I guess I've never ever used default launcher on my android devices. Ok, maybe, I used HTC Sense for a while on my HTC Desire. There was time when I used ADW launcher, then I switched to Apex, I already forgot why exactly, and was completely happy with it up to the Android 4.4.
Android 4.4 supports transparent background for notification and “control buttons” areas. Unfortunately out of the box this works only for Nexus 5. After a short time I read that Nova launcher supported this feature and I switched to it.
So, technically I said goodbye to Apex and stay with Nova.
But, they both are very cool launchers and allow me organize my desktops exactly I want to (without “premium” features).