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Launcher (User Interface) Guide (Stock vs. Aftermarket) Rooting not requiredTips

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  1. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    Since there seems to be an abundance of "NEWB" Android users getting the Photon, and there hasn't been a "full" explanation I've seen that really breaks down the use of Android UI's and all the possibilities, I thought that I would start a new thread explaining exactly what the deal is with Launcher/User Interface talk. And for many that have never ventured into the Android World, they have no clue that the way to judge an Android Phone should absolutely NOT be due to the Stock (e.g. OEM - Original Equipment Manufactured) launcher. That said, I put together a helpful "guide" about launchers.

    What is a Launcher or User Interface (e.g. UI)?
    - A Launcher/UI is commonly known as the "skin" that you'll see on the phone which includes the view of your homescreens (Originally 5 for Android and now seems to be 7), dock (bottom portion of the phone that usually includes phone, apps drawer, and others-depending on launcher manufacturer).

    What are the OEM Launchers?
    - Android's "Vanilla" launcher is a term you'll see referred to that has a plain user interface that allows you to navigate through different homescreens, without "added" bells and whistles from the manufacturer. It's heavily preferred by Android owners that "Root" their phones and customize their phones significantly and also by some that don't like the fact that the Manufacturer's launchers tend to slow their Android phone down.
    - HTC Android Phones = Sense UI. Sense is highly rated by many of the "reviewers" because of it's integration of looks and usability. The customization of the latest version of Sense UI, especially has been given rave reviews.
    - Samsung Android Phones = TouchWiz. TouchWiz has had mixed reviews, but the looks are more similar to "vanilla," with touches of Samsung's customizations.
    - Motorola Android Phones = Formerly known as MotoBlur. On the Photon and Droid 3, Motorola did away with what was formerly their OEM UI called "MotoBlur." There are still hints of it, on the Droid 3 and Photon, but it does not have the same "lag" issues that MotoBlur was once known for. The more current UI of Motorola has a few bells and whistles integrated (especially with the Photon) that I'm sure you've all seen (e.g. Active Kickstand).

    What is the purpose of using an "aftermarket" UI?
    Aftermarket Launchers do not require a user to "root" their phone. The only purpose that Aftermarket Launchers have is to work as a "replacement" UI for the one that came standard on your Android phone. In our case, it's the Motorola Photon. If you want to "customize" your phone UI even further than from the capabilities provided by the manufacturer, aftermarket launchers are GREAT options that'll allow you to get the look/feel you want and also potentially provide more "practicality" for use.

    What choices of "aftermarket" Launchers/UI's are there?
    Here's a great thread that was started in the EVO forums that some of you can read through, if you've never experienced using an aftermarket launcher or are new to Android:
    - http://androidforums.com/android-applications/404459-big-list-home-launchers.html
    What Launcher Do You Prefer
    List of Aftermarket Launchers w/ links to market page (READ Description of Launcher, prior to downloading)
    - Launcher Pro
    Launcher Pro Plus Unlocker
    Launcher Pro Plus Sense 3.0 Skin Widget Theme
    - Go Launcher Ex
    - ADW Launcher
    ADW Ex Paid Launcher
    - ZEAM Launcher
    - Gingerbread Launcher Free
    - SPB Shell Launcher
    SPB Shell Launcher Discussion Thread
    - WAVE Launcher
    - My Launcher
    - JoltaTech Android 7 Launcher
    - MIUI.ADW Launcher
    - MIUI Launcher
    - Original Android Launcher Non-Root
    - Gesture Launcher
    - Honeycomb Launcher
    - Sense 3.0 Ginger Thyparancy (It says it's compatible with the Photon, according to the market page, but the actual page for the app says it's only for Sense 3.0. Added this for those that want to see if it works).
    - ICS Launcher (e.g. Ice Cream Sandwich Launcher

    Lastly, if you're not completely set on using an aftermarket launcher, download this app that allows you to switch back and forth from your OEM launcher to the aftermarket launcher and vice versa:
    - Homesmack Launcher Switcher

    ADDED 8/24/11
    For those of you that also want to try some aftermarket Lockscreen apps, here are some that others are using and have recommended:

    - Widgetlocker (PAID)
    - Ripple Lock (FREE)
    - Agile Lock (FREE)
    - Agile Lock (PAID)
    - Magiclocker (FREE)
    - Goto Lockscreen (PAID)
    - Screen Suite Locker (PAID)
    - LockMenu (FREE)

    ADDED 8/26/11
    Themes used by Streptovsky for ADW
    - ADW Launcher
    - ADW Theme Glow Legacy Red Pro - Mariux
    - Glow Legacy Live Wallpaper Red - Mariux
    - Smart Keyboard Pro
    - Glow Legacy Red Keyboard Skin - Mariux

  2. twospirits

    twospirits AF's janitor Moderator

    Awesome guide.

    Whiskeypawz likes this.
  3. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    Thanks, TS. I'm surprised not many people have replied on this yet. I made this thread with New and Fringe Android owners in mind, especially.

