If you use Apex Launcher and are wondering "what the heck happened to my home screen?", you're not alone.
Apex Launcher restarted development last May, and since then, there hasn't been much to say about the old, but well-liked launcher as it tried to update its interface, improve its feature set, and start competing again. Well, the 4.0 update Apex Launcher pushed out this week has undone all of that progress and then some, and what users Apex Launcher had left are not happy.
Apex Launcher pushed out its 4.0 update on July 17th, and between the flood of users reviews and the redditors rioting, it's pretty clear that something went horribly awry. A number of Apex's settings have been dramatically changed or removed altogether with no warning: users had widgets deleted, home screen pages altered, app icons resized and their search providers switched to Yahoo overnight when the app auto-updated.
If I went to bed with my home screen laid out just the way I like it, then woke up to it being completely different, I'd be seeing red no matter what theme color I set before bed.
Apex Launcher's update has forced a lot of users to make the following choice: set up everything the way you like it on Apex Launcher again or get a new launcher and start fresh. If any Apex Launcher users needed any help making that decision, a recent addition to the Apex Launcher site is helping push them towards the latter. Apex Launcher's site is advertising an app recommendation partnership platform, asking developers to "Partner With Us" to promote their app through Apex Launcher.
Android launchers have access to an incredible amount of information like what apps we open the most, what times of day do we open apps the most, what times we're most active with our phones, and how often we use their included search functions. Like a third-party keyboard, a third-party launcher needs to be trusted, and launchers with app promotion programs traditionally haven't always been as transparent with their intentions as we'd like.
Apex Launcher is like any business; it needs to make money to survive, and app promotion programs can be done in a way that doesn't betray the user or impede upon the user experience. But Apex Launcher's last update just wiped out a ton of users' settings and not only has there been no public communication from Apex Launcher since the update, there hasn't been any public communication from Apex Launcher in the several months. So if you're a longtime Apex Launcher wondering if now is the time to switch, my answer to you is going to be "You bet your Android it is".
So, what should you use instead? Well, if you liked the granular customization of Apex, try Nova Launcher or Action Launcher. If you want a launcher that's easy to use but still just customizable enough to keep things beautiful, try Smart Launcher 5 or the completely free Evie Launcher.