Having used iOS, Android I still have not found a phone UI to match Windows Phone for simplicity, flexibility and customisation. With the demise of it I ended up on Android and looked for a way around the worst aspect of iOS and Android: having to manage a grid of icons. That is something both tried to make better (but made worse) with folders.
Forget managing application icons, lists or folders
For me Android became tolerable when combined with 'Nokia Z Launcher' years ago (thanks Kerry) which used a simple list, with integrated search and filter by gesture. Simple in appearance but smart in operation it learnt your habits, surfacing apps when you commonly used them, showing contacts and documents alongside applications in its gesture based search.
For example most days I use Radio New Zealand's (RNZ) app first thing in the morning, switch to podcasts and HereWeGo navigation for the commute. Those apps were at the top of my list in the morning, replaced by social media in the evening when I never use the RNZ app. This short video shows it in action, back in 2014 when it first arrived. How have smart phones got dumber?
Unfortunately, although it still works, Nokia removed Z Launcher from the Google store mid-2018 as their phones reverted to stock Android. As I'm still on my old, but fine, Samsung S7 Edge it wasn't a problem but should I need a new phone Z Launcher would not be available. I had tried a few other, current, launchers including Microsoft's own but they all just added to the awful static icon/folder model. Why, on a 'smart' device, should I need to arrange Icons or file them in folders?
Niagara: Simple, elegant and supported
Then I saw, on a Thurrott.com post about a Microsoft Launcher Update, commenter zbecka suggest the Niagara Launcher as a clean alternative. After a short trial I was happy to have a modern, supported alternative to the dead Z.
Incredibly simple and clean
This is my phone, A clean list of a few 'favourited' apps I use often. The Abarth background could be any photo, the time, date, battery remaining % and weather are from Niagara's own widget. The Pro version of Niagara allows you to hide the default top of screen status bar, so no duplicated clock or clutter, but a swipe down reveals if needed.
Swipe to any app, instantly
Swiping down either side of the screen reveals an instant swoopy alpha index to get to any application, even if you have hundreds, instantly. Within a letter group apps are sorted based on frequency of use, then alpha, which is why Outlook ended up above OneNote etc. You can disable this learning if prefer a pure alpha sort.
Media apps when you need them
You can nominate favourite media apps (mine are Pocket Casts, Radio NZ and Samsung Music) which appear when an audio device is plugged in or paired. When media is playing a simple media player is added to the home screen with thumbnail image, description and basic player controls.
Notifications can be reviewed and dismissed from the launcher screen without opening the app.
Default App Actions
Right swiping an app reveals contextual actions to create or find content without opening it first.
You can edit actions, like add a particularly fine blog to the Edge Browser swipe options.
Swipe to the end of the alpha list, or up from the bottom right, to search applications, media, contacts and settings. It also integrates with the popular Sesame search utility for rich results and additional customisation of search.
Try, or read more about, Niagara
This isn’t a sponsored post. Niagara is free to try in basic mode (sufficient to evaluate) but for ‘Pro’, with more customisation & functions, you can subscribe or buy outright. I chose the subscription option as ~$5/year is a trivial price to support development of an app which makes using my phone a pleasure.
Get it from: play.google.com/store/apps/Niagara
Read more about it at: niagaralauncher.helpscoutdocs.com