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Three reasons why I’m not using the stock launcher on my Android phone

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

The majority of Android users heavily rely on the stock Android launcher that comes on their devices. Some are unaware they can customize and download third-party launchers, while others prefer the user interface (UI) they’re given by default. There’s nothing wrong with most built-in, stock launchers, but they often lack many features you can find in other launchers on the Google Play Store.

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

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For that reason, I almost always switch over to my favourite, and preferred launcher the day I receive my new phone. I occasionally play around and test out stock launchers to see if they’ve gotten better over the years, and while that’s the case with Samsung, Google, and many other OEMs, they’re still not as powerful as many third-party launchers.

In this article, I’ll often refer back to my preferred third-party launcher, Nova Launcher (and Nova Launcher Prime), which I’ve been using for several years. There are also a lot of great alternatives out there that get the job done, and may offer features that are missing from my selected app. With that out of the way, let’s see some of the most important reasons why I haven’t been using 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 lacking feature that comes to mind is the ability to change and fully customize the desktop layout on your home screen. Stock launchers let users add icons, shortcuts, and widgets, but that’s all you can do in most cases. Some OEMs let users change the icons and the grid size, while others limit it greatly to the default Android icons. Material You theming is also limited in some OEM launchers.

The Pixel launcher on Google Pixel smartphones is a great example. It offers users basic options, but it’s greatly limited on what users are allowed to do. This is one of the great examples of why users often look at third-party launchers. The ability to change the icon size, icon design, widget padding, widget size, and many other settings are only available in third-party launchers.

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Luckily, the beauty of Android is that you can pull up Google Play Store at any time, and download any launcher you want. Most third-party launchers are free, or have a free option that lets users take it for a spin and play around with the settings. Some are more in-depth than others.

Limited dock customization

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

I use the dock to access my most used applications, such as the contacts, messages, camera, Twitter, my most frequently used messaging apps, and smart home apps. These essential apps are conveniently placed at the bottom of the dock, and are only a left/right swipe away.

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Customizable folders and gestures

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

Folders are powerful, but they often tend to be just large boxes, full of apps you barely use. Depending on your configuration, you might want to go as far as hiding these, since they can make a carefully personalized home setup ugly in a matter of seconds. Nova allows users to set actions on folders, enabling the folder layout to disappear, and be replaced with the first app on the folder list. The folder is still easily accessible, and is only a swipe away. This feature alone saved me a lot of headaches when personalizing my setup, and I wish it were available in all launchers.

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

The second option is gestures. Most launchers let users swipe down on the home screen, which often pulls down the notification shade, or opens up the search box. These are both great, but the majority of launchers don’t let users reassign or change these. My setup consists of multiple gesture settings, such as:

  • Swipe up: Open Feedly
  • Swipe down: App search bar
  • Double tap: Lock the screen
  • Two-finger swipe up: Open Nova settings
  • Two-finger swipe down: Expand the notifications

These features aren’t available in most built-in launchers, yet they are relatively easy to implement, and could offer a lot more personalization options.

Third-party launchers aren’t perfect

While this post mainly talks about the drawbacks of first-party launchers on Android devices, we must mention that third-party launchers will never be as good and as powerful as the ones that come pre-installed on your device. The primary reason is that those stock launchers have privileges and permissions that third-party launchers simply will never receive, unless you go down the route of rooting your smartphone – even then, there may be some limitations that you might come across.

As a result, third-party applications will never be able to integrate as tightly as OEM software, and they’ll never have access to some seemingly basic features controlled by the launcher.

Some OEMs straight up ban and block the use of these launchers, such as HUAWEI, while others, such as Xiaomi, have greatly limited these apps to convince users to stick with the pre-installed one. We wish all OEMs would offer the freedom and user-friendly behaviour that can be found on most smartphones, but that’ll likely never be the case as some companies try to push their own software on their users.

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It’s also important to remember that OEM launchers aren’t bad. Most people often use stock launchers as they integrate built-in features well and are easy and clean. While they lack a ton of additional features, they’re not all essential to all users, especially those who aren’t tech-savvy. They certainly have a place on the market, but we wish they better catered towards all users.

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

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Did You Order a Galaxy Z Flip 4 or Galaxy Z Fold 4?

