Nova Launcher just might be the best free launcher for Android


One of the things I liked the most about Android when I switched from iOS was the fact that you could run a third party launcher that can thoroughly customize your phone’s interface, and change the way your interact with the device.

We tried many free Android launchers, and can happily report: Nova Launcher, a free somewhat Jellybean-inspired launcher, is one of the best.

Nova Launcher doesn’t bring an new concept to the table; rather, it takes a bunch of interesting and convenient options that you saw before and puts them together to create a final product that is more than the sum of its parts.

Features include customizing the number of icon columns and rows, resizing ANY widget on demand, uninstalling apps right from the icon, and zippy fast performance overall.

Nova Launcher Screenshot1 7rows 6 columnsNova Launcher Screenshot2 5rows 4 columns

I’ve had this on my Android for a while now and I love it. Here are my top TEN features that I like about it:

1.  The ability to customize the desktop grid: i.e. customize the amount of information that you want to display on each screen.

Specifically, the number of rows or columns, and margins from the edges

This means that if you like to have a lot of icons on a screen, you can do it, or you can choose a more minimal look at feel. See the screenshots at the top of this post for an illustration: tthe left screenshot shows how you can add more columns and rows to display more items, the right screenshot shows a pared down setup. (Note that this is the same device and the same screen).

2. The ability to resize ANY widget: regardless of it’s the built-in settings

If you’ve ever been frustrated that a widget simply isn’t fitting right on your screen, this feature will solve the problem. Most widgets, in my experience, will cooperate, and dynamically resize their contents to conform. (But some won’t).

In the example below, I simply grabbed a widget to resize it, and as you see the contents were automatically rearranged to the new size.

Nova Launcher widget resizing illustration

3. The ability to uninstall apps straight from the launcher: with a satisfying immediacy.

This is just about the best thing since sliced bread. Long press an icon and a number of options will appear, including the option to UNINSTALL the app rather than just remove the icon. Simply brilliant.

Nova Launcher uninstall app

4. It is really FAST

A launcher is supposed to responsive and fast, and somehow that’s what Nova Launcher manages to deliver, even with the cool animated transitions between launcher screens.

5. Add multiple apps to the launcher pages at once

This is something that I always found strange, why most launchers (including Android’s native launcher) only allow for placing icons on pages one at a time. With Nova Launcher, there’s an option to add multiple apps at once, or even to add multiple icons straight to a folder.

To do it, long press an empty area on the launcher screen, select ‘Apps’, then click on ‘Select Multiple’ in the bottom.

6. Scrollable bottom dock: that can contain 3 different screens (center, left, right).

The bottom dock can also be hidden altogether, if you prefer. In the screenshot below I am attempting to illustrate the process of scrolling the bottom dock the the left, just so readers know what I am talking about here (the orange icon belongs to the left screen).

Nova Launcher bottom dock scrolling

7. The ability to dial contacts from the launcher screen.

In other words, put your frequently dialed contacts as icons on your screen, that can be clicked on to launch a call, a message, or to access the contact

Nova Launcher direct dial icons

To do this. long press an empty area on the launcher screen, select ‘shortcuts’, then ‘contact’, ‘direct dial’, or ‘direct message’. Note that you can put these shortcuts anywhere, just as if they were app icons.

8. Export and import settings

If you set the launcher up just the way you want it, you can save the settings and reimport them later on should things change,

9. Long press menu button customization

Nova Launcher allows you to customize a long press on the ‘menu’ button to launch any event you want. For example, I have long wanted a way to replace Google search with ‘Gesture Search’ on long menu button press, and now I finally can.

10. Perfect balance between ad-free FREE version and the premium version

The free version of Nova Launcher is ad free and just about perfect. The paid version includes even more features, such as gesture shortcuts. But as a free app Nova Launcher is excellent and unhindered.

My suggestion: try it out. If you agree with me that it is an excellent launcher, then shell out for the premium version and support the developer for a job excellently done (and get even more excellent features in the process).

The verdict:

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

Without a doubt, one of the best – if not the best – free Android launcher out there.

Great thought and care has been put into this app. The simple and straightforward exterior belies a lot of hidden options under the surface, without overwhelming the user with bells and whistles.

[Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip about this app].

Get Nova Launcher from the Google Play store.

  • KoalaBear

    I love Nova Launcher. When Google Play gift cards become available I will buy the full version.

    Also love the “Edit shortcut” to remove the “Free” from “Songpop Free” etc. Or shorten the names to fit.

  • Anthony Frazier

    What timing. Primo Launcher just launched on the 18th and is a really nice, free (and ad-free) launcher.

  • You might also check out Zeam Launcher — it’s incredibly lightweight, and boasts many of the same features.

  • Sudip Kumar Das

    Too bad, no support for Gingerbread.

  • fiddler

    Thanks for the review, Samer. Perhaps we can hope to soon see one of your comprehensive comparisons for Android launchers? And maybe even one for custom ROMs? Options for both seem to be proliferating faster than one can count. It would be good to see you making some sense of it all.

  • Try Apex Launcher. It’s almost identical to Nova but it does for free some things that Nova wants you to pay for.

    Oh and the adding direct dial to the home pages is an Android feature anyway as far as I am aware.

  • jim

    thanks Samir … got my attention… off to try now 🙂

  • And just to add that a lot of the features you list such as scrollable dock, resizing any widget, changing grid size on homepages, export/import settings, uninstall straight from launcher etc have been available in launchers for years such as LauncherPro (RIP), Go Launcher etc.

  • Nolon

    Scrollable bottom dock <— Just remember if you leave this on and you don't have any windows. That your wallpaper will scroll. So keep that in mind, but this is what I use with I just wish the icons for this were 3d ? I don't know. I just seems so plain. So boring. But it functions exactly as I imagine. Because I have the various icons for which apps in the proper widget. So tools, games, social. It's a great app too. I pay for both of these I think I mean bought them, but yes I really do love Nova and I'm using an Epic 4g. So turning off the fancy things it adds a boost. 🙂

  • Roberto


    Thanks for the review. Do you know of a step by step on how to set up Nova Launcher. I downloaded it to my Nexus 4 and could not figure it out too well so I deleted it for now. Would like to try it again.

  • Nolon

    I love this application, but wish they’d also include subfolders. That would be great. Although I can’t find an application that’ll do sub’s

  • Alan

    I’ve been using Nova launcher for a while now and never had any problem. Love the possibility where you can add sevral icons on ONE group and Uninstall something right On spot. Very fast smooth