Home > Android 2.1, Android Apps, App Reviews > Home Screen Replacements: LauncherPro vs. ADW.Launcher.

Home Screen Replacements: LauncherPro vs. ADW.Launcher.

LauncherPro, Stock Froyo, ADW screenshots

One of the coolest ways to easily customize your phone is by changing your home screen launcher. The home launcher that comes with stock Android phones is usually very limited, and comes with few customization options. While the custom launchers available in HTC sense, MOTOBLUR, and Samsung TouchWiz phones all have some interesting features, they can also sometimes suffer from laggy/choppy scrolling, strange UI choices, and unattractive design. So what if you’re bored of the stock look of your phone, tired of a poorly scrolling home screen and app drawer, or you’re frustrated with the ugly “enhancements” your phone maker decided to add to your homescreen? That’s where third party homescreen replacements come in.

I will be comparing two of the best and most popular home launchers currently available: LauncherPro and ADW.Launcher. Both are free, though LauncherPro offers a few extra features to paying users. Both of these launchers perform very well, with silky smooth scrolling on both the home screens and app drawers, and they both receive excellent support from their respective developers (in fact I had to rewrite parts of this review since new features were just added to LauncherPro in the last few days). While at first glance they may seem very similar, each launcher offers substantially different customization options under the hood which makes it very hard to chose one over the other!

Part 1 :  Home Screens.

Left: LauncherPro, Right: ADW.Launcher

Left: LauncherPro, Right: ADW.Launcher

This is where LauncherPro and ADW.Launcher are the most alike. Before any modifications, both strongly resemble the stock Android launcher. Of course, the features and customization options are miles ahead in either launcher compared to stock. Both allow you to use up to 7 home screen pages, and both use the Sense UI-like overview to help you navigate them. Both also allow you to hide the notification bar for a cleaner look. Both allow you to easily uninstall apps by dragging and holding the app icon over the trash can for a few moments until the “drop to uninstall” notification pops up. Using default settings, scrolling through home screens with ADW seemed a tiny bit smoother, but also slightly slower and less “springy” than LauncherPro. Both , however, are orders of magnitude smoother than Android 2.2’s stock launcher.

Both Launchers support the sense-like screen overview.

One useful feature unique to ADW’s home screen is swipe gesture support, which allows you to set specific actions when swiping up or down on the home screen. For example you can swipe down to show or hide the notification bar, or swipe up to  open a specific app.

While both allow you to re-size widgets, LauncherPro’s method is a lot more intuitive (similar to the Droid X), but it’s only available to paying users.

Part 2: Docks.

Android 2.2 finally added some rudimentary shortcuts to the browser and phone apps alongside the app drawer launcher, but it just can’t compare to the customizable docks implemented in these third party launchers. Not only do they save space by moving app shortcuts off of the home screens, they allow you to have quick and easy access to your most important apps.

In addition to 4 customizable app shortcuts, ADW.Launcher has a useful feature called a dockbar, which is basically a customizable scrolling row of shortcuts. With an upwards swipe of the app drawer icon the dockbar pops up, allowing you to quickly open apps or drag and drop a new shortcut. Swipe down and the dock returns. Very convenient.

ADW.Launcher dockbar

Swiping up reveals ADW's customizable dockbar.

LauncherPro takes a slightly different approach with its dock. Instead of offering a separate dockbar, LauncherPro’s dock itself is scrollable. You can scroll through up to three different docks for a total of fifteen different shortcuts. Gesture support has been recently added to the dock as well, so you can easily set a dock icon to show/hide the notification bar, open an app, or even open the app drawer with a simple swipe. Finally, LauncherPro has dock notifications. With this feature enabled, you can easily keep track of any missed emails, texts, or phone calls by glancing at the corresponding app icons in the dock.

LauncherPro scrolling dock

You can scroll through up to three customizable docks with LauncherPro.

LauncherPro dock notifications

LauncherPro's dock notifications help you keep up with missed calls, sms, and email.

Part 3: App drawers.

Both launchers offer two types of app drawers. The first one is nearly identical in both phones; just a simple grid of icons on a black screen. The other options are radically different, however.

ADW.Launcher’s second app drawer is inspired by Samsung’s TouchWiz app drawer, which itself was inspired by the iPhone’s homescreen. Instead of a vertical scrolling grid of apps, the apps are divided into pages ( 4×4 by default) which are then scrolled through horizontally page by page, with the dock still visible in the bottom. The option to change the background color is also a nice touch.

ADW app drawers.

Left: ADW's TouchWiz-like horizontal scrolling app pages (note the dots showing what page you're on); Right: ADW's vertical-scrolling plain app drawer.

LauncherPro’s second app drawer style is based on the 3-D app drawer which first appeared on the Nexus One. Not only is the scrolling fast and silky smooth, the 3D effect is much nicer than the stock Nexus One’s app drawer.  Another very useful feature in LauncherPro is the ability to hide useless app icons from the app drawer.

LauncherPro app drawers

Left: LauncherPro's 3-D app drawer; Right: LauncherPro's plain app drawer.

Part 4: Bonus features.

While you can get most of LauncherPro’s features for free, one of LauncherPro’s killer features, the awesome built-in set of widgets, is only available to LauncherPro Plus (a.k.a. paid) users. A great alternative to HTC sense widgets, the People, Bookmarks, and Calendar widgets are now available, with more coming soon. Due to the Android market not accepting paid apps from the developer’s country, the Plus features can only be unlocked by making a payment to the dev through paypal.

ADW.Launcher is not only free, it’s also open source. Even so, there is still one great paid feature available definitely worth paying for. Custom ADW themes available in the Android market let you completely customize the look of your home screen from top to bottom. While many are free, buying a custom theme from ADW developer AnderWeb is a great way to support this open source project.

Final Verdict.

Honestly, I was expecting LauncherPro to totally come out on top. I tried ADW a few months ago and was honestly not too impressed with the scrolling performance and features, so I switched back to LauncherPro and never looked back. After I heard that ADW was now the default launcher for Cyanogenmod ROMs, I decided to give it a second try, and surprisingly it has really evolved into a full featured launcher that can easily compete with LauncherPro. Both are very solid and stable home screen replacements that blow the stock home launcher out of the water, and it really comes down to what features you like the most. I highly recommend trying both of them out to see which one works better for you.

LauncherPro | for Android 2.1 and up |official site |install (free, pay to unlock extra features)

ADW.Launcher | for Android 2.1 and up* | official site | install (free)

*1.6 compatible version may also be available, but the link is not working for me.

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