Android is a wonderful operating system for phones and tablets, but even so its interface could use a few improvements.

That’s where things like Android launchers come in; they’re small apps that change the interface in ways both big and small that can make it quicker and simpler to make Android do things and, in the process, make your life a little bit easier.

There are dozens of launchers available on the Play Store for you to check out, and while most of them are completely free, many also come with advanced features that you have to pay to use.

If you’re willing to cough up a few bucks you can get things like access to more themes, the ability to add widgets and extra screens to your Home screen options and, in some cases, the ability to make the launcher do specific things when you swipe with two fingers (also known as gesture support).

Happily, launcher apps aren’t expensive, and you can usually unlock the extra features for less than R50.

Sound good? Here’s how to go about setting your phone or tablet up with a brand-new launcher.

Find the app

Open up Google Play on your phone or tablet, and enter “launcher” in the search box. This is what you’ll see:

Play_Store_Loader_Header

Download it

Once you’ve decided on which launcher to get, press on it and then press Install on its Store page. Star ratings help to tell you beforehand if a launcher is worth it or not; if you stick to launchers rated 4 stars and above, you should find something decent.

Launch it

When the download has completed, press Open. This will start the launcher up and replace your Home screen with the app’s. You will be asked if you want to make the new app your phone or tablet’s default launcher; this is entirely up to you.

It’s possible to have multiple launchers installed, and by setting none of them as the default, you’ll be able to choose which one to launch every time you press your Home button.

Should you accidentally set one as the default, and you want to change it, go into your phone’s Settings and go to Apps, then press on the launcher app and look for an option towards the bottom called Clear defaults. Press this, and your phone will ask you which launcher to use every time you press your Home button.

Launcher_defaults

From here, it’s a matter of poking around to see how the launcher differs, and how you can best take advantage of the changes.

A recommendation

I recently grabbed Smart Launcher 2 because I like its clean interface and the way it sorts my apps into categories for easy access.

I went from this:

Home_Before
It’s not terrible, but neither is it amazing.

To this:

After_Smart_Launcher_2
So neat!

And this:

Before_Default_Apps_View
So cluttered. Yuck.

To this:

After_Smart_Launcher_2_apps
Apps now organised by category. Much easier!

What’s so nice about Android is you can have more than one launcher loaded at the same time, allowing you to switch between them via your phone’s Settings. If you don’t like Smart Launcher 2, also check out Nova Launcher and Google’s own Google Now launcher as they’re pretty good as well.

 

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.