Nova launcher was my go-to Android launcher until I tried Microsoft Launcher. Nova Launcher is one of the most popular and used launchers and rightly so. But it’s getting old and boring. That has allowed the competition to come up with new and interesting launchers that are putting a spin on old ways to interact with the home screen.
Nova Launcher is not beautiful but feature-rich with a particular focus on productivity. And then comes Smart Launcher 5 that not only promises to be loaded with useful shortcuts but also wants to look good while at it.
Nova Launcher comes with an adjustable grid size, which goes from 2 to 12. Each spot can hold one app, and you can set it both horizontally and vertically. You can then control icon size and its font color.
Smart Launcher 5 reimagined a new way to handle grid layouts. There are some built-in icon layouts like Flower and Arch, which places icons in a particular pattern automatically. You can still control grid size (limited to 8 only) though there is no need to place icons manually.
Then comes the modular, flexible layout where you can decide the location of the app drawer and news area — place it anywhere you want. Just drag and drop it and you are good to go.
For example, the app drawer will launch from the side instead of the bottom, something most launchers go for by default.
Finally, Smart Launcher 5 will pull not only weather information but also upcoming events from your calendar to the clock widget. I like the moon icon. Nice touch.
Swipe from the left to access a news section that can be customized to your liking. Read daily news, change the layout, or manage topics. They recently added support for region-based news.
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The Dock Area
In Nova launcher, you can create up to 5 dock pages that can house up to 7 icons each. That’s 21 apps in the dock without using folders. You can then slide endlessly to access them. You can then choose a background color, layout, and labels.
Nova Launcher shows its productive side, while Smart Launcher 5 shows off versatility. We already saw how you could choose different ways to place apps in the dock area. Unfortunately, you can’t have a sliding dock.
What you do get is a smart search bar at the bottom and the ability to launch multiple apps with a single icon. For example, when you tap on the phone icon, you can launch Phone, Truecaller or another phone app. Nova Launcher goes for the swipe action where swiping up on an icon in the dock will launch a different app. Tap to call or swipe up to send a message.
Nova integrates with Sesame Shortcuts to offer secure, offline shortcuts to contacts, apps, and web. Some examples are Google Maps, Netflix movies, or web searches directly using a single point of access.
Smart Launcher 5 comes with its smart search feature that’s located in the dock area for easy access. Again, it will pull data from many apps and provide handy shortcuts to several apps, but not as powerful as Sesame Shortcuts. Notice how WhatsApp option was missing when I typed a name?
Sesame Shortcuts integrates with several launchers inherently, and you can use the search widget on any launcher.
App Drawer Categorization
You can create different tabs to be used as categories for holding different apps in Nova Launcher. That will help you find apps faster and make the app drawer less cluttered. Once arranged in your preference, you can then customize the UI with background colors, fonts, and icon shapes and sizes.
Smart Launcher 5 is smart, which is why it will categorize all your apps automatically. The tab buttons are located at the bottom, which makes it easy to switch. However, Nova Launcher allows you to simply swipe left and right to switch, which makes it easier.
It’s not that smart either. During tests, several of my apps were wrongly categorized. Still, it saves some time as most of the work is done for you. You can add new categories if you want.
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More Ways to Customize
Smart Launcher 5 comes with several wallpapers and themes. It’s not only smart but also beautiful. That is an aftermarket feature, which means not all themes are free.
Nova Launcher doesn’t offer any themes or wallpapers. That’s sad, but you can always download them separately from the Play Store. There is a night mode that you can activate based on time as well. The same goes for Smart Launcher 5, but it comes with AMOLED black.
What Nova Launcher does offer is a plethora of gestures. Smart Launcher 5 also gets gestures, but options are limited when compared to Nova. For example, in Nova, you also get rotation-based shortcuts.
Smart Launcher 5 offers way more icon shapes, blur effect, widget pages, and some interesting home screen layouts that I am yet to see elsewhere.
Nova Launcher will cost you $4.99 and is worth every penny. It is called Nova Prime and will unlock gestures, icon swipes, app drawer groups, and some customization options.
Smart Launcher 5 shows ads in the free version, which is a turn-off. The pro will unlock some cool effects like blur, adaptive icons, ability to sort icons and create new categories, more widget pages, and remove ads. The pro version will cost you $2.99.
Nova is not that pretty but offers a lot of useful features that you will end up using daily. Smart Launcher 5 offers some new features and customization options that make things interesting. Just don't go with the free version of either, and you will be happy.
Next up: Click on the link below to learn the difference between Nova and Nova Prime launcher in more detail.