by Shawn Grant | Posted on Friday, August 10, 2012 at 12:31PM
Most default home screens on Android phones are inflexible and scarce with customization features. You may want to use more than five screens or add more icons to your dock. Perhaps enlarge your grid to five rows of icons instead of the standard four. One of the best things about Android is if you don't like it, you can change it and this applies to the home screen. There are several apps called launchers that will give you a whole new home screen and even a different user interface to your own liking. Some can be radical changes while others just adds a few more features. Most of them you can customize with themes.
Go Launcher is probably the most popular and it is free. It is a radical user interface change that for many is good. It makes interacting with your phone easier and a lot more fun. The UI is excellent. When Go Launcher is first installed you are guided through each step of setting up your screen. It is very easy to add widgets and apps to your home screen. Setting up and using your phone is a pleasure. Go Launcher has visual appeal with themes and animations that makes your phone more exciting. There are thousands of themes you can choose from to customize your phone to your taste. Go Launcher, however, is not perfect. Some people find it too feature heavy and at times can get in the way. The launcher is great can be used with Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich.
ADW Launcher EX has been a favorite for a long time. It was one of the first launchers developed. It extends the Android 2.x default launcher by adding features and the ability to apply themes. It is generally considered a fairly fast launcher. Swiping across screens is fluid and fast. You can add several screens, change icons, and customize the app drawer. ADW Launcher has not been updated since December 2011, so there are questions on if it will be further developed. Nonetheless, ADW Launcher works great as it is. It is best suited if you have Android 2.x Froyo or Gingerbread. It does add some features that will give you the Ice Cream Sandwich feel but I would not recommend it if your phone has Ice Cream Sandwich.
If your phone has Ice Cream Sandwich there are two popular launchers that extend the features on the ICS stock launcher. They both do the same but the UI that allows you to customize is a little different. One is called Apex Launcher and the other is Nova Launcher. I use Apex launcher on my Galaxy S3. I hope by telling you why I use a third party launcher when the default one is adequate will inspire you to try them out. The Galaxy S3 launcher also known as touchwiz has two missing features that I want. Those are the ability to customize gestures and to increase the grid size.
What's a gesture? A gesture is a swipe or pinch to initiate a certain action. For example on Google Maps if you pinch in, the map will zoom in. With Touchwiz if you pinch in it will show previews of the various screens, so you can quickly go to the one you need. This is much faster than swiping several times to advance the screens. Problem is this gesture requires two fingers, which I find cumbersome. I want to use one finger and swipe up. Apex gives me the ability to set this up. Because of this gesture I can, with one finger bring up the screen preview and go to the screen I need.
Another feature I like is increasing the grid size. Android phones by default have 4 rows by 4 columns. That means the screen can fit just 16 app icons. This was fine when phones had 3.5 inch screens but the 4.8 inch screen of the Samsung Galaxy S3 begs for more. I like 5 rows and 4 columns. This allows me to take advantage of larger widgets and still have room for apps. I can't set this with Touchwiz, the default launcher, but I can add many more rows and columns with Apex. In addition to solving my two needs I can have fun by changing the icons and themes to give my phone a more personal visual appeal.
Try out several launchers. Most have free trials so you can try before you buy. They all basically accomplish the same end results but they go about them differently. Go launcher is a complete UI overhaul and ADW, Apex, and Nova adds features but basically work in the same way as the default launcher. There are many others for you to try. Some will even make your phone look and work like an iPhone or Windows phone. Have fun and see if you can make your phone better for you.