Launchers on Android are like themes, except they don’t just change the graphical user interface but also bring added functionality and customization options typically missing in stock software. While there are some terrific paid launchers available at the Play Store, there are a few excellent free ones as well, which can help you customize your Android experience. Below I have listed the top 5 free Android launchers which you can download directly from the Play Store.
#1. Nova Launcher
Nova undoubtedly makes the top 3 for anyone who knows their launchers. Developed by TeslaCoil Software, Nova Launcher is freely available on the Play Store. The paid version, called Nova Launcher Prime is currently available for $4.00, but even the free version will give you plenty of features to play with.
After installation, Nova Launcher looks like stock Android but you can choose to either change individual app icons by selecting icons from an icon pack, or applying a complete icon pack to all your apps. Moreover, you can customize the size of your grid (setting how many icons show diagonally and vertically on one screen), customize the bottom dock, set widgets to overlap (useful for setting up several transparent widgets), choose the theme color, manage the number of desktops and apply fancy scrolling effects.
Gestures are also available on Nova, allowing you to define actions to correspond with finger swipe motions. While the choices for motions and their related actions are somewhat limited compare to other solutions (which require rooting), they are more than enough for normal use.
Apart from the plethora of settings, Nova Launcher is solid and fast. You can set scrolling speeds and either slow down the animations or make the interface blazing fast. There is a useful backup option as well, using which you can create a backup of your settings, which can be imported after a fresh install to recover your interface. However, Nova launcher only works on devices with Ice Cream Sandwich or higher versions of Android.
#2. Apex Launcher
Apex Launcher is next in line after Nova, and both these launchers basically share the same host of features. Like Nova, Apex also requires an ICS device at least and the only difference, at times, arises in performance, since some people find Apex to be smoother than Nova, while others vouch for the contrary.
You should install and try both Nova and Apex and stick with the one you feel performs better on your device.
#3. Holo Launcher
If you are a fan of the bare Ice Cream Sandwich look and are using a device with older Android versions (Froyo or Gingerbread) Holo Launcher is your best bet. Not only does it run on pre-ICS devices, it also boasts a wide variety of features, including desktop customization, gesture actions and icon modification. If you like Holo Launcher you can look into getting the paid, Holo Launcher Plus version, which includes additional features such as notification badges and more gesture actions.
#4. Go Launcher Ex
To be honest, Go Launcher Ex is the best launcher for newcomers to Android. The launcher is the most downloaded on the Play Store and has the largest number of themes and add-ons available for customization. The GO dev team has developed several additional applications to integrate with Go Launcher, including a lock-screen replacement, weather widget and messaging widget, which makes for a uniquely customized Android experience.
#5. Launcher 8
Launcher 8 is in this list because it is the most accurate and functional Windows 8-like launcher in the market. Not only is it free, it also has regular updates which have considerably improved it since its initial release. The launcher allows you to use tiles (some of them are live) like Windows 8 to access all your phone’s functions. The design is extremely well done and the interface is very polished. However, there are some stability and performance issues, causing the launcher to lag at times. Nevertheless, for a free app, Launcher 8 does an excellent job of giving your Android device a makeover.
While these are some of the best free launchers on the Play Store, we’re going to be posting more in the future. If you want to download icon pack themes for these launchers you should check out Top 10 Best Android Icon Pack Themes 2015