Search Our Blog

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Android Launchers at a glance

The launcher, the main user interface of an Android device, contribute significantly to the user experience. While the Android OS comes with a default Google launcher, most manufacturers have developed their own launcher to offer the best experience to their customers. Let's have a look at the special features of the various launchers available.

One of the key features of a launcher is the number of screens. Users will be able to place more icons and widgets on the desktop with more "screens" available. However, they would have to flick their fingers more often to search for a particular screen. Most manufacturers offer five to seven screens by default; some with the option to insert more screens.  

Huawei's Canvas Launcher
Potentially unlimited screens
Huawei has designed a launcher with potentially unlimited number of screens. Screens can be added in both horizontal and vertical directions (ie. multiple rows and columns),  giving it a "grid paper look" when zoomed out. This is certainly a great concept. However, our desks tend to get messier if we were given more desk space. Furthermore, the so called unlimited number of screens is limited by the RAM of the phone. (Note: Huawei has removed their own launcher and used Google's default primitive launcher in their recent models.)  

The famous HTC Sense and Weather Clock
The other key feature is the widgets that comes with the launcher. HTC devices came with a unique and iconic HTC Sense launcher. All HTC smartphones have a uniform look with a weather clock on the main screen. The launcher also come with Friendstream and other user friendly widgets.

The problem that Google perhaps saw with the introduction of these great widgets is the disappearance of Google's widget on smartphones. It is not surprising that Google is in constant negotiations with manufacturers to keep Google's Search bar, Market and Gmail icons on the home screens

Sony Ericsson's "Avantar" launcher
Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Samsung's launchers also came with a range of unique widgets. The design of Motorola's launcher gave a solid and plain (and perhaps dull) feel. One special feature of this launcher is its ability to change with the orientation, allowing users to access the desktop in both Portrait and Landscape views. Sony Ericsson's launcher for small screen smartphones (2.8 inches and below) came with four short cut keys at the four corners, making it possible to operate the phone. Perhaps the overall blue theme of Sony Ericsson's launcher remind users of the movie Avantar. The most "interesting" launcher of all is Samsung's Android launcher. It looks just like the iPhone iOS!

There are free launchers available on the Market. LanucherPro and ADW launcher are worth exploring.  These are developed by Android enthusiast who regularly updates and improves their launcher. A word of caution: Although these free launchers came with great features, they might not be fully tested on your Android device. You might experience "android.process.error" from time to time.

Enjoy Android!

To set default or clear defaults of a launcher, go to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > (Your current launcher) > Clear Default.

Related post:
Choosing the best Android Smartphone
Three must-have Android app