Custom launchers are among Android's most useful and distinctive features. They let you take total control of your phone's home screen environment and make it work the way you want -- often with fresh and innovative twists on what a home screen can be.
We've talked plenty about Action Launcher and Nova Launcher over the years, but those aren't the only noteworthy players in town. A newer app called Evie Launcher has gained plenty of attention and won over oodles of fans since its launch last summer -- and it's easy to see why.
Evie Launcher brings a search-centric interface to your Android home screen, with a universal search system that's accessible by swiping down or tapping a bar at the top of the interface. You simply activate it and start typing to find and access anything -- from an app on your phone to information about nearby places or general info on the web.
Evie has all the usual launcher elements, too, including plenty of advanced settings to let you customize and take control of details both small and large.
Evie Launcher may have seemed to appear out of nowhere, but the people behind it are mobile tech veterans. Just look at co-founder Russ d'Sa: The guy worked at genetics testing company 23andMe and then moved onto Twitter, where he created the Twitter Cards platform that's a core part of the service today.
From there, he decided to form his own company -- and along with former Amazon and Motorola engineer David Zhao, he brought Evie into the world.
So how does someone who spends so much time pondering Android use the platform in his own day-to-day life? You'd better believe I wanted to find out.
In his own words, this is how Russ d'Sa uses Android.
Your current primary phone: My current phone is a Google Pixel. Before that I've had an S7, Nexus 5X, Nexus 5, and a OnePlus One. The Pixel hardware is the closest I've felt to an iPhone on Android. This is the first device where the camera (hardware + software) integration was on par with iOS. Being able to take beautiful, crisp photos and videos quickly makes a huge difference.
What case is on your phone (if any): I don't use cases. I really don't want any added bulk, and devices are refreshed frequently enough that I'm getting something new in a couple years, anyway. I hand down to my old devices to my parents, so they don't mind a couple of dings or scratches in exchange for a free phone. :-)
Your current tablet (if any): I don't have or use tablets. For me, I already have a pocket-sized tablet and good eyes.
Your current smartwatch (if any): I don't have a smartwatch, either. I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I try to stay off my phone during the evenings and weekends; smartwatches conversely seem oriented towards hyperconnectedness. That being said, I wouldn't mind having one for tracking my workouts!
The home screen
A quick walk-through of your phone's home screen setup: My home screen is very minimalist and simple. I only have one page and shortcuts to the apps that I use numerous times throughout the day (left-to-right: Messenger, Twitter, Slack, Chrome, Trello, Gmail).
For everything else, I use search -- apps to launch, people to call or text, restaurants, movies, music. For me, this setup makes my phone much simpler to navigate, and I'm not burdened by reorganizing things every time I install a new app.
What launcher you're using: I'm using Evie Launcher (full disclosure: I work on it) because it's built for me. There's so much content and data inside apps, on the web, and stored locally on the device. Search and/or assistant interfaces make finding and navigating between these things really fast.
There was no launcher available (I tried almost all of them) that really focused on this. Once I started using my phone this way, it was impossible to go back.
Moreover, coming from seven years using iOS to Android, one of the first things you notice is the difference in quality and design of apps. Many developers treat Android like an afterthought, and we vowed Evie would be different. It's by far the smoothest and best-designed launcher on Android. We spend a lot of time making sure every interaction you have with your phone feels incredible.
What wallpaper you're using: I've been switching my wallpaper often ever since we released the new "subtle mode" search bar in Evie. It's fun to see how well our blending algorithm works on different wallpapers. So far, all my wallpapers are from the Google Wallpapers app.
Anything else of note (interesting customizations, special icons, etc): My home screen is pretty simple and mostly vanilla as far as customizations go. Evie does support some options, though, and I use a denser grid to fit all the apps I use daily in one row. I also like the circular-icon look that's being popularized by Android N and use the Pixel IP Icon Pack on recommendation from our community (thanks y'all!).
There isn't much on my screen, so I hide labels, too.
The experience and the apps
What's one of your favorite Android-related tips or tricks?
Custom shortcuts are a lesser-known feature of Evie that are super convenient! Anything from search or within search results can be long-pressed and dragged out to the home screen.
Sometimes I'll use this for very basic things like having a shortcut to calling someone I know I'm meeting with soon. Other times, if I know I'm having dinner at a restaurant later, I'll create a shortcut to hail an Uber/Lyft there.
Down the road, we'll provide ways to automatically create these shortcuts on your home screen and access the contents inside them on long-press (similar to dynamic Android Nougat shortcuts).
Beyond the obvious stock Google programs, a few apps you can't live without right now (and a quick word about why):
Like everyone else, my essential apps are all rooted in communications. Twitter is the first. I'm sure working there influenced this, but it's my primary way of knowing what's happening in the world around me.
I also missed iMessage on iOS a lot when I switched to Android and now rely on Facebook Messenger for a high-quality SMS experience -- still have to hear it from friends on those "green" chat bubbles, though.
Finally, Slack has been indispensable for quick synchronization with my team at work.
Check out more Android expert profiles in the official Google+ collection -- and stay tuned for even more entries in the weeks to come!
Icons in title image courtesy of Freepik at flaticon.com.