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Perhaps one of the coolest options Android affords its users is its ability to be customized. I'm not talking about merely theming the layout of the device, I mean completely changing how one launches their applications. In this article, I'll dive into some of the best Android app launchers and lock screens, why they're awesome and where you can get yours.
My preferred method for managing my own Android applications is to rely on Nova Launcher. It does a few different things for me. First, regardless of what my phone's manufacturer pushes out for updates, my home screen and general layout is untouched. Bundle this with the deep control over my widgets, directories and color scheme...Nova is tough to beat.
Some of the fun things I enjoy about the Nova Launcher is the scroll effects. I'm partial to the "cube" scroll effect when I navigate from one home screen to another. On a more practical front, the ability to control all aspects of your icons is also helpful. Changing the size, color, shadowing and font description is useful to me.
I'm also happy to report that Nova provides a full-featured free edition, as well as the $5 premium feature version. Tie Nova together with themes, icon sets, grid positioning and a scrollable dock for the complete package.
Yahoo Aviate Launcher
Now some launchers provide a great user experience, without layering the user in endless configuration options. Yahoo's Aviate Launcher is a shining example of this. One way the launcher demonstrates this is by its display cards for important things like upcoming events, contacts, places and entertainment.
What makes this launcher so useful is that it allows you to see data without needing to open up applications or run widgets. Weather, traffic and music, are just a sampling of the data you can have displayed via one of the cards on your home screen.
And for someone with a ton of applications installed, the auto-categorization feature means you're not scrolling endlessly looking for that application you need. This is especially helpful when you forget the name of said app.
If you need an absolutely minimalist user experience on your home screen, then the KISS Launcher is the perfect match for you. First of all, it will save you a lot of battery life – KISS provides a simple UI that is battery friendly. Second, all of your applications are displayed as a list. You can either scroll down to locate what you need or type the first few letters into the provided search box.
And last but certainly not least, KISS is very fast. When you're using the provided search box to locate specific applications or something on the Web, you'll find the results appear almost instantly. It’s easy to use and offers a very small installation footprint.
I consider Android lockscreens to be a value added feature to your existing launcher. Trring Lockscreen is most certainly a great example. Without unlocking my phone, I can instantly launch any pre-selected application from a rotatory dialer.
What separates this lockscreen from others is that you're able to avoid unlocking any apps on accident. If you're old enough to recall using a rotatory phone, you know how much around the dial movement it takes to get to the finger stop.
Surprisingly, Trring is super-easy to setup and use. Just select the default applications you want in your dial, and you're all set. Another advantage with Trring is that I can easily enable it or disable it, without much hassle. This means if I find I want it disabled for a set period of time, I can do so without needing to uninstall it.
Smart Launcher 3
Smart Launcher 3 provides its users with the ultimate marriage of control from the lockscreen to the home screen. Customize the Smart Launcher lockscreen and then enjoy an organized application layout on your home screen as well. For home screen use, Smart Launcher is setup to provide a limited number of highly practical categories for your apps.
Added benefits include the ability to hide apps from your app grid. You're also able to password protect them, if you should so desire. The themes you can choose from are aesthetically pleasing and will provide you with a great looking launcher environment.
Smart Launcher is fast, easy to setup, and very light on resources. With its themes, icon packs and even a plugin architecture – this launcher is among the best available.
Dialers and SMS
When it comes to adding the final touches to your Android device, don't stop at launchers. Take it even further by making sure you're getting the most out of your Android phone. Install True Phone (will show up as Phone under your app drawer) and Textra for SMS. True phone offers two key features. First, it's completely theme-friendly. And second, it's able to work with dual-SIM support.
And lastly, we have Textra for SMS. Not only is Textra a far better SMS application than the one your phone came with, it's also a solid tool for making MMS a smooth experience as well. Its floating UI and material design make this a must have from an experience point of view.
Your favorite Android app launchers?
Now that I've shared my favorite Android launchers, let's hear about yours. Hit the comments to share your must have Android app launchers and theme packs. Perhaps you've found something that blows my list of launchers out of the water? Please, share them below and let's compare.
Personally, I feel really good about the list I've provided. Each selection above has been used heavily by me and I found each of them offer something unique and worthwhile for all Android users.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.