2011年9月8日星期四

Test Review of 56 free Home Replacement Launcher Alternative Apps for Droid / Android phones: Best? Smallest? Fastest?

Test Review of 56 free Home Replacement Launcher Alternative Apps for Droid / Android phones: Best? Smallest? Fastest?

UTILITY: HomeSwitcher

If you like to try out different home replacement apps, download HomeSwitcher, which is an easy way to switch between the default Home app, or to launch an alternate one just for a temporary test. Keep in mind that each Home app has its own set of layout of different screens and icons and widgets. So if you try different ones, you will have to replicate the layout of the icons again and again!

NOTE: HomeSwitcher has a Froyo-only version now. You can also try Launcher Switcher in the meanwhile.

UTILITY: App Organizer

App Organizer lets you add "folders" as shortcuts to be launched, so you basically gain more "screens" to launch without changing launchers, and it is compatible with all home replacement apps found here, and even the default "home"

Simply run the app and create as many categories as you wish. Each category is one "folder". Then classify all the launchable apps into the categories. When you are ready, press and hold on the "desktop", and select "add shortcut", then pick app organizer, and pick a category. Voila, you got a "folder"!

If you don't like the default sort order, you can make certain apps "favorites", and then set the option in the organizer to "sort favorites first".

This is a good way to 'expand' the workspaces if you don't want to use a home replacement. Else, TagHome provides the same function, but also adds priority sorting, which is a little more powerful than favorites sorting.

Introduction

REVIEW PLATFORM: Motorola Droid running Android 2.3.4 (CM7.1RC1)


This review roundup was mentioned on All About Android episode 13, a TWIT podcast!


UPDATED 06-SEP-2011, updated "My Home", added "Samsung Pure Breeze Launcher".


The basic "home app", also known as "launcher", is what pops up when you press the Home button on an Android phone, is somewhat limited in features. People want the ability to load themes, more screens/workspaces than the default 3, on-screen permanent shortcuts, more eye candy, scrollable widgets, and much more.


There are many such replacements made by other programmers. Here are some free home replacement apps on the Android Market that you may want to try. They are: Helix Launcher, Helix Launcher 2, iHome, PandaHome, SlideScreen, Home++, Gesture Home Lite, TagHome, and OpenHome Lite. There are also reviews some newcomers, like LauncherPro, Zeam, SweeterHome, LiveHome, vLauncher, 3D Homescreen, KeeWorld, Launcher+, ADW.Launcher and many many more. These are confirmed to work on Motorola Droid, and should also work on any other Android phones running Android 2.1 or later. They may work on older Android phones. (Some have versions that will run on Cupcake Android OS 1.6)


Please note that only the free version is evaluated. If there is a paid version, that will be noted. However, those will not be evaluated. All limitations of the free versions will be noted.


If you need more basic tips please see "Tips for New Motorola Droid owners".


To provide a baseline for comparison, the default home app is reviewed as well.


Home (default)


Pros: pretty fast, the standard by all others are measured, supports widgets and live wallpaper
Cons: plain vanilla, no special features at all, limited to 3 screens only (5 in Froyo)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (baseline of comparison)


For better organization, the various Home Replacements have been divided into 7 categories


  • Full-featured / Heavy-Weight

  • Light-weight

  • iPhone-style

  • Windows Phone 7 style

  • Fake Gingerbread

  • Other

  • Defunct





Full Featured / Heavy-Weight

Full-Featured Home Replacements, which may also be called heavy-weight, generally have some special features that set them apart. They usually have multiple static shortcuts at a "dock", theme support, live wallpaper support, multiple screens, scrollable widgets, and some other special features, such as ability to filter / organize your shortcuts into categories, scrollable docks, "gestures" and so on. However, these apps generally use a lot of memory in order to give you all these features.

If you have a 512MB phone, by all means and try one of these full-featured home replacements. If they don't quite well on your phone, then try one of the lightweights home replacements.


ADWLauncher, with Fancy Widget (the clock), Astrid, and Dazzle. Note the Froyo (Android 2.2)-like static shortcuts and "dockbar", and the "dots" in lower/left right corner like Nexus One.




ADW.Launcher's app drawer: note the "dots" on top, in the Samsung style, flick left/right to "scroll" instead of up/down.

ADW.Launcher


ADW Launcher is full of features, both eye candy and functions. So it's more of a heavyweight.


First, as you can see from the screenshot, it resembles the Froyo launcher a lot. If you are wondering about the monochrome shortcuts, that's because I specifically turned on the "tint mode", which just use the alpha mask, not the full color icon. I can turn the tint mode off. It is not as good as having real monochromatic icons, but it's close.


Second, you can see the "two dots" in the lower left and right corners. Those are Nexus One style scroll markers, indicating how many screens are there to each side. You can "click" on it to scroll that way, in addition to the drag/flick method. This can now be turned off in the latest version, so you get room for two MORE on-screen static shortcuts, for a total of four.


Third, ADWLauncher *does* support Live Wallpaper, with the option to turn the support OFF to improve speed and decrease battery and CPU drain.


Fourth, if you look at the App Drawer, you can see that this one uses the iHome / Samsung Galaxy style where the app drawer goes left/right instead of up/down. However, that is an OPTION. You can turn that feature off and get the old app drawer back. And it does the iPhone style zoom-in graphics flair.


Fifth, you can adjust the vertical and horizontal spacing of both portrait and landscape orientation, to squeeze in more icons and widgets if you wish. You can also turn on/off status bar, change the "screen previews" mode (Sense UI mode or plain mode).


There are many other features that this short review cannot cover. But the most impressive feature is speed... This launcher is pretty fast. In some cases the App Drawer is even faster than TagHome, but not all the time. It's probably due to some app info caching.


Problems? There are a few. First, the widget loading screen is VERY slow. Second, it is not that stable, though the latest version seem to have improved upon that.


The latest version supports themes, which are mainly color and minor icon variations. There are many themes in the AppMarket, many are free, but many cost money.


NOTE: ADW Launcher EX cost $3.30 and has even more drawer styles and desktop transitions and stuff.


Pros: a lot of various UI options, such as Nexus, Froyo, and Samsung improvements
Cons: speed not consistent, often slower than stock home
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Verdict: if you don't want app sorting, this should be THE one to try!


Download ADW.Launcher from Appbrain





LauncherPro, using "Aquarium Free" live wallpaper. All 5 (yes, FIVE) spots are customizable, and you get multiple docks (scrollable) to play with.

Custom Launcher Icons

Launcher Pro has spawned a cottage industry where people make icons for apps that were not covered by default set of icons (only a dozen or so). A paid app has been made available in Android market that allows you to locate icons for your specific app and/or request icon made for an app that's not covered thus far.

Keep in mind that you *can* obtain the icons from their website for free. You just have to set them YOURSELF, one at a time. The app takes care of all that.

LauncherPro


LauncherPro probably gets a "most improved" award for having MASSIVE changes. The current version bears no resemblance to the beta I tried and thus this review is written from scratch.


LauncherPro's main strength is speed. It is fast. And it supports up to 7 screens (or as few as 3). The app drawer snaps open like iPhone's and zooms in. Scrolling among the screens is silky smooth, and there are quite a few other features.


The "dock" along the bottom of screen look similar to Helixlauncher, and by default has 4 static shortcuts. However, looks are deceiving. The "dock" itself is actually scrollable, and can be "flipped" like the desktop screens. You can currently have up to 3 docks. Each dock has 5 places for shortcuts, which you can assign to anything you wish. If you use the middle one to launch the app drawer, then it looks the same as any other launcher. You can assign the shortcut's default icon, the LauncherPro's "gray" icons, or any custom icons you may have on the phone! The dock can be set to different backgrounds, making them more visible and/or further customizing the looks, from a tabbed look to bars to even a football field. Furthermore, the "flick up" action from any of the dock positions can be mapped to yet another action, so instead of 15, you actually have 30 actions.


The home button can be mapped to different functions, like open up the screen previews, toggle app drawer, toggle status bar, and so on.


You can also save and restore the screens and placements of all the icons, which is only somewhat useful, as the layout do not seem to be compatible across different launchers.


Problems? You can't config the dock shortcuts easily. With HelixLauncher or ADWLauncher you can just drag and drop the shortcut onto the dock. With LauncherPro you have to long-press the spot and wait for the app list to pop up, then choose the app you want. There is no theme support but I don't miss it.


Overall, LauncherPro is a MAJOR improvement over the default home, and is my current favorite launcher.


