feed your need. From Google Calendar to Facebook and Twitter feeds, LauncherPro’s widgets work great and give you the home screen flexibility you need. And the configuration options are amazing; this is definitely a launcher for tech enthusiasts rather than those who want something out-of-the-box.
The only negative aspect I could find about LauncherPro is that you have to pay for their awesome widgets. It’s only $3, but compared to other launchers (which are free), that’s a big difference. Many would say that it’s worth the cost, but I recommend trying out other free launchers before committing your money to this one. On top of that price, there are many reports of LauncherPro slowing down people’s phones, and even for the short period of time that I had LauncherPro running, I noticed it wasn’t the smoothest launcher.
I found GO Launcher EX to be extremely flexible, in terms of customizability and out-of-the-box usefulness. I found it to be very customizable, allowing me to swipe dock buttons, add and arrange home screens, and also find custom themes built for this particular launcher. I also found this app to run a little more smoothly than all the other customize-heavy launchers like LauncherPro.
Best of all, this launcher is free, and offers free widgets. So while I would have to pay money for the widgets for the clunky LauncherPro, I get comparable or better performance with GO Launcher for free. Not to mention, GO Launcher’s widgets did mostly what I wanted them to do and were easy to use.
For now, I’ve decided to stick with GO Launcher EX. It has the level of customization and usability that I desire for the absolute lowest price. But many of these launchers change quickly in comparison to each other with each update. Some updates actually make launchers worse for some users. So for those trying out different launchers, I do advise you to experiment until you find what works best. Another great launcher that I did not check out (by this point I was too infatuated with GO Launcher) is ADW, which is definitely worth trying.