Action Launcher review: The Swiss Army home screen

Android is constantly changing, and so is its home screen.

The home screen sets Android apart from other mobile platforms, and it's an excellent marker to judge Android's state and evolution. Folders have gotten more advanced (and far more fashionable) in the last two years. Live wallpapers are starting to experience a bit of a revival. Most importantly, launchers themselves have evolved and been refined, with gestures becoming a far more normalized and integral part of the experience. While many launchers have begun to add gestures to launch the app drawer and other specific actions, gestures have been at the core of the Action Launcher experience for years, and they help make it one of the most intuitive and customizable launchers on the platform.

Action Launcher's evolution

Action Launcher has been around for almost five years now, and in that time it has undergone a few significant evolutions. Almost three years ago, developer Chris Lacy completely re-imagined Action Launcher into Action Launcher 3, which made angry waves among Android users, as it required them to buy a fresh Plus version to unlock the paid features again. Then this summer, Action Launcher dropped the 3 to become Action Launcher again.

Action Launcher's features have evolved and been refined over the years to better imitate Google's vision of the home screen, while still offering up the customization and gesture-based UI that its users can quite quickly become addicted to. It's no secret that Action Launcher has a following that's almost as fervent as fellow market veteran Nova Launcher, including our own Modern Dad Phil Nickinson, and it's because Action Launcher is easy to get your home screen exactly the way you want and then keep it that way.

Hidden treasures

Action Launcher allows you to lay out your home screens with a desktop grid and padding to your liking, but the true magic comes in when we start getting crazy with gesture features. Enable the Quickdrawer for a vertical app list that you can swipe in from the left edge of the screen. Enable Quickpage to get an extra page of widgets and app shortcut space you can summon from the right.

Then we have Covers and Shutters. Covers and Shutters enable Action Launcher to hide unsightly folders and widgets in plain sight by hiding them under normal-looking app shortcuts. Covers make folders practically invisible, setting the first app in the folder as both the folder icon and the tap action for the folder, while swiping up on the new icon will open the folder. Shutters allow you to swipe up or down on an app shortcut on your home screen or Quickpage and open a folder-like window containing a widget from that app. These tools allow you to nest Shutters inside Covers and hide both elements inside a clean-looking home screen. Once you get used to them, it's pretty hard to go back to anything else.

One of the most prominent — and customizable — tentpoles of Action Launcher is its persistent search bar, called the Quickbar. Action Launcher goes beyond the boring one-function search bars most launchers use and allows you to add extra functionality, such as shortcuts to your favorite apps and the Quickdrawer. Action Launcher recently added the ability to colorize the icons in your Quickbar to be more vibrant and better match your themes. You can dock your Quickbar at the top of the screen, or at the bottom of the dock in the Pixel 2 style.

Tenacious delight

Once you get the launcher set up the way you want, Action Launcher has a few features to make theming an existing home screen layout a breeze. Quicktheme allows Action Launcher to pull colors for its various elements from the set wallpaper, and from some wallpaper apps like Muzei. This means that changing themes can be as easy as just changing a wallpaper, as the launcher colors will automatically adjust. The most you'll have to do is perhaps switch color types and change icon packs. The only downfall here is that Action Launcher sometimes misses the desired colors in a particularly vibrant wallpaper, or in most live wallpapers.

Action Launcher has adapted quite admirably over the years, quickly implementing Pixel folders last year and both the dock searchbar, notification previews and At A Glance widgets from this year's Pixel 2 home screen. Action Launcher has even made the Pixel setup the default for the launcher, allowing new users to get to a Google-esque look without having to set everything up from scratch.

Conclusion

There's still more ground to be broken by Action Launcher, but rest assured this launcher is one of the best on the market. So long as it thoughtfully adapts and evolves along the Android system as a whole, there's no doubt in my mind Action Launcher will be worthy of hosting your home screen. Which Action Launcher features keep you coming back? Are there any features you feel are still missing after almost five years of launcher loveliness?