NOTE: LauncherPro has left beta and now has a PAID version called LauncherPro Plus, which has several scrollable widgets included, plus ability to resize widgets. Latest version allows the widgets to be themed, and can now use Icon Packs.


Pros: fast, multiple docks that's more useful than Home++'s powerstrip
Cons: hard to configure compared to others, no theme support
Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Download LauncherPro from Appbrain





Go Launcher Ex, Sketch Theme
Source: Appbrain

Go Launcher Ex


Go Launcher, when originally launched, feels like a foreign clone of LauncherPro (reviewed earlier) with a task manager, translated back into English. This is understandable as the development team is out of China. However, the most recent version has been totally rewritten and now has theme support, which puts it one step ahead of even LauncherPro.


The appdrawer gives a 3 tabbed version: all, recent, and running. It has an integrated task manager. You can kill the apps right from the app drawer. It supports folders and direct app management (press and hold an app icon to pop up a menu) While I personally do not not task killers much, it is nice to have it right then and there. Also, the integrated app manager is also very nice.


It matches Launcher Pro feature for feature. It has live wallpapers, scrollable docks, custom background for docks, global upswipe (they call it upglide) and downswipe gestures, higher grid density, and more.


The app has a separate "notifier" app released separately. Some people are scared of the permissions needed in the main app to read SMS messages, Gmail, and so on. It's only to count the messages. This gives the paranoid peace of mind... Don't load the notifier if you are scared of it.


The themes so far looks pretty good. Most themes can't skin every icon, so the icons clash. GLE's themes added a "background" to the icons that made the icons into a button thus the icons don't clash any more with the theme. Several free themes are now available, and surely more will be coming soon when the specs are released.


Speed is quite decent on my overclocked Droid.

With the addition of themes (which will make it a bit more iPhone-like) this is now the top choice among free Launchers



Pros: Scrollable dock with 15 shortcuts, task manager in the app drawer, themes... everything?
Cons: I really can't think of any right now
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Verdict: if you want themes AND LauncherPro capabilities this is the app to get


Download Go Launcher Ex from Appbrain





PandaHome, running "Fireworks" Live Wallpaper. and "Ancient Things" theme.




App Draweris open, and the right shortcut drawer is also open.

How to get MORE themes for PandaHome


Most free themes available on Android Market download as a program, or "apk" file, but a theme for Pandahome is packed as "apt". Therefore, you will need a program to rename the file on the device, then open it from within Pandahome (hit menu, Pandahome config, then menu again, then "install local apt file").


How you rename the file on the device is up to you, but you should use something like ASTRO Explorer, which has a very good search function. Also, not all themes are cross-compatible. GDE themes do not seem to work, for example.

PandaHome 2


PandaHome, also known as "91PandaHome", was for a long while the only full featured free Home Replacement / Launcher that supports themes. However, time has passed it by, leaving it mostly a relic of the Android 1.6 / 2.01 era. Modern launchers are much better, offers more features, and so on.


The built-in theme manager is a bit glitchy in downloading new themes. However, it *does* have many free themes you can download and use. And PandaHome still supports live Wallpaper.


PandaHome does not have the 4 permanent shortcuts in a dock. However, it does have up to SIX 'side drawers' you can drag onto the screen from left and right side where you can place additional shortcuts for easy access. However, the theme support means the app drawer is slower. Due to the slow speed, I can only give this an 8.


The problem with PandaHome themes is its own ThemeSpace selection for themes is a bit thin. They are cute, but not that impressive. Some are positive "low-res". However, with some file renaming and the hidden ability for the program to load "local" theme files, you can get other theme packs to load in PandaHome. See the sidebar for details.


The themes are just zipped folders containing the various icons. You can assign new icons to any existing shortcut if you enable the "circle menu" in the options. Just press-and-hold a shortcut until the circle menu pops up, select "properties" icon, and pick a different icon.


You can also change the text label font and size, a feature I did not see much in other Home Replacements.


NOTE: Current Pandahome 2 is V1.4. Original Pandahome is still available. Last tested on 7-SEP-2010


Pros: theme support! side-pull shortcut drawers (up to 6 of them)
Cons: slow, some themes are a bit glitchy
Rating: 8 out of 10
Verdict: first to support themes, but has been since surpassed


Download 91Pandahome from Appbrain





Home++, with the powerstrip at the bottom, which is actually scrollable.

Home++


Home++ is currently in beta, but even in beta form it is VERY impressive and fully functional. Its main feature is an improved shortcut bar, which it calls "power strip", which contains the normally used apps, like browser, search, phone, voice search, notification, and so on in a scrollable bar. The bar also contains the stuff in the notification bar like battery, and other status icons, as well as date/time (all can be turned off). Too bad you can't customize the buttons (but you can turn some on/off), but all the stuff look like they belong together.


Home++ also support up to 7 screens, and it has a trick: it lets you do "endless" scrolling, in that you can scroll left or right indefinitely. If you go off one side, you wrap around to the other side. (You can turn this off if you wish)


Its main problem is it does NOT support live wallpaper. You can set it, but it is NOT displayed. It also does not support themes. However, it is quite stable, and definitely one of my top choices. However, the program tray is VERY slow to come up. You can sort of improve this by turning on Lazy Load, but it makes the rest of the system slower.


Pros: good looking, "power strip", wrap-around scrolling
Cons: no live wallpaper, no themes, still in beta (may charge later), VERY slow app drawer
Rating: 8 out of 10


Download Home++ from Appbrain





LG Home app drawer, with categories revealed

LG Home


LG Home is a port of the LG Customized Home App for Android. It is similar in concept to TagHome: 4 static shortcuts at the bottom (drag and drop to set), plus an app drawer with different categories that you can edit. It comes with 4 default categories: Communications, Multimedia, Applications, and Downloads. You can add categories and rearrange the apps at any time, but the interface is a bit clumsy.


The main problem with the app is it is sumo-sized... 14 megabytes. (Most other launchers are only 2-4 MB, with lightweight launchers at under 1 MB) Yikes! The description implies it will only work on LG Optimus or Samsung Galaxy S, but it ran fine on my overclocked Motorola Droid. And the performance is respectable.


If you have sufficient main memory for this sumo-Home, go right ahead.


Pros: Categories, simple setup of static shortcuts, pretty fast
Cons: clumsy categorization interface, way too big in size, occasional glitches
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Verdict: Needs to go on a diet


Download LG Home from Appbrain





The right button encourages you to share this new launcher home replacement




The app drawer is very iPhone-like

Quick Launch Home


Quick Launch Home doesn't try to be the do-all-end-all Home, but rather, do what a home app should do well: widgets, app launches, and manage the different home screen, and it does bring a few interesting tricks to the table.


When you load it up, you see a big "phone" button at the bottom, which brings up your default "dialer" app. To the left lower corner, you got a circle, which brings up the app drawer, and to the right is the "quick launch" button. There is a standard onscreen indicator (the green bar) that shows which screen you're on just above the phone button.


The app drawer has categories. Default is, of course, all apps. You can add categories and add different apps to different categories. By default the drawer scroll by swipe left/right. You can enable swipe up/down to change between categories. So one finger operation is easy. It also has enhanced background so the apps look more like Vlauncher or iPhone. The right lower button in app drawer can be used to toggle categories.


The right button in regular home brings up quick launch, which can be configured to launch your favorite programs. This home has no static shortcuts. Also has a permanent "contact developer", "share this app", and "screen manager".


The screen manager seem to be the slickest component. Each of the home screens can be deleted or added, and reordered in sequence through scrolling. It's pretty slick.


Pros: Pretty good interface, both heavy-weight and iPhone-like
Cons: Not quite THAT slick, needs some graphical flair
Rating: 8 out of 10
Verdict: Just needs a little polish


Download Quick Launch Home from Appbrain





Open Home 6 with default theme
Source: Better Android

Open Home 6 Beta


Open Home, once the granddaddy of home replacement / launchers, finally entered the modern age with version 6 beta. Beta is free as of latest update.


The look of Open Home 6 have not changed, but there are a lot of enhancements under the hood. You now have better transition effects between the different screens (similar to LiveHome), You also get better drawers, docks, and best of all, you can still load hundreds of existing icon packs and themes made for previous versions of Open Home. Otherwise, this launcher is about the same as the other contenders. Speed-wise... feels below average.


If you have some themes that you really want from previous versions of Open Home, or you you like the two side-buttons of OpenHome instead of the other heavy-weight home contenders, give Open Home 6 a try.


NOTE: Open Home Lite is also listed below as the "demo", though with this beta that version is obsolete.


Open Home 6 (beta 6.3?)


