Explained: What is an Android Home Launcher?

One of the great things about Android is the sheer amount of options available to users to customize their phone. You can really go crazy in personalizing much of the look and feel of your phone to create a unique experience. In this vein, you may have heard or read about Home Launchers on sites such as ours before, or ran across them in the Android Play Store, but not really know what you were looking at. So, allow us to take some time out of our day to help explain Android Home Launchers.

For lack of better term, the home launcher is your “desktop” on an Android smartphone. Much like you have on your PC or Mac, you have a home screen to display all your pertinent information and favorite apps. And every Android phone has one of some sort. Whether it be from Google, HTC, Moto, or Samsung, the phone has a launcher in charge of handle the UI of the screen presented at first launch, or when you press the home button.

Even with all of these default offerings by the manufacturers of your phone, you may be surprised to see just how large the app market is for replacement home launchers. Take a second to do a quick search. There are hundreds of them available. So what’s the draw? Customization is king. Many of the popular launchers like Nova or Action Launcher offer some major additions to how you manage your Home screen.

Like what you may ask? Some are simple like icon packs. Most launchers offer you to download icon packs that overwrite the default Android icons to offer a new look. If you always wanted circle icons but on a Samsung phone….icon packs and a new home launcher can solve your problem. There are thousands of icon packs available to expand your functionality of your new home launcher.



Another big one is gestures and custom shortcuts. For example, Nova and Action Launcher offer you options to start specific apps, or actions, with different swipes and gestures on the screen. From pulling down the notifications shade to opening your favorite app, most can be set by these options in many home launchers. I have a swipe setup to launch my favorite weather app by swiping left on my main home screen for instance. It’s a little tweak but one you really get accustomed to having once you’ve used it.

And then there’s the main reason I use one. Home screen backups. I change devices a lot. Like enough to question my judgment. Most 3rd party home launchers offer some solution to backing up the layout of your home screen to be restored on another device, or after a factory reset. This is awesome for anyone who is constantly upgrading devices, or those that have multiple devices and you’d like some uniformity. I have some screenshots of 3 devices below all running similar home screens thanks to backup and restore via Action Launcher.

Custom home launchers aren’t for everyone. My daughter and wife simply don’t care enough. But for those of us that really like to fine tune our computer experiences they offer a lot of fun. If you tire of your defaults that came with your phone, then a 3rd party home launcher might be just what the app doctor ordered.

Launchers on Google Play