Three reasons why I should not use the stock launcher on my Android phone

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 using Nova Launcher
Source: Roland Udvarlaki, Pocketnow

The majority of Android users rely heavily on the Android launcher that comes on their device. Some don’t realize that they can customize and download third-party players, while others prefer the user interface (UI) that is provided by default. There is nothing wrong with most of the stock launchers included, but they often lack many features that you can find in other launchers on the Google Play Store.

As a power user, I haven’t used stock, the default launcher on my devices for years, although the reviews are an exception. Most of the time, stock launchers lack icon and gesture support, customizable features like changing the layout, nested widgets, dock options, and in general, offering more in-depth customization features to allow you to truly personalize your device.


For this reason, I always switch to my favorite launcher, and my favorite on the day I receive my new phone. I occasionally play and test stock launchers to see if they have improved over the years, and while this is the case with Samsung, Google, and many other OEMs, they are still not as powerful as many third-party launchers.

In this article, I’ll often refer to my favorite third-party launcher, Nova Launcher (and Nova Launcher Prime), which I’ve been using for several years. There are also plenty of great alternatives that get the job done, and may offer features that are missing from my specific app. With that out of the way, let’s see some of the top reasons why I don’t use stock launchers on my Android devices.

Limited home screen customization

Google Pixel launcher settings on Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel launcher settings on Google Pixel 4 XL
Source: Roland Udvarlaki, Pocketnow

The most obvious feature that comes to mind is the ability to completely change and customize the desktop layout on your home screen. Stock launchers allow users to add icons, shortcuts, and widgets, but that’s all you can do in most cases. Some OEMs allow users to change icons and grid size, while others limit them drastically to default Android icons. Your materials are also limited on some OEM launchers.

The Pixel launcher on Google Pixel smartphones is a great example. It provides users with basic options, but is largely limited to what users are allowed to do. This is one great example of why users often look to third-party players. The ability to change icon size, icon design, widget stuffing, widget size, and many other settings are only available in third-party launchers.

Fortunately, the beauty of Android is that you can open the Google Play Store at any time, and download any launcher you want. Most third-party players are free, or have a free option that allows users to take them for a spin and fiddle with the settings. Some are more in-depth than others.

Limited berth allocation

Limiting the use of customizing home screens with custom icon packs is one thing, but not letting users do more in the dock is another. For example, Nova Launcher allows users to change the number of dock pages, dock icons, padding, label settings, enable infinite scrolling, and much more. There are many options to choose from, and experienced users will find these options essential to access their favorite apps.

I use the dock to access my most used apps, such as Contacts, Messages, Camera, Twitter, my most used messaging apps, and smart home apps. These essential apps are conveniently placed at the bottom of the dock, and can only be accessed with a swipe left/right.

Customizable folders and gestures

Nova Launcher folder settings on the home screen
Nova Launcher folder settings on the home screen
Source: Roland Udvarlaki, Pocketnow

Folders are powerful, but they’re often just big boxes full of apps you barely use. Depending on your configuration, you may want to go as far as hiding these, as they can make a carefully crafted custom home setup ugly in a matter of seconds. Nova allows users to assign actions to folders, allowing the folder layout to disappear, replacing it with the first app in the folder list. The folder is still easy to access, and you can only access it with just a swipe. This feature alone has saved me a lot of trouble when customizing my setup, and I wish it was available in all launchers.

Nova Launcher gesture settings
Nova Launcher gesture settings
Source: Roland Udvarlaki, Pocketnow

The second option is gestures. Most launchers allow users to swipe down on the home screen, which often pulls down the notification shade or opens the search box. Both are great, but the majority of launchers don’t allow users to reset or change them. My setup consists of multiple gesture settings, such as:

  • Swipe up: Open Feedly
  • Swipe down: app search bar
  • Double tap: lock screen
  • Two-finger swipe up: Open Nova Settings
  • Two-finger swipe down: Expand notifications

These features are not available in most of the built-in launchers, however they are relatively easy to implement and can offer a lot of customization options.

Third-party launchers are not perfect

While this post mainly talks about the drawbacks of first-party launchers on Android devices, we have to mention that third-party launchers will never be as good and powerful as the ones that come pre-installed on your device. The main reason is that these stock launchers have privileges and permissions that third-party launchers will not receive, unless you are going the route of rooting your smartphone – even then, there may be some limitations you may encounter.

As a result, third-party applications will not be able to integrate as tightly as OEM software, and you will never be able to access some of the basic features that the player controls.

Some OEMs directly ban and ban the use of these launchers, such as HUAWEI, while others, such as Xiaomi, have greatly restricted these applications to convince users to stick with the pre-installed application. We wish all OEMs would offer the freedom and user-friendly behavior that can be found in most smartphones, but that will likely never be the case as some companies try to push their own software to their users.

It’s also important to remember that OEM launchers aren’t bad. Stock launchers are often used by most people because they integrate the built-in features well and are easy and clean. Although it lacks a lot of additional features, not all of them are necessary for all users, especially those who are not tech savvy. They certainly have a place in the market, but we wish they were more convenient for all users.

What launcher are you using on your device, if any? Let us know in the comments below!

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