Pros: full featured, got all the stuff, compatible with themes and icon packs
Cons: doesn't feel quite as speedy
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Verdict: If you like Open Home before, you'll like it. If you've never tried it, give it a try, but I don't see reason to switch from Go Launcher EX, ADW.Launcher, or LauncherPro


Download Open Home 6 from Appbrain





Regina 3D launcher, pane swap mode
Source: Appbrain

Regina 3D Launcher


Regina 3D Launcher is a new kid on the block, and it tries to outdo just about EVERYBODY in terms of both customizability AND graphical flair. It also adds a whole bunch of add-ons like weather / clock and todo-list (with more in the future, presumably). It's a little unstable (like ADWLauncher when it first came out), but it shows some promise.


Regina 3D takes the individual "screens" of a workspace to a completely new level. In regular Android Launcher, the screens are just different views of a larger desktop. In Regina, each screen is a separate workspace. You can set different wallpaper for each screen, and even set a different name. Of course, you can also put in different widgets / shortcuts.


Press and hold the screen, and you can actually SEE the different panes shrink and goes into a bit of Coverflow (tm) like mode.


Regina itself has several widgets / add-ons you can download. Right now you need to download the "weather" to get the city / weather forecast to work. There's a separate "todo" if you want a todo list. Calendar is already online.


The app crashes quite often, but you can ALMOST forgive it.


Definitely worth a try.


Rating: 7 out of 10


Verdict: holds promise


Checkout Regina 3D Launcher on Appbrain





Claystone Launcher
Source: Appbrain

Claystone Launcher


Claystone Launcher has what they called "3D content stacks". What it really is... fancy looking screens. Instead of multiple screens side by side, it is instead "panels". You can group panels into "stacks". Switching among panels in a stack is just a side-swipe or two away. Or you can switch between stacks by click one of the stacks along the bottom, just above the 5 static shortcuts.


The app has pre-grouped your RSS feeds, videos, music, bookmarks, and so on. Each stack can contain shortcuts, widgets, and so on. In a way, this is like having infinite screens... if you need them.


The problem with this launcher is performance. You need a hefty phone to run it. I am using this on a Moto Droid overclocked to 1.2 GHz, but it is STILL unbearably slow, probably due to lack of memory. If you have a good phone, it may be worth a try.


Rating: 7 out of 10


Verdict: Holds promise, but requires a lot of hardware.


Try Claystone Launcher

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Lightweight

Lightweight Home Replacements are written to have minimal footprint but still offer a lot of features. If you have a phone with limited memory, such as below 384MB of RAM, you should try one of the lightweight homes if you find the full-featured homes a bit slow.





TagHome, running "3D Galaxy" live wallpaper. See the mini-bar above choosing the 5 screens, and 4 static shortcuts below.




TagHome's app drawer, note the tags in the bottom (the bar is draggable to show more tags)

TagHome


TagHome is a variant of the normal Home, but with application tags, so you can "filter" the apps based on the tags.


TagHome is fast. It has up to 9 (up from 5 in previous versions) screens, and you can jump to each one directly via a small bar on the top (which can be turned off). It has four permanent shortcuts at the bottom like HelixLauncher. It even supports Live Wallpaper. However, its real power is hidden inside the app drawer.


Once you open the app drawer, you'll find all the program listed, but you'll also find a series of tag / filters along the bottom. Initially, only a few built-in apps like the Google stuff are tagged. However, it's pretty each to pick apps you want to be tagged with something else. In a way, this is like having App Organizer function built into the app drawer. It it has one thing even better than app drawer: ability to define sort order. You can assign certain apps a "higher priority level" so they show up first. NEVER go scrolling through your list again to find your favorite app! You can add and sort the tags whenever you want. This is very helpful if you have like 100+ different programs and have no place to put them all on the home screens.


You can also put one of the tags on the "desktop" as a "folder" to access those programs directly.


Latest version even added a way to HIDE certain programs from the app drawer, like for the system stuff you should never run, like TalkBack, Icon Packs, theme packs, live wallpapers, and so on.


Too bad it doesn't do themes, or this would have rated a 9.5.


NOTE: TagHome recently launched a Froyo (Android 2.2) only variant.


Pros: fast, up to 9 screens, static shortcuts, AND tags
Cons: no theme support
Rating: 9 out of 10
Verdict: if you want speed AND utility, get TagHome


Download Tag Home (for Android 2.2) from Appbrain, 2.0 and 1.6 version also available.





Zeam, massive improvements

Zeam


Zeam is yet another variant on the regular Home. The previous version is fast, but has nothing that makes it stand out other than speed, and was missing a lot of features. Version 2.0 however, has changed all that. It is now a full launcher substitute. However, it is also only for Android 2.0 or later.


The screenshots show that the "dock" has no less than 5 shortcuts and the app drawer trigger, which is a lot. What it does NOT show is that the dock is scrollable. That's right, you can add EVEN MORE shortcuts to it, and edit it (move it left and right, delete it...) And it supports drag-n-set... Just drag a shortcut to the dock bar and voila! You're set.


It has the flick up and flick down swipe actions so you don't actually need to have notification bar or status bar showing, The flick actions can toggle that, and more.


Live Wallpaper support has been added. Max screens has been reduced to 7, but you probably won't miss it. What's more this is one of the smallest home apps at under 500KB!


And it hasn't gotten any slower. If you want a FAST launcher, give Zeam a try.


NOTE: Zeam 2.8.6 tested on 3-JAN-2011


Pros: fast, scrollable dock, tiny footprint
Cons: no theme support
Rating: 8 out of 10
Verdict: still needs something really special to stand out


Download Zeam from Appbrain

FastHome


FastHome takes the speediest approach of all: all text, no icons, no graphics. There are only 7 choices on screen to the typical functions, no configuration at all. So yes, it is fast.


But also there are no widgets, no wallpaper, nothing.


In fact, when I try to make it to pop up an app list, it seem to have went into an infinite loop.


It is interesting alternative for a "lightweight" home, but with Zeam and Taghome available, this simply makes you give up too much.


Rating: 3 out of 10


Verdict: if your phone's on life support, this may help... a little.


Download FastHome via Appbrain

SmartLauncher


SmartLauncher by Lucas Yan tries to be lightweight, but due to apparently inefficient programming, it is slow as heck. It does not even do shortcuts or widgets. it squishes wallpapers into a single screen so almost all wallpapers look funny. The app drawer displays apps in rows similar to Windows Phone 7 style. However, the app drawer is slow as heck, takes a few moments for it to spin up. That is just too slow to be acceptable behavior. Two fixed shortcuts brings up dialer and browser (though the browser button looks nothing like browser or web).


Sorry, but this thing ain't ready for prime time. It gives up too much for no gain.


Rating: 3 out of 10


See Appbrain entry for SmartLauncher





HelixLauncher, running Galactic Core Live Wallpaper, note the 4 permanent "dock" at the bottom. The "keypad" pops up the app "drawer".

Helix Launcher


HeliLauncher 1 is back in Android Marketplace. Beware, it is for Android OS 2.1 only.


One of my favorites, HelixLauncher supports up to 7 screens, and live wallpaper. However, it does NOT support themes. Its main feature is the 4 permanent shortcuts, two on either side of the app drawer trigger, that it calls a "dock". You can assign almost anything to it via simple drag-and-drop. It is mostly. It is also fully-featured, and NOT a "lite" version. It is nearly as fast as the default home app. If you value speed but still want more features, it is highly recommended.


Pros: up to 7 screens, 4 permanent shortcuts
Cons: no theme support
Rating: 8.5 out of 10


The app, which only runs on Android 2.1 and earlier, seem to be back (it was previously removed, and was documented as "removed" by AndroLib)



Nemus Launcher

Nemus Launcher, from the folks who brought you the VERY eye-candy-ish Regina 3D launcher, is the opposite of Regina. It's light weight (just over 1 MB), yet quite nicely featured. However, its various limitations makes this a very niche choice.

Nemus Launcher gave a very good impression: it feels quite snappy with very smooth scrolling. It has a good looking "dock", which can be configured by simple drag and drop. Just drop an icon onto the dock and voila, that's it. The icons are also full sized, not shrunken version like in other launchers.

It also let you know the app drawer is getting refreshed with a the spinning circle behind it. The app drawer is also improved: it can be used to manage running apps and a shortcut to "Manage Apps" choice under settings / applications. The app drawer can be shown in two styles, the normal vertical list and the Samsung style horizontal "paged" style.

The "screens" (panels) on the desktop can number from 3 to 9. There's an edit screen that lets you easily adjust the order, add more panels, remove panels, and so on.

