While there are more manufacturers offering stock Android like OnePlus or Nokia, many still offer bloated launchers by default. Other launchers have been available for years. They can add various levels of customization or simplicity. A launcher can even speed up your phone.
True to Hacking the Hike, all of the launchers on this list must be free and open source software. Many of these launchers have not been updated since the original list of Open Source Android Launchers was revealed.
Hyperion has a clean, stock look. The top search bar and swipe up app drawer are recognizable Android traits.
I prefer an AMOLED black theme. It helps battery life and more importantly, keeps my office dark. Transparent and light themes are available as well.
Sesame integrates directly with Hyperion. It can replace the Google search bar. For a complete Pixel launcher replacement, Google Feed is available as a separate download from Hyperion.
Some of Hyperion’s feature are locked behind a $2 add-on called Hyperion Supreme. I didn’t find anything I was desperately missing. Some options like gestures are included free elsewhere.
A play on “launcher,” Lawnchair is another Pixelesque launcher. It has that familiar search bar at the bottom and Google Feed is available via Lawn Feed. Lawn Feed should really be named something more puntastic like Lawn Fertilizer. I’m assuming this is why they don’t ask me.
Sesame integrates nicely with Lawnchair. The Google search bar can be replaced by Sesame. From there, the options are endless. Pick from numerous search engines like DuckDuckGo, Yandex, or Baidu. For the sake of privacy, I recommend going with DuckDuckGo.
Lawnchair gives me what I realy crave: a black theme. Most newer smartphones have AMOLED screens that enjoy a small battery savings from true black themes. I despise “dark” themes though. Those 50 shades of grey themes. Yeah, I feel punished using them.
Unlike Hyperion, Lawnchair does not have a paid tier. There are no upgrades. Lawnchair is a solid full featured launcher with enough customization options that most users will be happy with it.
This is an iOS knock off without the benefits of iOS. There’s no customization. There’s literally not so much as a home settings menu. Apps are laid out on the homescreen with a widgets screen on the far left. It will almost convert your Android into an iPhone. Thankfully, its almost. Ironically, Bliss was built for /e/ which sells Google free devices in the name of privacy.
The icons do look nice and the developer has done well creating an iOS look alike. I can’t fault them there and its a refreshing change from the many Pixel style launchers available. While I would personally enjoy more options, I don’t think Bliss needs them.
When trying the widget screen, the weather widget crashed. Adding my own widgets, like the SolarEdge power widget, worked fine.
Rootless Pixel Launcher
If you like Lawnchair or Hyperion (or Pixel) but feel that there’s just too many options, well, I don’t understand why. But the developer behind Rootless gets it.
Really, its very close to Lawnchair and Hyperion. There’s no Sesame integration but the Google Feed lives on. There’s no hiding apps either. Oddly, Rootless is missing long press menus on the apps.
Posidon starts out differently than the others. There’s normally some level of customization but Posidon has a hard start. Posidon is billed as an RSS feed and app drawer so I’m not sure how that plays out with iOS.
Pixel. One UI. iOS.
I started with Pixel. Notifications filled the top of the screen with a search bar and dock at the bottom. Swiping up on the dock reveals the app drawer. The notification/news feed scrolls indefinitely.
During setup, Posidon has the option to disable news and add additional RSS feeds (like Hacking the Hike). News, RSS feeds, and notifications fall onto the home screen. Notifications can be dismissed with a swipe. Widgets can be added to the home screen but I broke the clock when I did. I liked the search feature. Search revealed installed apps and a Wikipedia article on the subject. A link to DuckDuckGo search results is handy.
Long pressing on the news feed revealed Posidon’s menu. All of the standard options are present like changing icon sets or the wallpaper. The wallpapers don’t list a source but they’re high quality and somewhat random. I liked the squirrel.
I added Hacking the Hike to the Feed list. Sorry, shameless self promotion. Notifications can be adjusted so only specific app notifications will display. I found this helpful for persistent notifications like KDE Connect. While there were plenty of options to customize the launcher, none of the presets like One UI or iOS were present. I cleared the storage on Posidon and started over.
The change in themes was a slight let down. I expected a bigger difference in styling. The theme presets change the icon shape, dock style, and feed appearance.
I just love that name. Its like a cartoon alien’s name. “I am Zim from the planet FOSS and I’m here to install Ubuntu on your systems!” Then all the people run away screaming because Ubuntu.
Zim launches an oddly bare homescreen. Nothing but a drawer icon and an at-a-glance widget. Ready for you to make it your own? Maybe? The developer forgot defaults? Possibly?
Zim lacks most of the customization that more popular launchers offer. Different themes are offered thankfully. By default, the menu was horrific. The headers were difficult to read. I changed the theme to Black, of course, and I could see again. Praise be.
Apps can be hidden but not found. The at-a-glance widget can be modified for weather source and Fahrenheit or Celsius.
I wish there was more to say about Zim. I really like the name. Its fun. Like a little green Martian about to scramble your DNA. But unlike the Martian, there’s little in the way of features, customization, or differentiation.
I’ve noticed a trend with open source launchers: its about simplicity and speed. Build something that’s easy to use and is fast. Keikai is a good example of this.
All of the apps are listed on the homescreen. The settings menu can change how apps are sorted. Apps can be pinned to the top of the homescreen to make them easier to find. Keikai is a very quick launcher but its sorely lacking for features. If your needs are simple, this might be a good choice.
I naively believed that Bliss would be the simplest launcher on this list. Seriously, how much more basic does it get than page after page of app icons? Last Launcher skips the icons, widgets, dock, and drawer for the sake of speed. Its stupid fast as it should be. There’s almost next to nothing to load or run.
Last Launcher is like a tag cloud for apps. The most frequently used apps are the largest making them easier to find. Those apps are highlighted in different colors.
App names can manually be changed to different colors or shapes.
Last Launcher is a cool concept with at least one problem: hidden apps are just hidden. Other launchers have hidden drawers to find hidden apps. Last Launcher just hides them. Forever. Or until the reset all is pressed. A minor trade off for speed. Like Maverick and Goose, I have a need… A need for speed.
Hyperion and Lawnchair are very similar. They both share the same styling and features. Google Feed can be installed on both. Sesame integrates with both. Hyperion has a paid tier, Lawnchair does not. Rootless is a stripped down version of these.
Bliss is simple but pretty. If iOS is your thing, use Bliss. Keikai is almost a vertical version.
Posidon is a great concept. I’m a sucker for news and having it upfront is enticing.
Last is proof that there’s no one size fits all solution. Its unique among the launchers here. No icons. Just the apps.
Is there a best launcher? Why aren’t these ranked? Because I’m not that kind of tech writer and because that’s not how open source works.
Comment below what your favorite open source launcher is and why you think its great. If you don’t use an open source launcher, tell us about it.