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Pre-orders are taking place for the new Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4, and as we always say, there’s never a better time to order one of these phones than during this period. Seriously, you should do it.

If you have taken advantage of Samsung’s crazy-good trade-in values, store credit and free accessories, the last thing we want to know is which model you ended up going with. In 2022, both are very good options, seen as relatively minor upgrades over last year’s models, but still offering top specs, water resistance, improved hinge designs for more compact designs, and improved software.

I have been using the Z Fold 4 for a week now and have really been enjoying the experience. The battery life has been great, the displays are nice, and the cameras appear to be very good.

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Which option are you going with?

Best Galaxy Z Flip 4 Deal | Best Galaxy Z Fold 4 Deal



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How Good is Android 13 on Pixel Phones?

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The stable Android 13 update has been out since the beginning of the week and that means a couple of days for you to run it and establish first impressions. I’m curious what those are, as the update is somewhat minor in new features, but huge in terms of bug fixes from Android 12.

To recap, Android 13 dropped on Monday for the Pixel 4, Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, and Pixel 6a. The update was available immediately if you felt like playing in adb, plus we’ve seen it rollout over-the-air as well to some phones. Tim, for example, says he can pull it yet I can’t on my Pixel 6 Pro. Rude, Google.

We talked about all of the new features in Android 13 that you’ll want to be on the lookout for and then spent a lengthy amount of time looking through the list of 150 bugs that Google fixed. Google says it was able to improve “performance, stability, and reliability,” fixed bugs related to charging and Gboard and touch screen palm detection and so much more. Google even says it addressed fingerprint reader performance on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a.

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After browsing through reddit, I can see that a number of folks have been quick to share that their fingerprint reader is indeed faster (Do people really believe this?) and that overall performance and stuttering has improved, especially on older Pixel phones.

What about you? How has Android 13 been running on your Pixel phone this week? Or are you still waiting for it?



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Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Get Major Approval Ahead of Launch

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The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro stopped through the FCC this week, marking a big step towards launch that should happen around October, if previous launches are any indicator. The filings don’t reveal much, other than supported network bands and the presence of UWB again, but they do give us model numbers to pin on each phone going forward.

There are four FCC filings of note to dip into under Google’s FCC ID. Those filings give us model numbers of GVU6C, GQML3, GP4BC, and GE2AE. After looking through several of the documents at the FCC, I’m pretty confident in saying that the first two are the Pixel 7 and the last two are the Pixel 7 Pro. The GVU6C Pixel 7 also has an alternate model number of G03Z5 alongside it, as does the Pixel 7 Pro’s GE2AE, where GFE4J can be added to its list.

To recap, we have Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro model numbers as follows:

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  • PIXEL 7: GVU6C (G03Z5)
  • PIXEL 7: GQML3 – mmW
  • PIXEL 7 PRO: GP4BC – UWB
  • PIXEL 7 PRO: GE2AE (GFE4J) – UWB, mmW

Each phone has all of the proper network bands to work well here in the US, with select models also supporting 5G mmW. The two models supporting mmW are GQML3 (Pixel 7) and GE2AE (Pixel 7 Pro). The others support sub-6 5G, just not the super speedy 5G mmW that you’ll never attach to anyway.

To tell the difference between Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro devices, we really are guessing (assuming) based on the fact that GP4BC and GE2AE have UWB or ultra-wideband support. In the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, only the Pixel 6 Pro had UWB and it looks like that’ll be the case again this year. UWB is used for short-range communications in things like luggage trackers or to help a digital car key talk to a car.

The rest of the big network stuff can be see below, where you’ll find WiFi 6E, NFC, and WPT (wireless power transfer aka wireless charging).

Pixel 7 network bands

GQML3 mmW

Pixel 7 Pro network bands

GE2AE mmW

There isn’t much else to take from this because Google already announced each phone. We’re really just waiting for them to go official, so that we can start playing with their cameras, test Google Tensor 2, and see if Google took are of all of the Pixel 6 line’s modem issues.

If you were hoping this arrival at the FCC would tell us when the Pixel 7 will launch, I’m not sure that it does. The Pixel 6 line hit the FCC in September 2021 and then arrived in October. The Pixel 6a showed up at the FCC in April 2022, was announced in May, and then didn’t ship until July.

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