Its folder support is impressive... Basically stealing the iOS style folder management. Just drag one shortcut onto another to make a folder. It doesn't have sorting or "starred / favorite" tagging.

However, there's a few problems. First of all, this app is portrait layout ONLY. It will NOT go into landscape mode EVER. It does NOT react to orientation sensor. Second, it is somewhat crash happy, at least on my OG Droid. I've seen it FC numerous times, even as I go into and out of settings. Third, it is virtually undocumented. There is no mention of the app on the NemusTech home page (in fact the whole page is in Korean).

All in all, Nemus Launcher is a smooth launcher that is pretty good if you stay in portrait modemost of the time. It makes folders extremely easy. Indicator on the app drawer to let you know it's refreshing is also very neat. On the other hand, no landscape and occasional FC makes this launcher a bit niche for me.

7 out of 10


Download Nemus Launcher through Appbrain



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Windows Phone 7 Style

Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft is brand new rewrite of Windows Mobile 6.5, with a brand new interface named "Metro UI". With the openness of Android OS, several Home Launchers have appeared to emulate that style.





Simple Home (lite), hybrid of Android Launcher and Windows Phone 7 Metro UI
Source: Appbrain

Simple Home (lite)


This Simple Home is completely different from the Simple Home that is no longer available. Instead, this is a hybrid of Windows Phone 7 Metro UI interface and native Android Launcher. The "tiles" are now normal Android icons, albeit blown up a bit. Toogles for WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as access to volume, app drawer, and so on are along the left edge.


The app drawer is speedy, in a list format. To make the apps show on the front (the large icons), just "favorite" it, undo the favorite to remove. It is that simple. If you have like 100 apps (like I do) the scrolling can be a bit excessive, but adding apps to the "front" doesn't significantly impact the performance of the launcher that I can see. The "settings" icon are at the bottom of each options screen when applicable (sometimes, more than one sort of options are available).


For those who don't want a full blown "Launcher 7" (see above) Simple Home may offer the perfect blend of single screen launcher AND Android utility. My only objection is... no widgets. ARGH!


Rating: 7 out of 10


Check out Simple Home (lite) on Appbrain





Windows Phone Android screenshot, with recognized icons
Source: Appbrain

Windows Phone Android Lite


Windows Phone Android Lite is the lite version of Windows Phone Android, basically the "Windows Phone 7" MetroUI launcher for Android.


When you first start the home you're faced with a BLANK screen. Also, it takes SEVERAL SECONDS for the blank screen to show. It is horribly slow. You press the right arrow to go to the other half (which will take several seconds), which is the equivalent of "app drawer" in Android. Hold down an app to "pin" it to the start screen with the icon.


The Notification Bar also is also glitchy on my Droid with Cyanogen Mod 6.1 with the "black" theme loaded. The top bar is completely invisible. I can't see ANY of the icons like signal strength. Nada. The top of screen is all black, unlike the screenshot on the right. Your experience may vary.


The main problem with this home replacement is it doesn't allow you to replace the built-in icons. The white icons you see in the pic are only for specific apps that it recognizes. For all other apps the regular color icons are used. (It really needs to be able to use the Launcher Pro Icons)


Performance is horrible shifting between screens, and pinning something to start screen. Each takes several seconds. I have a Moto Droid overclocked to 1.1 GHz and running Cyanogen Mod 6.1, with 160 MB free, and it still takes several seconds to shift between the screens. There is also no widgets, and of course, no live wallpaper. In fact, there's not even a regular wallpaper.


Sorry, but this is not ready for prime time. This is like an alpha version, not even a beta.


Pros: Cute emulation of Windows Phone 7 launcher
Cons: Horrible performance, no widgets, no wallpaper, no ability to assign icons...
Rating: 3 out of 10
Verdict: needs a major rewrite


(You may also want to look at ZuneHome, a paid app that emulates the Zune menu look)


Download Windows Phone Android Lite from Appbrain







MetroUI Lite
Source: Appbrain

Metro UI Beta


Metro UI, from a different development team, is yet another attempt to get the Windows Phone 7 look on Android, and this one succeeds a bit better than Windows Phone Android.


When you start, there is NOTHING on screen. Do NOT panic. This is normal since you have NO apps 'pinned'. Click on the right arrow and you'll be in the "app list" (equivalent of app drawer in Android OS). Scroll down to find an app you want to pin, then lock-click it to "pin" it in the other screen. Repeat as needed. Click on the left arrow to "flip" back.


The problem with this is you can't "customize" the pinned app once you pinned it. In fact, you can't even unpin the app once you've pinned it. (it's more of an Alpha instead of beta)


For a few of the apps you can make it display a count (unread SMS, unread Gmail, etc.) and you can customize "title" and there are a few "white" icons you can pick for "customized" but there aren't enough of them. (They need to access the LauncherProIcons website)


All in all, this is a good attempt, but it is not ready yet for prime time.


Pros: Much faster than Windows Phone Android
Cons: Half of the features are missing
Rating: 6 out of 10
Verdict: keep waiting


Download Metro UI Beta from Appbrain





Launcher 7
Source: Appbrain

Launcher 7


Wow, there sure are a lot of these Windows Phone 7 imitations out there for Android, and here's another one. This one is actually quite good, with the buttons looking right. There are also a bit of good animations, and proper backgrounds. I'd say this is the best WP7 clone launcher out there so far.


Pros: Good animation, allows custom tiles
Cons: Needs a bit of performance boost
Rating: 7 out of 10


See Appbrain Listing on Launcher 7

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iPhone-Style

iPhone-Style homes emulate the Apple-iOS style launcher... The screen has everything, and no widgets. Some made some accommodations for widgets, or just emulated the "style" but not fully emulation. If you come from the iPhone side, you may be interesting in some of these homes.





iHome, note all the dots at the bottom. Yes, each dot is one screenful of apps.

iHome a.k.a. 91iHome


91iHome, or just iHome, is an odd program. Instead of limiting you to X number of workspaces, or desktop screens, it actually has unlimited number of workspaces. It created screens until it filled EVERY single program I had loaded onto the desktop. As a result, it is slow as molasses when it first launches. On the other hand, it also eliminated the need for the app drawer. Or in other words, you're actually looking at the app drawer by default.


It has 3 static shortcuts in the bottom, permanently set to browser, contacts, and settings. You can also hit the search key, which will bring up T-9 style filters so you can find the apps faster. It does not support themes, and does NOT support live wallpaper. While interesting, ultimately it is a bit too different.


Pros: shows all programs by default, good filter
Cons: no theme, no live wallpaper, slow as heck, cannot change shortcuts
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: it tries, but it's just a bit too slow to be useful


Download iHome from Appbrain





Vlauncher, screenshot from AppBrain

vLauncher


vLauncher is VERY similar to iHome, in that it basically takes the iPhone launcher idea to the Android. Instead of desktop and app drawer, there's only multi-pane desktop. They added a pane or two for widgets (configurable), and 4 static shortcuts, but there's no doubt this is same idea as iHome.


The problem with this approach is same as ihome... If you have like 100 plus apps, you will have way too many screens to scroll through. Fine if you have only a few dozen apps, but again, doesn't work when you have more than 50, much less 100-150 apps.


Best launcher? Not even close.


Pros: shows all programs by default, widget panels
Cons: no filter? no theme, slow as heck
Rating: 6 out of 10
Verdict: even LESS useful than iHome, with no filter and such


Get vLauncher from AppBrain







My Home Lite, another iOS-type launcher
Source: Appbrain

My Home (free, $1.99)


My Home / My Home Lite is yet another home launcher. This one tries to go iOS like by introducing a VERY iOS folder implementation... Drag one app onto another app to make a folder, then folder inside a folder, and so on. It also has the horizontal scrolling and no app drawer. Latest version is up to 1.6 as of this test (1.2 just crashes). There is one screen just for widgets, then the rest are dedicated to all the apps. As stated before, if you have like 100+ apps this takes forever.


Overall reaction is a bit of meh. Vlauncher seem to work a lot better.


I can give this a 6.5 for now.


Check out My Home Lite on Appbrain



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Other

This is all the oddballs. They either have a certain special feature that is really weird, or they just don't work THAT well or are so limited.

Pure Breeze Launcher (free, paid?)

Previous version of this launcher seem to work on my OG Droid, but the latest revision 1.0.40, just crashes upon launch.


