Android Home Launcher Review Roundup: Windows Phone style launchers (Part of Android Home Launcher Review Series)
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Android Devices allow you to replace the default "HomeScreen" app with an alternative one, and many programmers have released various enhancements to the default one, or did a full rewrite, by enhancing various capabilities, such as focus on speed, customization, number of desktop screens, emulating another style of launcher, and so on.
This is one part of a series of Android Home Launcher Reviews, focusing on Windows Phone 7 or 8 style launchers for Android OS.
Microsoft is a bit late into the smartphone game. Previously attempts at smartphone OS, such as Windows Mobile, was not well received. It decided to start fresh with Windows Phone 7, and now Windows Phone 8, using a "tile" metaphor that was also used in Windows 8. Various colorful tiles with small icons and/or text, called "smart tiles", update you onscreen without forcing you to launch the app itself. They are rather similar to the Android "widgets" that you can place on screen. If you scroll right you'll see a scrollable list of all the apps you can add to the tile side of the launcher.
Android implementation of Windows Phone 7 style launcher varies somewhat in how close it chooses to emulate the "Metro" style interface. Some choose to adopt similar color schemes and tile look, while others tried for a mix of Android and Windows Phone look.
NOTE: Only free to download launchers are tested, and if there is a paid version it will be mentioned.
Simple Home (lite)
by Digital Guesswork
This Simple Home is a hybrid of Windows Phone 7 Metro UI interface and native Android Launcher. The "tiles" are now normal Android icons, albeit blown up a bit. Toggles for WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as access to volume, app drawer, and so on are along the left edge.
The app drawer is speedy, in a list format. To make the apps show on the front (the large icons), just "favorite" it, undo the favorite to remove. (NOTE: Lite version limited to 12 favorites) It is that simple. If you have like 100 apps (like I do) the scrolling the main list can be a bit excessive, but adding apps to the "front" doesn't significantly impact the performance of the launcher that I can see. The "settings" icon are at the bottom of each options screen when applicable (sometimes, more than one sort of options are available).
For those who don't want a full blown "Launcher 7" (see elsewhere in this section) Simple Home may offer the perfect blend of single screen launcher AND Android utility. My only objection is... No widgets. ARGH!
Rating: 7 out of 10
Windows Phone Android Lite
by Android Technical
WARNING: NO LONGER UPDATED, DEAD PROJECT
Windows Phone Android Lite is the lite version of Windows Phone Android, a close emulator of the Windows Phone 7 MetroUI launcher for Android.
WARNING: Best on 800x480 screen, does NOT scale properly, may not work on some Samsung or Motorola with extra large screens.
When you first start the home you're faced with a BLANK screen. Also, it takes SEVERAL SECONDS for the blank screen to show. It is horribly slow. You press the right arrow to go to the other half (which will take several seconds), which is the equivalent of "app drawer" in Android. Hold down an app to "pin" it to the start screen with the icon.
The Notification Bar also is also glitchy on my Droid with Cyanogen Mod 6.1 with the "black" theme loaded. The top bar is completely invisible. I can't see ANY of the icons like signal strength. Nada. The top of screen is all black, unlike the screenshot on the right. Your experience may vary.
The main problem with this home replacement is it doesn't allow you to replace the built-in icons. The white icons you see in the pic are only for specific apps that it recognizes. For all other apps the regular color icons are used. (It really needs to be able to use the Launcher Pro Icons)
Performance is horrible shifting between screens, and pinning something to start screen. Each takes several seconds. I have a Moto Droid overclocked to 1.1 GHz and running Cyanogen Mod 6.1, with 160 MB free, and it still takes several seconds to shift between the screens. There is also no widgets, and of course, no live wallpaper. In fact, there's not even a regular wallpaper.
Sorry, but this is not ready for prime time. This is like an alpha version, not even a beta.
