Bye TouchWiz, hello Smart Launcher!
I've been very happy with my Samsung S3 since the day I bought it. It's a great phone with a lot of features that make it good fun. However, lately I've been finding the TouchWiz launcher a bit slow to work with. It seems a bit laggy at times which isn't a good thing on such a powerful phone. So I experimented with a stock Android launcher and that was fast and responsive, but I still found it a bit slow to use. It was time to look for a more radical alternative.
The problem is that I have quite a few apps installed on my phone leading to quite a large launcher menu. To get round this I had shortcuts to my most commonly used apps on the home screen, which was great until I wanted to use an app I don't use that often (cue scrolling though lots of apps again). Quite a few of the alternative launchers out there take the existing Android launcher and enhance it, which is great, but I felt that wouldn't get rid of the problem I was having. Looking around Google Play I found Smart Launcher, a launcher that offered a very different approach from the traditional Android launcher.
Smart Launcher puts your most commonly used apps on a front screen in a sort of "flower" formation. The set up wizard asks you for your choice of dialler, SMS, camera, music, browser and gallery apps. It also shows the time and date which you can handily configure so that when you touch them they can launch apps of your choice. I have mine configured to launch the Clock app and the Calendar app respectively.
Once you click the apps menu icon (in the bottom left, or just just swipe from left to right) the real strength of this launcher becomes apparent. All of the apps on you phone are automatically split into category submenus (Communication, Internet, Games, Media, Utility and Settings). The split isn't always perfect or might not fit in with how you would classify them so it is very easy to move an app into a different category. If you can't remember the category it is not a problem as you can click on the search icon in the top left and this displays a menu where you can click on the first letter of the app's name. For convenience the Google Play store is always accessible too from the top right of the screen.
If you upgrade to the paid-for version you also get support for widgets, although to be honest I think the way this support is implemented feels a bit like an afterthought. Widget screens are accessed by swiping right to left or clicking on the icon in the bottom right on the main screen. You then get three screens where you can add widgets. It doesn't feel very fluid though to go from the rest of the launcher to widgets. For me this wasn't a massive issue as I don't use Android widgets much, but might put some people off.
All versions have theme support, and I was surprised to find an Ubuntu theme and a KDE theme in amongst the many themes on offer. This could be a nice way to show your support for these projects though. Last, but not least, the whole launcher works in landscape as well as portrait mode. This is a real bonus on larger screen phones.
I've been using Smart Launcher for a couple of weeks now and even paid out for the premium version. It has been pretty good so far and I find it very quick to use. It takes a couple of days to get fully used to it and can feel a little minimalistic compared to the old launcher but I am enjoying using it and quite like the uncluttered feel. Worth trying out.