Read this Gizmodo review and see if it's up your alley. It sounds like it's a combination of iOS-like launcher combined with "kite", this pop-up anywhere launcher.


http://gizmodo.com/5837042/samsungs-pure-breeze-launcher-for-android-is-really-weird?tag=androidapps





Livehome, doing a screen transition using the "cube" effect, screenshot from Appbrain

LiveHome


LiveHome is yet another home replacement and a branch off ADWLauncher. It looks initially very close to ADWLauncher, but adds built-in support to a "theme" purchase section, a task manager, a wallpaper browser / downloader, and some other eye candy features. However, you will find ads in many of the configuration screens, which can be annoying.


Theme support seem to be more numerous now, even free ones.


The task manager seem to be functional, and looks like a junior version of ATK. However, the controls are VERY jittery. You can pick apps to kill, and that's it.


The wallpaper browser is functional, but there is no search, no categories. If you enjoy browsing screen after screen of randomly organized wallpapers, it may be of some use.


LiveHome does add a few interesting features to ADW.Launcher:


  • desktop screen transitions -- instead of just sliding over, you can now choose things like "book page flip", "cube rotate", "page slide", and so on. Also this is disabled with Live Wallpaper, and never explained.

  • filters in the app drawer -- you can use a filter (A-C, D-F, etc.) in the app drawer if you find the app drawer too big to scroll through. That's in the "upper bar" in the app drawer.

There is also something about editing icons, but I haven't figured out how to use it yet.


However, it also lost the Nexus One-style "dots" to indicate the left/right screens renaming, the ability to add two more static shortcuts to left and right, and some of the other minor features from ADW.Launcher.


Overall, LiveHome appears to be a very half-hearted attempt to capitalize on the open source code of ADW.Launcher by marrying it to some features without true integration or usability. I want to like it, but I can't.


Pros: theme downloader (sort of), wallpaper downloader (sort of), task killer (barely), "filtered" app drawer, some more eye candy
Cons: the new features are not really usable or integrated that well, ads in some config screens
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (for effort, not for function)


Download LiveHome from Appbrain





Ks Launcher
Source: Appbrain

Ks Launcher


Ks Launcher is an odd duck indeed. It works off lists and filters. If you look at the screenshot, you have lists like "running programs", "running services", "frequency" (most frequently used), and so on. The Free version allows ONE user label, the full version allows more.


This also has search, notification, and other buttons below, and graph of storage, RAM, and so on at the top. And the transparency is optional, you can turn that off.


It's an interesting alternate approach to launchers. This one is somewhere between a "traditional" launcher (shortcuts and widgets) and a true "alternative" launcher which is all functional. This one is basically "filter only", sort of improved app drawer. if you constantly need different "filters" to the apps, this may be good. However, I honestly don't see too much use for this. If I want a group of apps easily accessible, I'd put them as as shortcuts on one of the screens.


You may get more use out of it if you need this sort of functions.


Pros: Interesting approach to app listing... all filters
Cons: no widgets, no wallpaper, only one custom label (filter) in free version
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: Either you love it, or you hate it


Download Ks Launcher from Appbrain





SweeterHome with a theme loaded. This is the "home" or "center" screen. The other four screens are blank. The shortcuts at the bottom pops up the various "springboard" layers with other widgets and app windows.

SweeterHome


SweeterHome, currently in beta 991, is an odd duck indeed. It represents a totally different way of using or customizing a launcher. The result is both amazing, and frustrating.


First of all, SweeterHome is NOT available in the Android Market. To get it, you have to download from their website, http://www.sweeterhome.com (and they do have versions for older Android OS, including 1.5 and 1.6, as well as 2.0 and later). Second, you have to install it yourself, with a local installer program, such as yInstaller, and you have to enable the "run non-approved programs" in the system settings to allow local installs. If you don't know what that means, please see their website. Third, you will want to registered for a free account, to use the app tagging, but we'll explain that later.


Once you install it, you find that this program is WEIRD, as it shifts the design of home screens completely off the normal Android OS standard. Instead of sideways scroll (which is an imitation of iPhone OS), you now have a central desktop, AND one extra screen up / down / left / right (for a total of 5). And yes, you "flick" your screen up / down / left / right. This is both liberating, and frustrating at the same time, as not all themes make use of the extra screens, and you can't turn off the extra screens if they aren't in use.


The program also features "app tag syncing", which is a community-based app categorizer. In TagHome and AppOrganizer, you define your own labels and you categorize the apps yourself. In SweeterHome, the user community probably did most of it for you. As a result, the different categories would have your apps already sorted under various tags. And you can always add your own or update the tags yourself. However, just HOW do you update the tags is virtually undocumented.


Another feature of SweeterHome is called "SpringBoards", which basically are pop-up layers within a workspace. A "contacts" springboard can contain all your contacts, customized to the theme/skin, and only visible when you click on the the icon that triggers it. Click on another trigger on the same screen, and you get a different springboard, maybe SMS, call log, and so on. So they are extensions to the same screen. Most theme designers use them like tabbed spaces, with a "tray" at the bottom containing the different functions to pop-up. The springboards themselves can contain widgets and shortcuts, in addition to other stuff. It's a little hard to describe, and again, virtually undocumented.


SweeterHome also does themes, and it does it in a very interesting manner. The themes are community based, that is expected. However, it also embeds all your apps and widgets that you incorporated into the theme, and this is yet another both powerful and frustrating "feature". No, the skin doesn't take your apps and widgets. But it does remember them all. So if you customize a theme and share it with the community, the person who download the theme will be prompted to download the matching widget, or to substitute another one in its place. As the widget sizes are not always labeled, this can be a problem.


For example, let's say the widget calls for Pure Calendar 4x3, which is a paid widget. You don't have a license for this widget. You *can* pick a different 4x3 calendar, such as Android Agenda widget 4x3, or CalWiz 4x3, both are free, but only if you already have it downloaded. It is nice enough to include a Market Search for you, but it is somewhat annoying, esp. if the theme had a LOT of widgets. Furthermore, let's say you accidentally picked the WRONG widget... NOW you have a problem. Instead of the simple removal procedure: long-press, then drag to trash, you have to call up the edit mode which is virtually undocumented and nearly impossible to use. Not even the website will help you in this regard, as the Wiki documentation is very sparse.The Springboards are in layers and in edit mode isolating the layers to edit them individually is virtually impossible without some serious practice.


The app shortcuts are the same way, except they won't even let you substitute something else. There is no choice to delete or substitute the shortcut for something else. Your choices are to either leave that there, or to download that app from the App Market (which is not always practical). I admit I only spent a few hours with it, so I may not have found all its features, but SweeterHome appears to NO LONGER allow you to add shortcuts and widgets the "normal way", by a long-press, then pick what you want added. EVERYTHING about customization is done via the edit mode, and because it is not documented, it is extremely frustrating.


Furthermore, themes designed to line up perfectly for one phone becomes unusable on a different phone. Themes designed for 320x240 are quite a off on 800x480, and so on. You also can't turn off landscape mode as not all themes support it.


The theme collection are server-based, and allows rating and such. And some of the themes are nice, and shows some serious imagination. Unfortunately, most are rather unpolished, do not use the multiple screens properly (and can not lock off the extra screens), or adjust to different resolutions.


Speed of SweeterHome is... debatable. Normal operations within the SweeterHome itself is pretty good. It's getting in and out of apps that causes severe slowdowns, with the screen going black/blank for up to a minute at a time. Once my Droid just did a full automatic reboot when I accessed something.


SweeterHome shows serious promise to change the entire game of Home replacement apps and theme support, but at this time, customizing it to fit YOUR preferences is just too much of a pain, due to undocumented edit mode and a lot of unfinished features.


Sweeterhome


Pros: some amazing UI, 4-way desktops, community app tagging, theme support
Cons: themes customization is undocumented, some performance and stability issues
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Verdict: Shows promise, but seriously needs documentation and better editing tools


NOTE: Only available from their home site, latest beta is release 991 as of December 2010





Android Seven Lite (yes, that's the Start Menu)
Source: Appbrain

Android Seven Lite


Android Seven Lite turns your Android phone (or tablet) into a fair emulation of Windows 7. Not the Windows Phone 7 (i.e. Metro UI), but the one that runs on laptop and desktop.


A lot of the stuff goes into emulating the Windows Explorer interface, and it's impressive (if a little rough, but that's expected).


Pros: Familiar interface, quite a bit of effort
Cons: Performance is a little slow
Rating: 7 out of 10


Download Android Seven Lite from Appbrain





All Apps Organizer / AAO Launcher app drawer
Source: Appbrain

AAO.Launcher


Companion to "All Apps Organizer", it's basically like LG Home, except it's separated into 2 separate apps without a configurable dock, but rather a plain Froyo dock stuck with just "phone" and "browser" shortcuts.


