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Android launchers are officially exciting again

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Launchers are one of Android’s most powerful and unusual features — and yet, they’re also one of the platform’s least understood elements.

Ask an average Android phone owner what launcher they’re using, and odds are, you’ll get little more than a quizzical look (and maybe a swift kick to the shin) in return. Ask a power user about their launcher preferences, though, and you’re likely to launch yourself into a 45-minute conversation about the merits of all the latest options.

Me? I’ve always fallen into that latter camp (which comes as a huge surprise, I’m sure). I’ve loved the presence of Android launchers since way back in the days of Froyo — a dated and nerdy enough reference at this point that if you understand it, you’re probably a fan of Android launchers, too. And in case you aren’t familiar with Android launchers yet, they’re specialty apps that replace your entire home screen and app drawer environment with something different — something that’s typically more customizable and often less cluttered than your phone’s default setup.

To me, launchers have long represented the unique sort of power, flexibility, and personalization Android provides — something you certainly can’t find on that other smartphone operating system. And while they’re often written off as an unnecessary tinkering-geek indulgence, I think they have the potential to be not only useful but also downright transformative for any phone-owning person and/or ostrich, no matter their geek quotient (or beak quotient).

The reason is that launchers are able to do so much more than just change the mere appearance of your home screen or any other such superficial thing. A thoughtful Android launcher can completely change the way you use your phone and interact with information within it. It can improve your efficiency and cut down on distractions. And it can make even an aging cellular telephone apparatus feel new, exciting, and full of fresh features — features that you wouldn’t even find on any out-of-the-box hardware you could go out and buy today.

And that brings us to this present moment — and the reason I’m writing this column. The purpose of this article isn’t simply to wax poetic about the joys of Android launchers and the advantages they offer (much as I do enjoy dancing atop that soapbox). Nope: It’s to talk about why I’m suddenly finding myself excited about Android launchers and freshly optimistic about their future for the first time in a long time.

Like I said, I’ve always loved Android launchers and everything they represent — and I’ve used ’em since I was just a tiny phone-totin’ tike in a pair of old-timey pantaloons. But lately, I’ve found myself feeling a little frustrated by the state of the Android launcher lineup.

Now, don’t get me wrong: There’s no shortage of excellent and actively maintained launchers in the Google Play Store. We’ve got some incredible developers ’round these parts, and they do some spectacular work.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

2 COMMENTS

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