Android users in general like widgets. Android "advocates" (which I suppose includes all of us here at Android Police) remember when it was one of the biggest differentiators between Google's mobile operating system and iOS, back when people were trying to convince us that we didn't really need copy and paste support. So when Nokia's Z Launcher homescreen replacement app launched without widgets, a considerable number of users couldn't switch over because of this lack.
One aspect of Google Now Launcher that never felt quite right was the way you removed apps. If you happened to be on a home screen, saw an app icon, and decided to uninstall that app, you had to go to the app drawer to do that. You could get rid of the shortcut from the home screen, but not uninstall it.
Android app drawers come in all shapes and sizes, but most stick to the same basic formula. There's a homescreen with apps, folders, and widgets. Everything else is tucked away inside the app drawer.
Well, that isn't the case with Hexy. This experimental third-party launcher takes the apps that would otherwise be in your drawer and dumps them all over your homescreen. There they reside in a sea of hexagonal tiles.
Nova Launcher is easily the top pick for conventional Android home screen replacements, and a "daily driver" for a good chunk of Android Police's staff. The latest update added a Material Design user interface, but there are other goodies hiding just below the surface. For example, version 4.0 includes a simple app search function hidden in the app drawer. It's especially handy if you've got hundreds of installed apps (like Artem) or just don't like organizing your apps into folders (like everyone else).
Expectations are high for each update to Google's core apps on Android. After all, we know there are going to be a lot of new features announced at I/O in less than 2 weeks. Quite a few apps have recently gone through a Material refresh, and plenty of others have seen smaller changes as they slowly coalesce around the current design guidelines. That appears to be the story with the latest Google App update. The latest version finally enables full screen mode for Google Now on devices using custom launchers.
At this point, there is no real shortage of "smart" launchers in the Android ecosystem. Of course, we have to put "smart" in quotation marks, because there still is a void in terms of truly good products trying to do that. So when I tell you that Bento is a new entrant in this bustling market of context-aware launchers, you shouldn't ask, "do we need another one?" You should ask, "is this the one that will really do a great job?"
Bento is a venture capital-backed project that is in a semi-private beta at the moment.
BlinkFeed debuted with the HTC One M7, and while not everyone appreciates a Flipboard-style home screen with limited news sources, it has its fans. HTC uploaded the launcher into the Play Store last year in time for the M8 launch, and for the M9's release it has renamed the app to Sense Home.
HTC's new homescreen implements a few predictive capabilities that we've seen pop up over the past year or two in apps such as Aviate and EverythingMe.
Developer Chris Lacy has pushed out another update to Action Launcher, bumping the software up to version 3.3. Just over a month has passed since the last major release, and plenty of new features have crept in during that time.
One of the most visual changes is the ability for Quicktheme — which lets Action Launcher match your wallpaper like a chameleon — to integrate with live wallpapers. This is done through an open source API that requires changes on the live wallpaper side of the equation in order to work.
Apex's most recent update has brought the third-party launcher a flood of angry reviews over a new app recommendation feature that users are perceiving as adware. The popular app's overall score still sits well above a 4.0, but you don't need to scroll through the latest reviews for long before coming across numerous one-star ratings and anger-driven complaints.
Apex might be the last of the major launcher replacements to get a redesign for Android 5.0's visual style, but it certainly doesn't want to be the least. Apex's 3.0 update adds new Lollipop animations and a completely revamped visual style, making it more or less homogenous with Google's own launcher, but with the range of settings and tweaking options that customization fans crave. You can download the standard Apex Launcher for free, with the $4 upgrade app available for more options.