    If there's one consistent complaint that I've seen from many fringe Android users, it's based on their and blog reviews of the OEM User Interface, which I can understand would make sense if they were just scared to try out an aftermarket launcher.

    I can relate to that because last year, I liked Sense UI enough that I didn't even know what a Launcher was until Sense UI started force closing left and right...and people kept suggesting Launcher Pro or ADW. I had no clue what they were or what they did and was hoping that this thread would clarify that a little more for any new or fringe android users that have seen the references, but never ventured out to try the launchers.

    Hopefully, more people will catch on to what these launchers do and how it could make a world of difference for their Android experience. Android in general got me hooked based on the basic functions, but it was Launcher Pro Plus that really set me in on my love for Android and how easy it really can be once you have the right apps to apply for everything that you want.
  4. Citizen Coyote

    Citizen Coyote Well-Known Member

    I'll chime in to help develop the thread, although some of this might simply repeat what drexappeal said. :)

    I use Go Launcher EX on my Photon, primarily as a dock replacement although it's capable of doing a lot more. Most of these launchers are highly customizable which can be a little intimidating, whether or not you're a newcomer to Android. For example, aside from replacing the dock and allowing me to add additional home screens, Go Launcher EX allows me to change the look of the dock, the icons on it, various animations when you switch screens or bring up the app drawer, scrolling behavior in the app drawer, and number of icons on the home screens (the grid size), just to name a few things.

    If that weren't enough, it also provides easy access to downloads of additional widgets, themes, wallpapers, and other customizations. You can literally play for hours with it, changing things, installing/uninstalling add-ons, etc. Be patient and play, as it will likely take some time to hit on that perfect combination if you've never used one before. It's a time/battery sucker, so give yourself ample time (and keep your charger handy) when you decide to dig in. :)

    I'm sure other launchers are similar in what they can do. Even if you get just one, I suggest downloading a switcher app to help transition between the custom and stock launchers (I use HomeSmack as well, which works very well on the Photon but there are others). Best thing is none of these programs permanently alter your phone unlike rooting and roms, so dig in without fear. At worst, you'll just need to uninstall all the junk. At best, you'll have a phone you're proud to show off to friends!
    Whiskeypawz likes this.
  5. Whiskeypawz

    Whiskeypawz Well-Known Member

    Thank you both for the info. Like drexappeal, I had no idea what a Launcher was (until now). I've heard LaucherPro many many times but always thought it was something tied to rooting. This is the first time I've heard of the other launchers but I think I'm going to play/experiment tonight.
    I asked this in another thread but it may pertain to this subject. I don't like the look of the active call screen. I also came from an Evo & I like that screen much better. I changed my dialer but I don't know if there's even an option to change the look of the screen when I'm on a call. Would a different launcher give me the option to do this? I don't even know what words to search for an app to do this.
  6. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    the details/look of the active call screen are built into the phones programming, so that wouldn't change when using a different launcher.

    I hate to say it, but unless there's an app that can replace the call screen, you may need to root the phone and use a custom ROM in order to change that (I'm not positive, but that's the only solution that I've seen people have). I've seen apps that can change the call answer screen, but not the "in-call" screen and/or dialer.

    You can try out some of the dialer apps and see if any of those actually changes the screen while you're actually on a call. Here are some of the most popular ones I found (keyword search: dialer)



    Works with Go Launcher Ex


    Whiskeypawz likes this.
  7. Whiskeypawz

    Whiskeypawz Well-Known Member

    I already had Dialer One downloaded & I really, really like it.
    I downloaded Launcher Pro (free) & ADW Launcher last night. I think I'm going to stick with Launcher Pro. I like it! My favorite feature is the scroll bar at the bottom. Putting shortcuts on that bar frees up space on my screen. The extra space is vacant for now but I like it not being cluttered & having a less obstructed view of my background. I love being able to customize my phone! Is this a perk of Android or does the "other" team have this capability also?
  8. you2

    you2 Well-Known Member

    Can this be a sticky somewhere so it is easy to find :)
  9. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    It's in the FAQ sticky at the top. All of the most relevant threads are. :D
    you2 likes this.
  10. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    Yup. Scrolling dock on Launcher Pro is awesome (FYI - Go Launcher Ex has that as well). And I love it for the same exact reasons you do. I use an app called Smart Shortcuts because it allows me to group the apps based on specific needs (e.g. Car/Nav apps, Social Networking, News & Entertainment, Work, etc.). What's great is that you can also name the groups however you need to name them and when you place the shortcuts on the dock, Launcher Pro allows you to change the icon (there are so many icon packs online that you can save to your SD and use in conjunction with the dock).

    Yes, this IS a perk of Android and the BEST advantage it has over other Operating System(s) (OS) out there. Apple has some customization ability, but in order to do this type of thing with Apple, you have to jailbreak the phone (FTL). So, while Android has a 'bit more of a "learning curve," there are so many more customizing features available to Android users than there are for Apple (iPhone). I'm not an iPhone hater at all because I still think it is a very good phone (and much more straight forward), but there's no way I'd switch to an iPhone (I hate limitations and the iPhones are much more limited than Android phones, out the box).
  11. KnowProblem

    KnowProblem Well-Known Member

    I use Go Launcher EX. Seems to work pretty well.

