Alternative Android Launchers (FOSS)

WARNING: This thread is for discussion, and is not official nor has anything to do with the PrivacyGuides team. These recommendations are personal to me and are directed to the PrivacyGuides team rather than to the users, so that they can, if they want, study and discuss if the alternatives are reliable or if they would be interested in recommending them on their behalf or not in the future. The same applies to the websites cited in the thread. I don’t make recommendations lightly, but the PrivacyGuides team has the last word (and so it should be), so, in short, treat these recommendations with discretion and self-criticism.

Maybe this is more directed towards people running a regular Android, but as I understand it can also be relevant for Graphene and other modified android users. Native and common android launchers can have trackers, so I bring you some FOSS alternatives to them with various features and that don’t track your activity.

  • KISS
  • Olauncher (My favorite, and the one I actively use)
  • Slab Launcher (In my attempt to contrast information, I have not found any site where they explicitly say that their launcher does not have trackers, so I have decided to contact their developers. I’m waiting for a reply, and will update the thread when I get a response, so for now don’t take it too much into account. EDIT: I have managed to get in contact with the equipment and it does not make any connection nor does it have any trackers. The only function that can be considered to have trackers is its search function via Duckduckgo, but it makes direct connections to DDG so there is no suspicion.)
  • Pie Launcher
  • Simple App Launcher

I want to make it clear that all these launchers I have discovered thanks to privacy.do, a website similar to PrivacyGuides and PrivacyTools, run by the “digital newspaper” decentralize.today. It is an interesting website from which I have learned and discovered many things.

I wouldn’t install an alternative launcher on Android as using multiple launchers increases attack surface and gives you another party to trust. If for some reason you do want to use another launcher, use one that doesn’t have a network permission like KISS.

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Man, honestly, you are so suspicious I don’t even know what to tell you.
On the part of Olauncher, which is the one I use and know best, it doesn’t require any permissions, and even if I asked for it, the code is public, you can check it and check for what and to what extent the permissions are used. I can’t talk much more, because I looked them all over and the ones I learned more about were KISS and Olauncher, and I don’t like to talk about what I don’t know.
In common Android I understand that no, but I do not know if in Graphene or other Android-based systems you can uninstall the native launcher, so the problem of having installed several launcher, given the case that if you could uninstall the native launcher, could be solved.
For the rest, I insist, I do not know what to tell you, you are so distrustful that surely you will put sticks to anything I say or propose, so … ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have a few thoughts about this thread:

Firstly, I have to agree with @anon82677111 here. When considering whether to change something, you have to think about what that would achieve. It’s hard to think that if you’re worried about the stock OS on your Android device “spying” on you, simply replacing the launcher will fix or even improve the situation. It will only introduce another party into the mix. The OEM has a lot of other things installed on your device in most cases, including things you can’t remove, so the effects of replacing the launcher are dubious.

Furthermore (and this is not your fault; if anything, it’s a failing on our part), I’m not sure if we’re comfortable with having threads that are essentially a list of projects recommended to our readers. We take a lot of time to craft our recommendations and guides and a lot of research goes into them. While there may be nothing necessarily wrong with the projects you’ve mentioned, I’d be wary about opening up the forum for people to list off projects they’ve come across, as that might lead to people stumbling upon and downloading something that may end up being harmful.

The same goes for third-party lists and guides, such as the sites you’ve mentioned. While there may be nothing wrong with them, it’s best for us to be very careful about whether we want those mentioned here, as we cannot ensure their quality (and even if we could verify their quality today, we cannot guarantee that the quality won’t drop in the future).

It is our job as moderators to ensure that the members of our community are getting accurate and safe advice.

I am not removing the thread at this point, but we will revisit this when we have a clearer idea of how we want to handle these types of threads going forward.

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Greetings, thank you for your comment.

Emmm… Let’s see. I’ll start from a premise: Obviously it’s much better to change the operating system of your phone than to make small repairs or changes. However, and having established this point, I have to say that I do not agree with you at all, because obviously, starting from a poor privacy base, any small change well studied and selected will be an improvement. In addition, I consider that it is a widely and praxeologically wrong argument, because under that same criterion, in essence, any change you make in your device beyond changing the operating system itself would not matter. Changes like using Session or Signal instead of Whatsapp, using Brave or Tor instead of Chrome, using Tutanota or Protonmail instead of Gmail (I mean the apps, in addition to the service), all this would not matter, because according to you, it would only contribute to the mix and might not improve the situation (or even worsen it, according to some), and obviously it is not true, so I consider it an argument, as I said, wrong.

On this point if I can understand it. It is true that I also spend time to investigate what I recommend or not, for example in the list of the web that I mentioned recommended more launchers, but already at the time, and I reviewed it again before posting anything on the forum, I reviewed one by one the lauchers, their privacy policies, their functions, and external information about them, which led me to discard some of them. What I mean is that I do not try to do my best to make recommendations from naivety and without a marked criterion, I try not to recommend anything lightly, but I understand that it is my individual criterion, and yours will be different, besides the format of the message may give less informed users can stumble. I take full responsibility for my words and recommendations, and I sincerely apologize.

On this, I refer to my previous text. I do not make recommendations lightly, but it is also true that this forum can be entered by acritical people who trust anything just because it is a privacy software forum. As I said, my apologies for that, and I will take responsibility as far as possible for the consequences of my words. I also don’t want to remove the reliability of the website I quoted, I have personally reviewed the vast majority of software they recommend and from what I have been able to ascertain, it is a pretty reliable listing, but that doesn’t negate what I have already said.

I will try to improve my recommendations, be more specific, not make lists and offer more information about what I recommend. I just want to contribute in a healthy and correct way. Best regards.

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I like to point out that on most android distributions the launcher app is use for a lot more than just the home screen. You will not be able to disable it without breaking your device and it will run in the background regardless.

Precisely for this reason is that I understand that alternative launchers would be an option to take into greater consideration in those mobile operating systems (the few) in which you could completely uninstall the native launcher and exchange it entirely for the one we choose, but of course, this is something I do not know, because I have not had the opportunity to test many phones.

It will simply break many phones so this is terrible advice tbh.
Besides that if the launcher is doing shady stuff many core systems will probably do so as well on those devices. The only good way to get rid of that is installing a custom ROM. Replacing the launcher simply isn’t solving anything.

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