The idea is the AAO.Launcher app drawer button launches All Apps Organizer instead of the normal app drawer. The improved app drawer shows categories. The problem is the initial startup is HORRIBLY slow... takes like 12 seconds to pop up. The default categories are Game, Tool, Multimedia, Phone, and none. You can manage the categories and move the apps but the process is horribly slow, as you can't do batch moves.


Two apps together takes up over 1 MB.


If you actually need your app drawer organized, I'd recommend TagHome (above under "lightweight") instead of this one.


Pros: Organized App drawer
Cons: Otherwise just a plain Froyo launcher, slow as heck at startup
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Verdict: Needs a major speed boost


Download AAO Launcher and All Apps Organizer from Appbrain


NOTE: You must download BOTH for this to work

eoeHome


While only claims compatibility with Android 2.1, this home actually runs fine on Android 2.2. It appears to be a simpler version of PandaHome... supports themes, but not the side drawers. In other words, this is just the regular launcher with theme support, nothing else.


Pros: Simple and fast, themes
Cons: No live wallpaper!
Rating: 6 out of 10
Verdict: Why when there's PandaHome and others?


Download eoeHome from AppBrain

NOTE: Appbrain consider this a suspect "spam app"

Mr. Home (Better ADW)


Mr. Home is a fork off the ADW.Launcher open source. In fact, in the settings, it still says ADW.Settings. Like LiveHome, it has a few transition effects, and a few other optimizations or other interface tweaks, and that's about it. Why use this when you can have the real thing?


Rating: 5.5 out of 10


Link to Mr. Home on Appbrain





Netfront Life Screen, left half
Source: Appbrain





Netfront Life Screen, right half (no app highlighted)
Source: Appbrain

Netfront Life Screen 2.0


Netfront Life Screen recently updated to 2.0. It claims to be faster, and now have Evernote integration. It is basically half launcher half SlideScreen (see below) designed for one-hand operation. It has two halves: left and right.


Right half is the brain of the outfit. It has a top and a bottom section. The bottom half (on both left and right sides) is a customized shortcut "ring" that you can drop apps onto. You can "rotate" the ring with the thumb only. Once you got the right app a series of choice will pop up over it. For phone it'll be call log. For contacts it'd be contacts. For Evernote, you got notes. For Facebook, you got the wall. And so on. You can also place now up to three widgets on this screen subject to space available (4x1?)


On the left half, the bottom is still the "ring" while the top is a "cube" that is like your app drawer in a better presentation. It is just like a regular app launcher.


The main problem with this "home" is speed. It takes 10 seconds to reload itself after using any app, such as making a call, and that is just RIDICULOUS. You may have better luck with it on a better phone than mine, but on a Motorola Droid (overclocked) it's just ridiculously slow.


Pros: Cool presentation, one-handed (heck, one finger!) operation
Cons: slow as molasses on older phones
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: needs some serious speed training


Download Netfront Life Screen from Appbrain





SlideScreen. The central "date" bar is drag-able to make upper/lower area bigger/smaller.

SlideScreen


Slidescreen is a dual purpose app... It can be used as a standalone app, or a home replacement. It basically integrates all your communications into a single screen: your voicemail, SMS, gMail, Google Calendar, date/time/weather, RSS feed through Google Reader, Facebook, Stock watch, and Twitter. yes, all that fits on a single screen. The fonts are a bit small, but they do all fit. You can turn some stuff off to make more room.


You can also drag the central bar with clock/weather/etc. up or down to make more room for personal (message, voicemail, gMail) vs. public info (Twitter, facebook, Google Reader...) or toggle "maximized" views.


As an app launcher, SlideScreen is a bit lacking, as it does NOT have any onscreen icons for you to click on, or any widgets. Instead, it allow you to pop up the app drawer (by hitting the menu key), and you can designate programs to one of the 8 quick launch spots on the top of app drawer. If it is running as an app, then it will not have an app launcher.


The normal version has an ad bar at the bottom, that reminds you to buy the Pro version. However, the app is fully functional, and does not otherwise nag you.


SlideScreen does NOT support Live Wallpaper or themes, but then, it is not supposed to. it also does not support other e-mail, and thus limits its usefulness for those with multiple e-mail accounts.


If you want a single screen to show everything, this would be the one to use. And you can use it as an app, leaving your normal home app alone.


Pro: integrated all in one screen, use as app or home replacement
Con: no more desktop (and thus, no widgets, no icons, no wallpaper, and and no theme) only gMail and no other, small nag ad, app launcher only so-so
Rating: 8 out of 10


NOTE: PAID version available.


Download SlideScreen from AppBrain





*Spark, showing weather, social, and dock
Source: Appbrain

*Spark


*Spark (there is an asterisk in front of it, but from now on I'll just call it Spark) is similar idea to Slidescreen, but with a little more graphical flair.


Basically, it's an integrated "wall" (called "dashboard" in the app) of various updates, like weather, news, social network (Facebook, Twitter) and so on. There's a "deals" segment as well, and a segment for frequently used apps, sort of a "shortcut" to them you can consider as a "dock". There is a traditional dock at the bottom brings up browser, phone, and app drawer.


There seems to be no "financial" updates (no stock watch), nor any sort of RSS feed reader. On the other hand it does allow background. The news segment seem to be selective as to what it will read from. The Market description claims to read AP, Skynews, and more. I can't get it to display anything other than AP, and often, only breaking news, nothing else. At other times I can pick specific focus areas, or any other news feeds. There is no config at all for news.


Startup speed is horrendous. Once I load the app it takes 10-20 seconds for the items to load. Once loaded the performance is respectable.


You can load this either as app or as home replacement, like Slidescreen. I personally find this too slow to be useful. Your experience may vary.


Pros: integrated mostly, better looks than Slidescreen for the most part
Cons: slow as a snail, segments need far more customization, such as news, finance, etc. No mail or missed call support or other indicators
Rating: 7 out of 10


Download *Spark from Appbrain





KustHome running KustHome theme (others available)
Source: Appbrain

KustHome (beta)


KustHome looks good, allows some very good themes, but takes a long time to load up.


This "home" gives ability to totally revamp the interface, even needs you to enable it as an accessibility aid as it reroutes all the notifications into a separate screen area. Different themes can move the status all around, up, down, etc.

Seems to have been designed with a GSM phone, as it was not able to read CDMA signal meter, always shows "no signal". Does not support live wallpaper.

It is interesting, but not that useful.

Pros: ability to do some serious theming, such as total relocation of all the indicators, even the notification area
Cons: no live wallpaper support and other modern features, slow to reinitialize
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Verdict: Needs some serious updates

Download KustHome from Appbrain







Crazy Home Lite 2.x, with one of the clocks. Note the very pretty dock and all the icons have been replaced
Source: Appbrain

Crazy Home Lite 2


Crazy Home is another theme-capable home replacement that has a cute feature... Up to 3 "desktops" with 5 panels/screens each. Siimply swipe up/down to swap "desktops". In fact, each desktop can have its own theme loaded. The default one have bright day, overcast, and night views of the same cityscape picture as wallpaper, and it looks very good, but it takes a LOT of time to setup themes to do something that sophisticated.


It claims to support most theme packs for other Home Launcher Replacements. This was not tested, as there are too many of them to test. Previous version does not support live wallpaper, though this version does. They also included some very pretty analog clocks, and people who are interesting can go to the website and learn how to make their own.


Surprisingly, this Home Launcher runs quite acceptably on OG Droid, though it does FC every once in a while.


Overall, this is a niche product... if you need that many desktops, give it a try. You may like it!


Pros: supports theme, and 3 "desktops" (of 5 panels each)
Cons: have no other significant features.
Ratings: 7.5 out of 10
Verdict: do you really need 3 "desktops"?


Download Crazy Home Lite from Appbrain

MyLauncher


MyLauncher from Morgoo seem to be a yet another LauncherPro clone, and this one is not quite finished. Its list of faults is quite long, and its unique features virtually none


Interesting features... It has a few app drawer (called "app list") transitions, and it feels pretty fast. And it has number on the screen indicator (which screen you're on). Other than that, there really isn't much.


As for the faults... The list is quite long. It promises themes (see the Appbrain description) but it's not yet delivered. There is a "scene" feature but it's not active or documented. There is also no manual to explain any of the features. There's a few transitions between screens but it's not implemented that well (LiveHome does it better).The "dock" only has 4 shortcuts (TOTAL) and fixed to "default dialer", "contacts", Gmail, and app drawer. It doesn't even support landscape rotation or live wallpapers. Even the word "preferences" is misspelled.


