Pure Android experience; Plenty of customizable options; Mix and match themes; Create groups in the app drawer; Preview widgets in AppWidget Picker
Some Jelly Bean widgets don't display properly; Mixed performance compared to stock Android
ADW Launcher offers a plethora of innovative features, customizable options and themes, and a pure Jelly Bean design.
ADW Launcher stands out in a crowd of Jelly Bean look-alikes, thanks to its plethora of customizable options, stellar theme support and a number of other unique features. But is ADW Launcher the best faux Jelly Bean launcher you can get on Google Play?
Themes and Appearance
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Double-tapping desktop icons or long-pressing widgets opens a pop-up menu, with options to remove, edit, manage, share or (in the case of widgets) resize the app or widget. This handy feature saves you from having to long-press and then drag unwanted apps to the trash at the top of the screen.
The margins, rows and columns of the app drawer also can be modified to fit your preferences. In addition, ADW Launcher supports a variety of visual styles for the app drawer, such as Horizontal Paginated, Vertical New and the standard Ice Cream Sandwich Paginated style. More impressively, ADW Launcher allows you to create your own groups in the app drawer -- a feature only available in the paid version of Nova Launcher and Apex Launcher.
Like both Nova and Apex, ADW Launcher allows you to add additional icons to the standard four "sticky" apps in the dock. Although the dock becomes scrollable to accommodate the extra apps, the app-drawer button did not remain centered, which proved mildly annoying.
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Tablet SupportGoogle Nexus 10, the UI looked as crisp as stock Jelly Bean. Icons and widgets take full advantage of the tablet's razor-sharp resolution, and we could transition between home screens smoothly.
Widgets and Plugins
As helpful as the ActionBar is, we were more impressed with AppWidget Picker, a unique menu that opens when you try to add shortcuts or widgets to the desktop. This vertically scrolling menu displays a preview of each widget, giving you a sense of what it will look like before you've even placed it on your desktop. This saved us a lot of time when we were trying to find the best-looking weather app for our Nexus 4. Unfortunately, you won't be able to use the AppWidget Picker unless your phone is running Android 4.1 or higher.
ADW Launcher offers a number of new transition effects for the desktop, such as Rotate, Zoom, Tumble and Cards. Seven additional and visually stunning effects -- such as Cube, Wheel and Crossflip -- are available with the paid version of the launcher. The app drawer has its own set of transition effects; however, only Fly In and Fade In are available for free.
Like almost every other launcher on the market, ADW Launcher allows you to map actions such as "show the status bar," Open Notifications and Open Quick Settings to gestures. Although you cannot create your own gestures, as you can with GO Launcher EX, ADW Launcher boasts eight available gestures, including Pinch In, Pinch Out, Two Fingers Down and Swipe Dock.
The paid version of ADW Launcher ($3 on Google Play) boasts more flair and greater customization than the free version. With ADW Launcher EX, users can choose from 10 additional app-drawer and desktop transition effects, such as 3D Cube, 3D Ball and 3D waterfall. Additionally, icons can be resized, and you can back up and restore your settings in case you have to wipe your phone.
In everyday use, however, ADW Launcher felt perfectly responsive. Transitions between home screens animated smoothly, and we had no trouble quickly switching from the arcade shoot-em-up "Metal Slug 3" to "Angry Birds: Star Wars."