NOTE: The Developer's website no longer exists. And it hadn't been updated since late 2010. This app is a zombie.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Metro UI Beta
by BitMod Dev
WARNING: DEAD PROJECT, NO LONGER UPDATED
Metro UI is yet another attempt to get the Windows Phone 7 look on Android. When you start, there is NOTHING on screen. Do NOT panic. This is normal since you have NO apps 'pinned'. Click on the right arrow and you'll be in the "app list" (equivalent of app drawer in Android OS). Scroll down to find an app you want to pin, then lock-click it to "pin" it in the other screen. Repeat as needed. Click on the left arrow to "flip" back.
The problem with this is you can't "customize" the pinned app once you pinned it. In fact, you can't even unpin the app once you've pinned it. (it's more of an Alpha instead of beta)
For a few of the apps you can make it display a count (unread SMS, unread Gmail, etc.) and you can customize "title" and there are a few "white" icons you can pick for "customized" but there aren't enough of them. (They need to access the LauncherProIcons website)
And the developer stated that this launcher will NEVER support widgets. The app also had not been updated since late 2011. This app is dead.
Rating: 5 out of 10
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by Timo Kujala
Timo's Launcher 7 is THE standard for Windows Phone launcher on Android. The buttons look right. There are also a bit of good animations, and proper backgrounds. I'd say this is the best WP7 clone launcher out there so far.
This app also goes above and beyond the normal launchers by redoing the status bar on top as well giving you a more Windows Phone look. Latest version also supports custom tile color (Can't stand the green, pink, light blue, and purple? Pick your own!) and 2x1 tiles (double-wide).
Launcher 8 goes above and beyond THAT with animated tiles, customizable icons per app, multiple tile sizes, and more, giving it even MORE of a Metro look.
NOTE: While these work on Android 2.X, they will likely suffer greatly performance-wise. Android 4.X OS is highly recommended.
Rating: 8 out of 10
NOTE: Requires Android OS 4.0 or later.
Arikui Launcher is a curious mix of the "tile" metaphor of Windows Phone OS along with the icon / widget desktop of Android OS. When you drop an icon on the desktop, you can let it take up any size on the desktop, which has been overlaid with 4 x 6 grid and your tile can take any size you want. And mix in any widget you want. There are panel transition effects, editing of individual tile colors, and so on. You can even put pictures in the tiles.
There is app drawer, and it's a very standard vertical scrolling kind, albeit enhanced with a few tabs and buttons.
It is interesting and worth a try, though you may find it somewhat limiting.
Tile Launcher Beta
(free, pro version key $3.06 available)
Tile Launcher is yet another Android implementation of tile "desktop" interface that attempts to meld the Windows Phone metaphor with Android utility and aesthetics. And this one is very impressive in amount of customization possible.
You can define the grid size of the homescreen, add more than one home screen (and choose vertical or horizontal transitions), add any widget, text, picture, to any tile, and choose any background (even if it's just for decoration), and most importantly, support for icon packs to give your desktop a consistent look.
Definitely worth a look, and may in fact, be more powerful than Launcher 8, but a little harder to configure.
Squarehome (free, $3.99 to unlock pro version)
SquareHome, from the folks that brought you the powerful ssLauncher, is yet another take on the "Tile" metroUI. It has a couple extra features by taking the "best" features from both Android and Windows Phone launchers.
You can have many "tiles" on each panel, any size you want, and it can contain pictures, app, or widget, and any background color you want. You can even load "themes" to give them a more consistent look.
You can group tiles into "groups", and assigned them names, which forms different "screens" of the desktop. You can have one screen for all the social and communications app, for example, while have another screen for games and leisure.
The main problem with this app is only about 50% of the features are accessible in the free version. All the rest, such as deeper configuration, requires the $4 unlock. Also, a lot of the tiles are configured to download his other apps, but that can sort of be excused.
Still, worth a try, if only to test it among the various competitors here.
As of April 2013, the leader in Windows Phone style launcher for Android is Launcher 8, with Tile Launcher coming in a close second. Arikui launcher is somewhat behind in third.
None of the "first generation" launchers are really worth trying any more, and indeed most seem to be abandoned. Simple Home is worth trying if you have a slower device.
If you spotted a "tile metaphor" launcher for Android that resembles Windows Phone style, post a link in the comments and I'll review it!
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