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How I use Android: Nova Launcher developer Kevin Barry

JR Raphael | Aug. 21, 2015
The mastermind behind one of Android's most popular customization tools talks about his own home screen setup -- and why big-screened devices aren't for him.

Few apps are as consistently loved and relied upon by Android enthusiasts as Nova Launcher. Widely considered the de facto do-it-all home screen replacement for power users, Nova picked up where Android's original launchers left off (here's lookin' at you, ADW) and quickly became the go-to tool for those seeking total control over their home screen environments.

Perhaps most impressive: The app is the brainchild of one guy — not a huge company or giant team, but just one guy who wanted to make Android better.

That guy is a Chicagoan named Kevin Barry. Barry got started doing indie-level Android development while still working for someone else as a software developer during the day. He eventually started making more money with his early Android efforts than he was making with his "real" job — and thus, TeslaCoil Software was born. (Little known fact: TeslaCoil is named after Barry's cat, Tesla — who was named after a certain Nikola who also bore that name.)

These days, Barry has a bit of assistance — like that of Liam Spradlin, a visual designer who helped give Nova Launcher its recent Material Design makeover — but he's still the driving force behind the app's development.

Nova Launcher Google Play

Nova Launcher in the Google Play Store

And by all signs, he's still killin' it. Nova Launcher's $5 "Prime" version is currently #23 on Google's list of the top paid Android apps — which is even more remarkable when you consider that almost every entry ahead of it is a mainstream game, many of them by big-name firms like Electronic Arts, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Not to mention the fact that the main Nova app is actually free to use; the paid portion is merely an extra-feature-unlocking upgrade.

So how does a person who's influenced the way so many of us use Android use the platform himself? After many years and countless hours of enjoying Barry's work, I thought I'd ask.

In his own words, this is how Kevin Barry uses Android.

The basics

Your current primary phone: I've just switched from the Nexus 6 to the LG G4.

When the Nexus 6 was released, I wasn't sure about the screen size but figured I'd give it a try. Sometimes it was great, like lounging around home. But if I'm trying to text one-handed while walking, it's cumbersome, and it can feel awkwardly large in my pocket.

I haven't made my mind up on the G4 yet. I'm pleased with the size of the phone — still lots of screen space but a much smaller footprint. I'm not a fan of LG's skin, but it's interesting to see what works and what doesn't. They've come a long way since the Optimus G. I thought the buttons on the back of the phone would bother me, but they really don't.


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