Changing the face of Android: how to make a smartphone look different

…and everything else

And then there are the launchers that don’t really fit into any category, with styles and designs that don’t really match anything else, and yet offer solid homescreens that can do more than you’ll expect.


Price: Free

One of the more playful launchers and one of our favourites, Aviate is about tracking your activities and offering you the best homescreen for whatever you’re currently doing at the time.

Getting up in the morning? There’s a specific screen for that, with a clock and weather forecast. Going to work? Have your calendar and a map screen. Are you out and about somewhere you’ve never heard of? Here’s what good for the area.

Beyond this context-aware functionality, Aviate offers a bunch of program shortcuts, collections of your favourite programs, and a simple way to dial people by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to see your most called folk. Highly recommended.

Z Launcher

Price: Free

This one came out of left field, offering an unusual experience from a brand not known for doing much with Android.

In fact, now that its Android efforts have been canned — thank you Microsoft — Nokia doing an Android launcher is very unusual, but here we are.

Z Launcher isn’t your regular home screen replacement app, offering your favourite shortcuts at the bottom, and offering apps and contacts that it thinks you’ll be using at various points of the day, such as Instagram or Google Maps when you’re out and about, or the Sonos app (if you use it) at home. If you can’t quickly find the app or contact you like, you can search for it by scribbling in the letters one by one.


Price: Free

Half Android style, half something else, EverythingMe tries to adapt itself to your life with contextual screens and app choices, similar to what Z Launcher does.

It goes a little further, though, adapting your app collections to include widgets for news if you’re browsing your news folder or maps if you’re looking at what’s around you, trying to find the best way to bring in all the information about yourself to as few screens as possible, and even offering app suggestions here and there.

9 Cards

Price: Free, but with in-app purchases.

Do you like your programs all collected into certain folders for you?

You’ll want to try 9 Cards, a launcher that does just that, while trying to be context aware and changing the apps to suit the way you use the phone. There are themes, too, meaning you’re not stuck with the design 9 Cards gives you in the first place.

Action Launcher

Price: Free, but with in-app purchases.

Another odd mixture, Action Launcher takes the simplicity of Android’s homescreens, but has you instead open your apps from the side, dragging open other applications from the left, which could speed up your life.

Facebook Home

Price: Free

Nowhere near as popular as it once was, “Home” was Facebook’s attempt at creating an Android experience that existed around the social network system that is Facebook.

In theory, the idea made sense, especially with Facebook’s dedicated smartphones, as it offers a Facebook user that ability to really integrate the social network in its life. That said, we haven’t heard much about its development in months, so if it works for you, great, but we’re not sure how long Facebook will keep the development of this one up.