Uniquely Android: Launcher



Uniquely Android is a series we started that shines the spotlight on those apps that take advantage of the unique capabilities of the platform and provide an experience that you wouldn’t find in most other phones. Previously, we have featured Plug In LauncherAirDroidShushLlamaSwiftkey 3SwipePadWidgetsoid2.xUnified RemoteAirCalcWiFi KeyboardPuzzle Alarm ClockNotif and Mac Remote.

Nothing epitomizes the personalization capability of Android as much as the various launcher applications do. Heck, I’ve seen some people support their own preference the way most people support their favorite sports teams (disclosure: I’m a Nova Prime user).

For the most part, the purpose of launcher applications so far was to offer a lighter alternative to the default ones, with some additional capabilities such as theming, adding power-user capabilities such as multitouch gestures, etc. However, ever since Facebook demoed Home, I believe it showed a lot of people to seriously consider offering unique experiences with their own implementations. One such app I have come across since is, which has a few couple of elements that I want to highlight.

The first feature is what they have termed as “Smart Folders”, whereby they classify your apps into categories such as social, utilities, location, etc, and add these folders to your desktop by default. You can remove the folders, or edit their contents (which is recommended, since they are not always perfect), create your own, or also choose from a large set of ones that they have curated on their own.

13 - 1The Smart Folders highlight your installed apps for a category on the top, and also link to various mobile web pages. For example, the social folder links to sites such as Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn and The Fancy, etc. While it is a neat idea, particularly to discover new services for categories you are already interested in, I wish they simply opened the links in the default browser instead of a WebView, as they do currently.

The main feature, however, would be their persistent search bar on the top. I first confused it with maybe a social networking feature with the “What’s on your mind” text, but it turns out that it’s a pretty powerful search tool. The best way to understand it would be to see their demo video. In essence, it performs a search based on your query, highlighting results from your installed apps (contacts pop up higher when you search for a friend, or Google Play is pushed up for musicians) while also providing responses from across the web. They also change the background to fit in well with the query, as the screenshot for my search for Gorillaz on the right shows. is still in beta, and is currently only available in USA, UK, Spain and Canada. There are a few reasons that I cannot pick it as my first choice over Nova Prime. However, I’ll be keeping a keen eye on their progress, and you should certainly head over to their Play Store link to give it a run.

I’m really looking forward to what other companies might have in store, with my dream launcher being some sort of Google Now-powered launcher that customizes the experience based on various contextual parameters, such as where I am or what I’m doing. Damn, the future of Android is looking brighter by the day.

Raveesh Bhalla

Design Love: Flib

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  1. Trying it out – so far interesting. Not ready to make it my default launcher. Love the way the background changes to a picture of Mick and Keith when I search for the The Rolling Stones

  2. apk please

      1. thank you :)

  3. I’m waiting for the ability to port my settings from my nova launcher. until then, it won’t be a daily.

  4. I use to use Go Launcher which was great pre Android 4.0 and before they jumped the shark and now I use Nova which is well, yeah okay, it’s a launcher, nothing special.

    I do miss from Go Launcher the ability to easily search for an app and their page of most frequently used apps and recent searches.

    I probably have a very strange “phonetop” compared to most. This is on a Note II. There is only one homescreen and nothing is on it except a dock of phone / web browser / camera / and then a folder organizer widget that contains an organized/folderized list of all my favorite apps. Similarly on my drop down notifications bar I have two folder organizer widgets: Recent Apps and basically All My Apps (organized/folderized)

    So in a sense yeah, it’s like a start menu from Windows.

    The advantage I have is a very clean screen, never on the wrong homescreen, and the swipe to drop down status/ screen is accessible easily and consistently from every app.

    Anyway, a truly useful phone launcher would be web based, ask me for permission to access google to determine what apps I have on my phone, let me design the homescreens, and install/uninstall apps and place them in various folders and install widgets, etc., and all the config files live on github or dropbox or google drive.

    1. You’re giving me ideas…

  5. This looks awesome

  6. I like the idea!

  7. well.. I don’t really search that much on my phone. When I want to listin music.. I boot up the music app.. when I wanna navigate somewhere.. I boot up Google maps.. When I wanna view my calendar…you get it right? This is to much “search based” for me! I already own a phone with my fav apps for my fav actions right in front of me…

    1. well, youre missing out :)

  8. Doesn’t sound like it’s the right app for me but I always enjoy the Uniquely Android articles!

  9. Interesting, and another very good example of the ‘uniquely android’ experience, but I feel I have to chime in on the persistent search bar front. I use Apex as my launcher, and it too has a persistent search bar, but it acts as a default Google search combined with app searching. I cannot stress how useful this is – it’s one of those features you just use without really considering how unique it is, it just feels so normal that it should always have been there. I can see the point of this search bar customising searches to relevant apps, but to be perfectly honest, if it takes me to the website based on the app in the same amount of taps then it’s just as good!

  10. Can’t wait to google porn on this!

    1. lolz…u must be thrill for dynamic background change feature :P

  11. Liked the launcher but hate how it’s a memory hog. A Noticeable slower performance off my phone the more I used it. Got to unbearable

    1. It’s just as speedy as the vanilla launcher for me, not sure I’d call 69.4M a memory hog, chrome is bigger at 73.1M but then again my phone has 2GB of ram and I find that with that much ram on jellybean, apps that some classify as memory hogs are no longer an issue for me.

      1. true but i kill the Chrome browser when i close it. The launcher continuously runs and draw away RAM power from running other apps slowing the performance on them and the experience of the phone itself. Maybe it’s an issue for Galaxy S3 AT&T models.

  12. Sounds cool and so far it is getting very good reviews. I’ll give it a whirl.

  13. I’ve been using this launcher for I dunno maybe a month now, it’s really very good and I love the search feature and the background changes are a nice visual effect. I had been using just the vanilla launcher on my nexus4. While I think Nova is a nice launcher it just never added enough features to be worth installing it over the vanilla launcher. this new launcher is the kind of launcher I’m interested in, one that really changes the daily user experience and makes it better.

    1. :)

  14. Would be fun for about ten minutes, then it would become annoying.

  15. has anyone not seen the similarities between this launcher and Firefox OS everyone was quick to say how lame that was but you put it on android and OMG it’s revolutionary! the example of Skyfall he uses in the video is the same example they use in the Firefox OS demo SMH

    1. Armando, it’s us in FFOS.

  16. so it’s sorta like ubuntu’s unity search function?

  17. Thanks Raveesh! We do work on perfecting the search and adding more features, would love to see what you think in a few months :)

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