Android has always been about customization. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Play Store is filled with several icon packs, launchers, and widget customizations. You can change the look of the OEM skin or get rid of Google Now with ads experience. You can tweak every part of the UI with the use of launcher.
Most launchers are developed by individuals or an app developing companies — both keeping their source code private. In this post, we are going to talk about two open-source launchers — Lawnchair and Lean.
Since the Google Now Launcher was retired from the Play Store, many have attempted to recreate the same experience. So far, Lawnchair and Lean are the closest I have seen with added customization stuff.
In this post, we are going to compare them based on various tricks and functions. Let’s dive in.
Interestingly, both the apps are smaller in size compared to rivals in the Play Store. Lawnchair takes about 4MB of data while Lean weights around half the size at 2MB.
Google started rolling out a system-wide dark theme for Pixel phones with Android Q. Now, it won’t reach 90% of smartphones out there for a couple of years. And that's where third party launchers chime in.
With Lawnchair launcher, you can easily change the look and feel of the interface with dark/blur effect.
There are several options to play with. It lets you extract an accent color from the wallpaper. It’s been a hit and miss for me. When I tried setting it up with multi-colored wallpaper, the app kept pulling unwanted theme color out of it.
Apart from that, you can choose from dark/black (Battery friendly for AMOLED display) color. The app also asks you on which UI parts you want to apply the theme. I have switched it on for folder, dock, app shortcuts, and drawer.
Lawnchair has added blur effect too. If you are missing the Android Kitkat days, you may want to try out that style. One can also customize the intensity of the blur.
Lean launcher has followed the same path as Lawnchair. The customization options are few, though. But at least, it has covered the basics here.
For starters, you can set the theme from the device wallpaper or use the light/dark theme.
The app also lets you use black color for dark mode. Sadly, there is no blue effect to play with. I’m hoping to see its implementation in a future version.
Both Lawnchair and Lean launcher let you apply third-party icon packs from the Play Store, something missing from with many OEM skins.
With Lawnchair, you can change the adaptive icon shape to square, teardrop, or circular.
Here Lean launcher steps ahead with few added options.
Not only it integrates icon shapes and third-party packs but also lets you generate adaptive icons that extract colors from the legacy icon.
Not every Android icon is adaptive, so to keep consistency, Lean launcher makes the adjustments with the added background. Check the examples of Notion, HDFC Bank, and Internet icon in the image above.
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Unlike other apps, Lean launcher won’t let you change every part of the UI, and that’s fine.
My only problem is a messy organization. It will take you a few attempts to find an option.
The app lets you change the default search engine of the search bar. If you set it to Bing, the app will simply open bing.com in the default browser.
You can also hide apps, hide app name from desktop and app drawer, change animations, and add new icons to the home screen.
Lawnchair is neatly categorized with desktop, dock, and app drawer section.
The desktop section lets you make adjustments to search bar, icons, and change name color. Interestingly, you can’t change the icon grids with either of launchers. That means you can't have a row or column of more icons to accommodate all the app icons in a window pane.
The story with Dock is the same. You can change its height, add an arrow, page indicator, and more.
With App drawer, one can change the number of columns and rows, add custom color to the drawer background, and more.
A launcher experience is empty without robust gesture support.
With Lawnchair, you can use pull-down gesture for showing notifications, open search bar, or search within apps.
Lean launcher lets you use the swipe down one/two-finger to access the UI. You can also double-tap to lock the screen.
These gestures are nice, but not as many as Nova or Action Launcher offer. I expect to see more gestures soon.
Talking about backup and restore, Lean launcher currently doesn’t support the functionality. Lawnchair launcher provides that and it works flawlessly.
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Settle for Lawnchair or Lean Launcher?
As you see from the above comparison, both the launchers get the basics right. Lawnchair offers better customization options, backup/restore, and theme support. Lean launcher is lightweight with better gesture support.
Next Up: Nova launcher is the gold standard in launcher space. Read the post below to see how it fared against the Lawnchair launcher.