    I am perplexed by how unbelievably often people imply that they won't purchase this or that device because of the home/launcher interface of this or that company. In reality there are so many different (free and excellent) options to choose from to replace what comes with a given device and it is so ridiculoulsy easy to switch that I really don't understand why people are so hung up on this issue. Who gives a crap if XXXX phone dosen't have [Sense/TouchWiz/insert favorite proprietary launcher here]? With so much choice out there, surely one can find something that they will like but isn't [Sense/TouchWiz/Etc.] for XXXX phone.
  12. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    Exactly. That's why, when I read reviews where the main complaint is the User Interface, I basically ignore that and just read about any other complaints they might have. I compare the "other" complaints that they have and evaluate the different phones from there.

    Even with the great functionality/integration that Sense UI 3.0 came with, that wasn't even a factor for me deciding whether or not to get the EVO 3D. There were a lot of other factors that were much more important to me (e.g. internal storage space, processor speed, physical attributes) than the stock UI/Launcher.
  13. wubbie075

    wubbie075 Well-Known Member

    Anyone know how to extract icons from a theme for one launcher to use with another? There's an ADW theme with icons I really like, but I prefer GO Launcher EX. Just can't find a theme for GO that I like.
    drexappeal likes this.
  14. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    That's a good question that I'd actually like to know as well.

    Is the ADW theme in the market or is it a download from XDA?

    If it's in the market, have you tried just downloading the theme and see if it'll interact with Go Launcher? Sometimes, those theme apk's are just a bunch of different image files that get loaded onto the phone and isn't really an "interactive" application.
  15. Whiskeypawz

    Whiskeypawz Well-Known Member

    I have never purchased or not purchased a device bec of the launcher but I will say that until reading all of this yesterday I had no idea you could change any of that stuff. So it's possible that the people who base their decision on the launcher may not know they can change it. Just a thought.:)
  16. thekarens

    thekarens Well-Known Member

    You forgot ADW EX :)
    drexappeal likes this.
  17. wubbie075

    wubbie075 Well-Known Member

    It's in the Market and it's on my phone. Just does not come up on any lists (theme icons, custom icons, icon packs, etc.) when I try to change icons. I've tried using gallery and my file explorer.

    Hell, I even plugged it into my computer as a disk drive and tried to search for all .png files on the phone.
  18. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    doh...adding now. Thanks for pointing that out (completely forgot there was a paid version, just like Launcher Pro).
  19. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    Does it by any chance show up on the app lists when you pull up the app drawer? If it does, I'd personally try to open it (but that's at your discretion and I have no clue if that'll mess anything up). You've done everything I could possibly think of doing myself, in order to get the png files.

    Only other thing I can recommend is to see if there's somewhere on XDA where a developer has made icons that are "look a like." I know that I've been able to get all the icons I use on LPP from XDA and they were on there as downloadable zip drive, with files and png's of the icons. After I unzipped the folder, I just transferred it to my SD and I was set from there. All the icons I have worked perfectly on both LPP and GLEx.
  20. KOLIO

    KOLIO Guides Guide

    ADW themes from the ANDROID MARKET will interact w/LAUNCHER PRO PLUS,but,is limited to theming icons,& in some instances,come w/wallpapers.
    I'm not sure about using ADW themes w/GO LAUNCHER.
    drexappeal likes this.
  21. KnowProblem

    KnowProblem Well-Known Member

    Good point about the issue of launchers and reviews. Usually the reviews devote a significant amount of time & verbiage to the launcher/UI which is a waste of time. In reality the UI should probably not even be in the review because unlike most other parts of the phone (and the review), e.g. the screen, radio, sound quality, camera quality, etc., the UI is almost completely and very easily changeable - while those other things in the review are impossible to change in the device by the user. Really, it would make a lot more sense for them to avoid reviewing the UI in device reviews altogether, then review the UI separately when a version of it comes out and maybe at the same time review/compare/contrast against new versions of LauncherPro, GO Launcher, etc.
  22. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    To a certain extent, I understand why they go through the UI because some of the built-in apps are specific to the manufacturer and in the case of Sense UI and TouchWiz, there are certain widgets that won't work with aftermarket launchers (which I've also found is a moot point because there are a ton of replacement apps that work just as well, if not better).

    It's rare where I'll find a video review that truly hits home on the points that are important to me, as far as purchasing an Android phone is concerned. And to think, I'm someone that probably would've rooted if I ended up finding a real "necessity" to do that...but I haven't gotten to that point with the Photon (and was only on the verge of rooting the EVO to overclock, due to the slight lag I started experiencing after 1 year of owning that phone).
  23. twospirits

    twospirits AF's janitor Moderator

    Does anyone know how to create a Folder on launcher Pro that has color and not the plain vanilla looking one.

  24. drexappeal

    drexappeal Well-Known Member

    I've never actually used the folders in lpp. Same concept as smart shortcuts?
  25. busted bones

    busted bones Well-Known Member

    There's now a MIUI launcher out for those that want to try it out without rooting their phone.

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