The great thing about Android phones is that you can customize everything, but this makes them complicated for some elderly folk or people with other issues. Use a simple Android launcher.
You want to keep in touch with your elderly relatives, but it can be a problem if they are not used to smartphones and cannot find their way around confusing configuration settings, complicated apps, and all the different swipes and taps needed to get things done.
The icons and captions may be uncomfortably small to read for those with less than perfect vision and while you can make some adjustments in the phone settings, they often do not go far enough for some people, leaving them struggling to see what is on the screen.
Smartphones are simply too complicated and too hard to see for some people. Some old folk are very confident with phones, tablets and computers and that is great, but not all of them are. A simple launcher can be the solution.
Young children may also find a simplified interface easier to use. In fact, you can keep one on your phone and switch to it when you lend them your phone to use or set them up with their own phone. It limits what they can do and makes it easier to perform simple tasks like calling you, running apps, sending messages and so on.
Here I look at simple launchers for seniors and others that want to make Android phones as easy to use as possible.
What is a launcher?
A launcher on an Android phone is the app that makes the home screen look the way it does and work the way it does. It displays icons to open apps that are used read email, browse the web, send messages, access social networks and so on. It is the user interface.
Manufacturers develop their own launcher so that a Samsung phone looks different to a Google Pixel phone for example. Some people prefer one brand of phone to another because of the launcher used.
There are many alternative launchers that make the phone look and work differently and many are designed to be more customizable and offer more features than the interface built into the phone. Some people love tweaking and customizing their phone and it is one of Android’s advantages over iOS.
Enable a launcher
A launcher is an app and there are many in the Google Play Store. Just search for ‘launcher’ to find all launchers, but in this article I look at ‘simple launchers’. After installing the app, some can be enabled by running them. On first use they may ask if you want to use them as the default Home app. Say yes.
There are a couple of better ways though. Open the Settings app, tap Apps, tap Choose default apps at the top, tap Home app. Alternatively, tap the launcher app in the apps list, tap Home screen and then choose the app.
All launchers provide access to system settings one way or another and so you can return here and select the default Home app if you want to return the phone to the way it was. I had no problems switching between the launchers here.
Simple Launcher for Android phones is a popular app with over 1 million installs and a score of 4.4. There are no adverts and this is a free app, which is great. It has not been updated for a couple of years, but it still works fine.
It replaces the standard phone interface with a simpler alternative one and the two most immediately obvious features are big icons and big fonts. This is designed to make it easier on the eyes if your vision is not perfect. You can’t really tell in screenshots, but the icons and text are about twice the normal size.
The home screen has nine apps and there are no other screens. The apps are selected by Simple Launcher and include Chrome, Settings, Calendar, Camera, Gallery, Play Store, Phone, Messages and Contacts. The usual tray at the bottom of the screen is gone and all you need are these nine apps.
Tapping the Edit button at the top of the screen enables app icons to be removed and extra screens added for additional app icons. You could add social media apps on a second screen for example.
Swipe right and there is a screen with Family and Friends folders. Contacts can be added to these to make them easier to find than searching through the full contacts list. Contacts or apps can be added to this screen, so you could add a car breakdown service, a plumber, and other essential contacts. Some essential apps could be added, like a banking app for example.
There is are two more items on this screen and Control Center is app settings, an app uninstaller and SOS settings. SOS is a button at the bottom of the screen that enables you to call a chosen person or service without having to find them in your contacts or elsewhere.
Simple Launcher is a good app for simplifying the interface on Android phones. Big icons, big text, and simple icons for opening essential apps and contacts are perfect for people that have trouble with the phone’s default interface.
Simple Mode is a launcher for Android phones that is designed to hide the complexity of the OS and present a simple interface that can be understood more easily than the regular one. It has over 1 million installs and a reasonably good 4.0 score. It is free and there are no ads.
The home screen shows the time in big numbers at the top, which is great, but the date below it should be in a bigger font and seems a bit smaller than the rest of the text on the screen.
Four apps can be shown on the home screen, which is not enough for me and I would prefer slightly smaller tiles and six apps. Just reducing some of the white space would make room for two more app tiles.
You can choose which apps appear on the home screen and additional screens can be added with more apps of course, but having to swipe through multiple screens to find apps makes it a bit more complicated for people.
Swipe right and a contacts screen appears. There is space for six tiles, so you can put your most used or most important contacts there, like family, friends, an emergency number, and so on. Swipe right again and there are six simple switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Brightness, Flashlight, Airplane mode and Ring. Are these the best choices? I rarely switch Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on/off and turn Battery Saver on/off more. It’s an OK selection though.
This is a useful launcher that simplifies the Android interface. There are some small tweaks I would prefer, like slightly smaller tiles and slightly bigger date font, but otherwise it is great.
To get the full functionality of Big Launcher, you must also install the Big Phone for Seniors and Big SMS for Seniors apps. It can be used without them, but it is not as good. You must also pay for each app separately. All are cheap on their own, but having to buy three app pushes up the price to UK £17.77 or US $23.47.
Fortunately, the apps can all be installed and used for free. Most of the features and functions work in free mode, but the paid extras are useful and you will probably want them. Try it in free mode and pay if you really need the extra features.
The home screen has a large battery indicator, date and time at the top. Below are phone, messaging camera, gallery and SOS tiles. Tap the bottom right one and it shows the next screen. The options for changing the default apps and adding extra apps is very limited in the free version and it requires the paid Big Launcher app. You can change a couple of tiles and add contacts, and you can access a full list of apps, but you cannot create app tiles.
Where other simple launchers show the default apps, like messaging, Big Launcher has its own phone, contacts, dialer and messaging apps. Big text and icons make it easy to read for those with less than perfect eyesight.
Unlike other simple launchers, this one has a number of extras that can be installed, like various icon packs. There are also many customization options that let you choose screen layouts, icons and backgrounds. There are appearance, accessibility and other options. It is more configurable than the other simple launchers.