Frankly, if I want a Home Launcher that is small and fast, I'd be using something like TagHome or Zeam, This would be the last thing from my mind. This is an alpha, not beta.


MyLauncher (by Morgoo)


Pros: Speed
Cons: Just about everything else, even HelixLauncher is better than this
Rating: 4 out of 10
Verdict: There are far better choices available.


Link to MyLauncher on Appbrain





SimpleHome, just for calls
Source: Appbrain

SimpleHome


SimpleHome (no space) has no major features except a huge "make a call" button on top. You can add shortcuts to certain numbers, no apps on screen at all. No widgets. Not even live wallpaper. Argh! If I want to make a call I would use the dialer!


Pros: Clean interface
Cons: Everything else
Rating: 2 out of 10
Verdict: Use something else


Download SimpleHome from Appbrain





Homescreen 3D, very very 3D with individual apps as rotating cubes in a 3D world... but not that usable.
Source: Appbrain

Homescreen 3D (free)


Homescreen 3D turns your individual app icons into 3D cubes that slowly rotate and pop up and down in 3D.


While it looks cool, it has no widget support, and basically looks great, but doesn't work that well.


Pros: Looks great
Cons: Doesn't work that well in practice, distracting, no widgets...
Rating: 6 out of 10
Verdict: Work in progress, all eye candy, not filling at all


Download Homescreen 3D Free from Appbrain


NOTE: Paid version available





KeeWorld Home Lite, gallery view
Source: AppBrain

KeeWorld Home Lite

KeeWorld Home Lite is another "themed" launcher is organized around function, instead of shortcuts. The 4 corners pop up different uses, like Music, Mail / Messages, Pictures, and Apps.

In practice, this feels like an artsy version of Slidescreen, that looks cute, but feels a lot less functional. The home app just doesn't feel snappy at all, quite sluggish, in fact, on my overclocked (to 1 GHz) Moto Droid.

You can download a lot of different themes for it, but apparently it's only for the full version, and for an Android app, the full version is rather expensive.

All in all, KeeWorld appears to be an acquired taste. I personally, found other home apps to be more useful or more pleasing.

KeeWorld Home Lite

Pros: Looks cute, data centric instead of app centric view
Cons: Slow, not quite as efficient, waste of screenspace
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Verdict: solution with eye candy looking for a problem

Download Keeworld Home Lite from Appbrain

NOTE: Appbrain has determined that Keeworld may be a "spam app"

Launcher +

Launcher+ is like a proof of concept, as it is just the regular Home launcher, with support for scrollable and animated widgets. Otherwise it is identical to the regular Home.

It doesn't really have anything to recommend it.

Launcher +

Pro: Simple, stable, fast
Con: Nothing special either
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Verdict: proof of concept, nothing stands out

Download Launcher+ from AppBrain





DxTop, showing off one of its themes, and the "app drawer / task drawer" dock.
Source: Appbrain

dxTop Lite


Probably what inspired Sweeterhome, dxTop is the first Home replacement to feature the 5 screens in a compass (i.e. diamond, up/down/left/right/center) pattern instead of just left/right.
Its dock area has 3 docks, which is scrollable


  • "phone" dock: app drawer and 2 shortcuts which you can point to a set of predefined functions, such as SMS, Gmail, Phone, etc.

  • shortcut dock: 5 shortcuts to any app you want

  • task dock: app drawer and task manager, showing recent apps, running apps, and background services

It does support live wallpapers. it is supposed to support themes but I can't seem to download any. Any of the "get more..." links points to the website, but click on theme or Live Wallpaper does nothing.


Overall, dxTop Lite is more of a novelty item than offers genuine advantages over a normal "home replacement". The diamond pattern to the screens does not seem to offer any advantages to the side-to-side pattern other than one stroke less to switch.


NOTE: Lite version has ads.


Pros: diamond/compass pattern of screens
Cons: nothing special other than the pattern of screens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: interesting, but it really has one trick, nothing else


EDIT: I got the pro version free from Amazon's Free App of the Day, but didn't see any major difference between the Lite and the Pro versions. This review stands.

Download dxTop Lite from Appbrain

Open Gesture Lite

Open Gesture Lite should be termed a demo, and a very annoying one at that. That is a pity, because it actually does have some very impressive features, and is fundamentally different from all the other home replacement apps.

As you can guess by its name, OG features launching via gestures. Press a button to bring up gesture mode, and then draw a gesture on the screen, and the gesture will launch apps. The Lite version is limited to preset apps and preset gestures only, but the result is still impressive.

The problem is the app also comes with an ad bar on the "home" screen (on top), as well as a "nag" screen that implores you to get the pro version and get many more features.

The pro version is supposed to include features such as custom icons, custom fonts, gesture area widget (no button to launch the draw area), and so on. The nag screen start whenever you start the app. So if you are testing various home replacements, you'll see it again and again.

It also does NOT support live wallpaper, nor does it accept themes.

As a demo, it is impressive. As a true home replacement, Open Gesture Lite is far less impressive.The developer should drop the ad and the nag screen (only show it once), and hide the "register me to get better features" messages in the config screen, like "only available in pro version".

Pro: gesture launching! Wow!
Con: no theme, no live wallpaper, very annoying ad bar and nag screen
Rating: 6 out of 10

NOTE: PAID version available.

Open Home - Lite

Open Home - Lite is the "lite" version of Open Home, one of the "granddaddies" of home replacement app. The lite version supports themes, and it is quite fast, but that's it.

It has two on-screen shotcuts. The search button is on the left edge of screen, in the middle. The right side middle has a pop-up tray that contains four of the most used functions. However, no option can be found for customization.

Open Home Lite does NOT support live wallpaper, and it does NOT accept the existing widgets on my Motorola Droid running Android 2.1. Only three widgets are available, when there should be at least two dozen. There is also a nag message on the top of the screen that reminds you this is a "lite" version.

With availability of PandaHome, Open Home Lite is useless, and cannot be recommended.

Pros: Supports themes
Cons: no live wallpaper, no widgets, nag message
Rating: 3 out of 10

NOTE: PAID version available, see Open Home 6 Beta review earlier.

Balancer Launcher


Balancer Launcher claims to be a full-featured launcher similar to LauncherPro or ADW.Launcher. However, extensive use shows that this launcher really has nothing special to it at all. It has the horizontally scrolling app drawer, and a few tweaks, but otherwise, it's a pretty plain launcher.


Rating: 6.5 out of 10


Link to Balancer Launcher on Appbrain



MxHome Launcher


MxHome is one of the largest home launchers ever reviewed, at 7MB APK size. (Only LG Home beat it in terms of APK size, at 16MB). After trying it for two days, I cannot find any really outstanding features. It is quite smooth, and it is theme compatible (of its own format). It has a sliding shelf (that can be opened from any home page) similar to Pandahome's "side drawers", but full screen. However, all the items on the sliding shelf are pre-defined and un-customizable. There seem to be some 3D icon animations, but nothing really noticeable.

Overall, the home launcher is reminiscent vLauncher or similar iPhone launchers, having only 4 shortcuts at the bottom with big square icons. It doesn't feel that special, honest. The themes are about 4+ MB each. I honestly do not see why you would use this Home Launcher over others.


Rating: 6.5 of 10
Pros: Smooth, nice panel, themes that cover a lot
Cons: too large in size, limited themes available


Link to MxHome Launcher on Appbrain



Home17 (and Home35, and Home90)


This is the plain home launcher, albeit expanded to allow not just 7 screens, but 17 screens. The guy also has two more versions, giving up up to 35 screens... and 90 screens. Eeek! What's special? It has a clock on every page, all different designs.


Other than the clocks and absurdly amount of home screens, there's really nothing special about this home launcher (and its cousins).


Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Amazing amount of home screens
Cons: Why would you need that many?


Link to Home17 on Appbrain







QQ Desktop Pro, a slick Home Launcher Replacement, too bad it's all in Chinese!
Source: Appbrain

QQ Desktop Pro


NOTE: QQ Desktop Pro is a Chinese app, and all menus are in Chinese. You may not want to use this unless you read Chinese.


At 1.7MB, QQ Desktop is not exactly lightweight, but it has quite respectable performance. The app drawer caching is a little slow, but it has some interesting widgets, including a "task killer / free memory" widget that also shows memory free/used. While task killing doesn't really do anything in Froyo and later, indicating free memory may give you an idea how congested your Android device is.


