There are loads of third-party Android launchers out there, but most of them strike similar beats. They take design cues from stock Android and provide small tweaks and features, which is more than fine. But the brand-new launcher Niagara aims to be a more substantial shake-up by featuring a minimalist and one-hand-use friendly design—and it’s pretty great.
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Upon installing Niagara, you’ll notice the differences right away. Gone is the grid-like design of the home screen most Android launchers use, any time you press home now, you’ll be greeted by a large list of all your apps.
Niagara attempts to blend your app drawer and homescreen together into one unified space, something that would be truly horrifying if it wasn’t so well-designed. Niagara pulls this off with a few different tricks that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with when using the launcher.
First off, the favorites list: This list ignores the otherwise alphabetical sorting method and places your chosen favorites at the top of your screen. A crucial feature to be sure, it would be far too frustrating to constantly navigate this giant list for your most-used apps. But even when you do need to dive deeper into the list, Niagara makes this as smooth as possible thanks to the shortcut menu, or alphabet list, on the right side of your screen (though, it can be operated from either the left or right edges of your display).
This menu allows you to immediately jump to a specific letter in the app list with a swipe of your thumb. It takes a bit of getting used to. I accidentally jumped to the wrong letter a number of times, but as you learn the general gestures you need to make it quickly becomes second nature. You can also swipe on an individual app to view notifications or access certain actions.
Thanks to this combination of features, finding whatever app you need to use has never been quicker. The minimal style of it all also looks fantastic, which is great if, like me, you get annoyed by a cluttered home screen.
The Niagara widget placed at the top of your home screen is also a great inclusion. Alongside telling the time, weather, and music data, you can tap on the widget to view a calendar-like agenda view of your events and reminders—this saves you from needing to open your calendar app constantly.
No Android launcher is complete without some customizability. So when you dive into the settings menu, what can you expect from Niagara Pro? To be honest, not a lot, at least in comparison to other launchers out there. If you appreciate being able to fine-tune everything to the smallest degree Niagara is likely to disappoint you, but there is still some stuff worth talking about.
Looking in the Settings menu, it’s neatly organized into two categories: “Features” and “Look.” In Features, you’ll be able to do plenty of useful stuff like adding app shortcuts for certain actions (such as opening a new tab in Chrome), can edit what the Niagara widget displays, enable embedded notifications on the home screen, and add in new widgets from other apps.
One of the more interesting features of Niagara is the swipe actions. I already mentioned these, but you can swipe on an app to open up a small collection of shortcuts or to view notifications. However, you can also add any app you want to this collection as a makeshift app folder. Niagara lacks standard app folders, but I think this is a suitable replacement. It still allows you to save space on the screen and connect certain apps together—such as storing all your social media apps behind your favorite one or putting the gallery app behind the camera.
When it comes to the “Look” section, it’s about what you would expect out of an Android launcher; You can set your wallpaper, icon pack, icon shape of preference, and use custom fonts (with the slick “Niagara Neo” font included out of the box). Besides that, there are also some smaller features here like hiding the alphabet list on the side of the screen or getting rid of the status bar.
So yeah, Niagara isn’t as customizable as some other launchers. But that’s also understandable due to the core design—there simply isn’t as much space for customization as the standard Android home screen and app drawer layouts. For what it is, I think the customization aspect of Niagara is fine, even if it could be improved in some small ways (like being able to set which side of the screen the alphabet list appears on).
We’ve talked plenty about the launcher’s features, so let’s talk real quick about what you’re actually paying for. Niagara Pro costs $6 a year and comes with plenty of features to justify that price. Swipe actions, custom fonts, and the calendar widget are all restricted to Pro users, among other, smaller features.
There are other launchers out there that only ask a one-time payment for you to access their “Pro” features, which is obviously preferable as opposed to this subscription model—especially for something as integral as your launcher. Still, nothing too major is locked away though, so if you’re only interested in using the free version, you can do that no problem.
Niagara Pro is one of the most unique launchers out there, but that does come with some inherent drawbacks. Your home screen is something you likely interact with multiple times a day, and using something like Niagara is a major change-up.
So, is it worth dealing with that? Niagara is optimized for being used one-handed, and it definitely succeeds, but besides that, I don’t think it offers many advantages compared to stock Android to make the major change worth it for most people.
If you constantly switch between a large number of apps, then Niagara is great for you—scrolling through your entire library of apps has never been this quick and simple. However, if you only use your phone for a select few tasks, then I don’t think Niagara offers you much that a more standard Android launcher wouldn’t already be giving you.
As someone in the middle of those two groups, I’ve loved using the Niagara launcher and will likely continue using it for a while. Niagara Pro executes its core idea extremely well, the issue is that the core idea won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. At the very least, if you’re at all interested in this launcher, I think it’s definitely worth trying out the free version to get an idea of which launcher you’d like to use yourself. You should learn pretty quickly if it’s for you or not, and if you do wind up enjoying it, then the $6 a year Pro pricing is an easy pill to swallow for all the launcher’s features.
Here’s What We Like
- Excellent Design
- Smart Features
And What We Don't
- Relatively light customization