I’ll never forget when ADW Launcher was first released. Discovering the power that a replacement launcher could have on Android was exciting. From themes and gestures, to action icons and in-depth widget customization, using a custom launcher like ADW felt like using a totally different OS at times. It seemed like every week, home screen replacement type apps were coming out with bigger and better features. And then things hit a wall.
For the longest time, real innovation, in practically any area with replacement launchers, was virtually nonexistent. Sure, apps like Nova Launcher and Apex are incredible, and have improved on the legacy developers like Ander Webbs have built, but I don’t feel like a whole lot has changed in terms of features and functionality.
If you want real innovation, with real productivity tweaks and adjustments, look no further than Chris Lacy’s Action Launcher. My new home screen replacement.
Action Launcher does away with themes and gaudy transition animations, and instead focuses on a few dramatic changes that change the way you use your device. The three main focal points of Action Launcher fall in the quick search bar, quick drawer and folders.
The quick search bar is essentially the Google search bar on steroids. While the Google search bar does allow you to search for things like apps and contacts, the quick search bar on Action Launcher has improved upon this ten fold. The first thing you’ll notice is that no longer does Google Now need to open to look for things. Simply touch the quick search bar, and start typing. Google Now results will always be your first option, but access to apps, contacts and shortcuts are readily available in a scrollable list with immediate access. It ends up being much faster than the default Google search, and just as reliable.
The quick search bar also includes other default shortcuts, like a voice search icon, quick access to the Play Store, a quick drawer button and a menu key. Recent apps will also appear in the quick search bar before any text is inputed.
The quick drawer is the second focus point of Action Launcher, and it’s amazing. Accessible by either tapping the quick drawer icon in the quick search bar, pressing the home button from the default home screen or with a swiping gesture from the left to right side of your display, the Action Launcher is a vertical alphabetized list of all your apps.
I love that with the quick drawer, you can easily touch a letter on the side of the list to skip to that letter, which is insanely fast. I have experienced zero lag or stutter anywhere throughout Action Launcher, but the quick drawer really exemplifies this. It makes the default app drawer on Android 4.2 feel clunky and slow. It doesn’t feature immediate access to widgets, but those are available by either choosing “customize” in the main menu, or long pressing on any home screen.
The last feature that totally changed how I access apps and information on my phone are the new folders, and covers. Traditionally, folders simply house apps. Action Launcher allows you to not only create folders, but use a specific app as a cover icon that allows you to access that app, without opening the folder.
For example, You can create a folder for messaging, with the stock messaging app, Facebook Messenger and a few 1×1 sms shortcuts. You can then set the stock messaging app as the cover, so that if you click on the folder, the messaging app automatically opens. If you want to use something else inside the folder, either swipe up on the folder, or double tap. Folders and cover icons are absolutely genius. I was skeptical of their use at first, and they took a minute to get used to, but now I can’t live without them.
At $3.99, I highly recommend Action Launcher for anyone who is looking for more productivity out of their home screen. Right now, Action Launcher is actually on sale for fifty percent off, only $1.99, for Google Play’s birthday. So if you were or are on the fence about it, don’t miss out.