The 4-shortcut dock has a fixed background, no switching possible. All the icons have this background to it to make it stand out a bit more. You can just drag and drop icons to replace the ones on the dock. The scrolling is very smooth, and the various desktop screens can be easily edited. App drawer was changed to include search and download (to QQ's own appstore, in Chinese of course).


Config is minimal, but it does have some transitional effects that are rather cute.


All in all, QQ Desktop Pro is not a bad launcher, but it's not a particularly good one either. It offers some interesting features, but mostly eye candy, with nothing really special recommend it over its various competitors.


Check out QQ Desktop Pro on Appbrain







MAGIC the launcher SD. The background has ripple animation effect, and the dock has 3 backgrounds (though very subtle), decent speed.
Source: Appbrain

MAGIC the Launcher SD


MAGIC the Launcher SD (English) is a Japanese attempt at fast home launcher. By foregoing EVERYTHING that can slow things down (including live wallpapers and widgets), this home replacement is indeed, fast, and at under 1MB it does qualify as "lightweight". Yet has eye candy like page-flip transitions. It also has a few interesting tricks like "wave" distortion of background, which does NOT slow down the front page flips.


On the negative side, the app drawer is quite slow, and the list view is not sortable (seem to be in physical order, not alpha) so you scroll through a lot more space to get to your apps as you look for them. Also, the dock's background has only 3 choices and they are pretty darn subtle.


Overall, MAGIC the launcher SD is a bit of an oddball. It's fast, but the unsorted app drawer makes it a real pain to use. If you hardly ever touch the app drawer (preferring shortcuts on the "desktop") then this won't bother you much ones you got it set up. However, the rest of us will find the app drawer to be source of frustration. Combine this with lack of widgets or live wallpaper, and you have a launcher that is just TOO weird.


Download MAGIC the Launcher SD English from Appbrain



HomeForYou (free, $2.47)


HomeForYou is a Home Launcher replacement from Japan, and it really shows. Most of the menus use very stilted English (though readable). While it accepts theme packs, there are exactly 5 (total) theme packs available, and they're all in Japanese. This version crashes like CRAZY on my OG Droid though.


HomeForYou does have some very interesting features, such as SD card file browser, settings browser, and so on. It seem to also support free form app or widget placement, animated widget support, and so on. Unfortunately, due to complete lack of help file, and crash-prone performance, this app cannot be recommended until someone helps them write a proper English manual / translation.


Download HomeForYou through Appbrain



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Fake Gingerbread

These are emulating the look of the Gingerbread (Android OS 2.3) launcher. Some do better job than others.

HE Launcher

HE Launcher is an attempt to "fake" the Gingerbread launcher by basically skin-ning the default launcher. It looks just like Gingerbread launcher... Until you start to use it.

When you hit menu you get the same buttons as regular launcher. Author just added "drop to uninstall", but had to disable landscape mode.Widgets are scalable, but no big deal.

Other than the looks, there is very little to recommend this.

HE Launcher

Pros: Looks like Gingerbread launcher, drop to uninstall, scalable widgets
Cons: Only looks on the surface, plenty of bugs to squash
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Download HE Launcher from Appbrain

Gingerbread Launcher

Now that Nexus S is "out", Modaco ported the Gingerbread launcher to run on Froyo.

Unfortunately, there is NOTHING special about this launcher. It has the Nexus One screen hints (but you can get that on ADW.Launcher), it has direct link to browser and phone (well, whatever the defaults to those are) and it has a link straight to Settings / Applications under "menu". And that's it.

It's also almost 5 MB in size. I appreciate the effort, but it's nothing special.

Pros: It's new, it's pretty
Cons: Nothing special to this launcher... really.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Verdict: not worth the upgrade...

Download Gingerbread Launcher from Appbrain

(Another) Gingerbread Launcher

This OTHER Gingerbread Launcher is by Eugene373, had gone on a diet (size shrunk), and can fool casual observation.

Rating 6 out of 10

Get (Another) Gingerbread Launcher from Appbrain

Android 2.3 Launcher

Yet ANOTHER Gingerbread clone, nothing too special about this one either.

Rating 5.5 out of 10

Get Android 2.3 Launcher from Appbrain

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Defunct

Following home replacement apps are no longer available.





HelixLauncher2 running The Matrix Live Wallpaper. The dock area's "glass" background can be turned off.




HelixLauncher 2's "app drawer". It actually "zooms" in and out, and notice the top and bottom look like a "ribbon" scrolling.

Helix Launcher 2

HelixLauncher 2, with a green icon was previously available. It is improved over the old one with far more eye candy, but also slower performance. Previous review somehow access the Nexus One-exclusive version. Since then the "universal" Android 2.1 version was found and tested. The "generic" version works fine on the Moto Droid.

Helix Launcher 2 feels quite a bit slower, at least on startup. However, the eye candy is better. It also lets you hide the status bar. There is still no theme support, but the Live Wallpaper support is still there. The app 'drawer' is now animated and the icons in the drawer now "snaps" so they don't appear half-in and half-out of the window. The "dock" for 4 permanent shortcuts are still there, and you can now add a "glass" effect to highlight the dock itself. It still supports up to 7 screens.

Pros: Same as HelixLauncher, but also more eye candy
Cons: slower at startup, slower overall, still no theme support
Rating: 8.5 out of 10, really

WARNING: This app appears to have been removed from Android Marketplace.





FreedHome with Galactic Core Live Wallpaper, and "paper" theme. Note that the icon density, both vertical and horizontal, is adjustable. Also note the static shortcuts at bottom.

FreedHome

FreedHome is basically a "faster" PandaHome. It can put a new icon on ANY app with icon libraries so you can assign icons to other apps, and also ability to adjust icon density of each "desktop screen". The example picture shows instead of the normal "4x4", the density is increased to 5x5. You can see the result: extra row and column for more shortcuts.

It has two static shortcuts at the bottom. They are a bit hard to assign (the program has to list every single app installed) but otherwise they work. They can also be "skinned".

The theme library is a bit thin now, but it is growing.

Overall, FreedHome has potential, but it needs wider theme pack and icon pack compatibility and a bigger library of themes and icons for it to be accepted as a viable alternative.

Pros: theme support, 2 static shortcuts, speed
Cons: not that many themes available
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Verdict: has potential

NOTE: FreedHome is no longer available but is still listed in Androlib

Simple Home


Simple Home (yes, there's a space in the name) is a pure launcher, nothing more, nothing less. There is no widget support, just a filter bar on top that helps you filter down the various apps you got. Not even a wallpaper. You can, however, filter by Alpha, Frequency, Recency (i.e. recentness), frecency (combination of frequency and recency?) already running, and custom filter.


This is a curiosity, nothing more.


Pros: Fast, clean launcher
Cons: nothing else... no wallpaper, no widget, no folders, no everything!
Rating: 4 out of 10
Verdict: A launcher with NO customization, yikes


Download Simple Home from Appbrain (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)

MyHome Launcher Lite


MyHome Launcher Lite is has a split and confused personality. It claims to be a faster lighter meaner home, but its own APK weighs in at 2.5 MB, which is positively heavyweight when Zeam weights in at under 500KB. It claims to support themes, but its proprietary theme format only supports reskinning of the docks and the buttons on the docks.


It is neither fish nor fowl.


Rating: 6 out of 10


Link to MyHome Launcher Lite on Appbrain (no longer available!)

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Don't bother trying these...

Here are two that you should avoid: AdvancedLauncher, and aHome Mini. Neither of which will run on Motorola Droid running Android 2.1. They just go into a continuous ForceClose loop. I had to turn the phone off to reset it.

I will admit that these apps are written for Android 1.6 (a.k.a. Cupcake) , not the later versions. Still, they *could* have been labelled better.

Conclusion

For heavy-weights, the top runners are ADW.Launcher, Go Launcher Ex, and Launcher Pro. There are proponents for each. With the latest upgrade, it seems Go Launcher Ex has pulled ahead of the pack, as it's free AND supports themes and everything else.

For the light-weights, it's a toss-up between TagHome and Zeam, depending on what feature you value more.

If you want something like an iPhone, try Quick Launch Home or Vlauncher

If you want a fully integrated desktop you may want to try SlideScreen, and you don't even need to muck with your home screen default to do it! It is a good app that lets you try out all the capabilities without too much of a nag. Netfront Life Screen is a good second choice if you have a heft phone to run it.

Your secondary choices are Helix Launcher (for older phones), Quick Launch Home, or Home++.

Everything else is either too limited or too much of a nag.

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