Let us know in the comments below!

[Deal] Pick up some cheap SD cards from Amazon’s Black Friday sales

We know you guys love expandable storage, so we know you’ll love some of Amazon’s Black Friday deals. Right now you can pick up some heavily discounted Sandisk microSD cards in several sizes, bulking up how many photos and songs you can stuff on your phone. The cheapest is the 32GB for $10, while the […]


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Amazon Echo, Fire tablets, and other devices now on sale for Black Friday

Remember those Black Friday deals that Amazon previewed last week? All of the sales on Amazon hardware are now live.

There are lots of Amazon devices now on sale, ranging from Echo smart speakers to Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers. You can get the brand new Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) on sale, including the brand new red model that’ll ship next month. The Echo Dot is on sale, too, at nearly half off its normal price.


Android-powered Fire tablets on are sale, too. The Fire 7, Fire HD 8, and Fire HD 10 are being discounted, giving you several screen size options, as are the toughened Fire 7 Kids Edition and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.

Other notable Amazon devices that are on sale today include the Amazon Cloud Cam security camera, the Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, and both the standard Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite.

You can see all of the Amazon hardware that’s on sale for Black Friday at the link below.

Magisk v14.5 Beta Released: Pixel 2 (XL) Support, Fixed Xiaomi Mi A1 Support and Better MagiskHide!

Magisk, created by Recognised Developer topjohnwu has been updated to Magisk v14.5 beta, edging closer and closer to a stable version 15. This version was meant to be the official stable release but beta testers suggested it to be a beta release due to the number of changes.

With Magisk v14.5 brings a lot of under the hood changes, along with official support for the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL and a better version of MagiskHide. You can view the full changelog below.

Magisk v14.5 Changelog

  • [Daemon] Moved internal path to /sbin/.core, new image mountpoint is /sbin/.core/img
  • [MagiskSU] Support switching package name, used when Magisk Manager is hidden
  • [MagiskHide] Add temporary /magisk removal
  • [MagiskHide] All changes above contributes to hiding from nasty apps like FGO and several banking apps
  • [Magiskinit] Use magiskinit for all devices (dynamic initramfs)
  • [Magiskinit] Fix Xiaomi A1 support
  • [Magiskinit] Add Pixel 2 (XL) support
  • [Magiskboot] Add support to remove avb-verity in dtbo.img
  • [Magiskboot] Fix typo in handling MTK boot image headers
  • [script] Along with updates in Magisk Manager, add support to sign boot images (AVB 1.0)
  • [script] Add dtbo.img backup and restore support
  • [misc] Many small adjustments to properly support old platforms like Android 5.0

MagiskHide engages in two different methods of trying to trick detection algorithms on the device, such as the SafetyNet API. The first change changes the package name of Magisk Manager if you enable hiding it, in order to cloak it against apps that check for package IDs. This is not recommended unless it absolutely has to be done. The second actually has moved the /Magisk mount point to /sbin/.core. This means any modules should not be using /Magisk as a hardcoded access point anymore, as these modules will not work on the latest version of Magisk (be it the beta or version 15 once it releases).

Newer devices will benefit from the addition of magiskinit as well. It now detects what device it’s being run on after flashing and will dynamically inject the changes it needs to make, depending on what device it is running on. This means installation is unified across all devices and will further increase compatibility!

However, Magisk v14.5 is broken in a lot of aspects and the developer asks for a larger sample size to figure out what exactly is going wrong. Changing the package name of Magisk often causes it to drop root access entirely, along with error messages in the logcat of OnePlus, Samsung and other devices from the NDK r16 when trying to call su. The Pixel 2 also shows a popup saying that avb-verity is off, however, this is not a severe issue and is nothing really to worry about.

If you’re interested in the Magisk v14.5 Beta, check out the XDA thread down below to flash it on your device!


Magisk v14.5 Download