Hey there! Have you tried swiping up from the bottom of the screen to reach the application list?
Oh I'm so sorry, I see exactly what you are trying to do, There are multiple taps to get to the apps and can be frustrating. Unfortunately I don't think there is a way to fix that, I will do some research and if I find anything I will definitely come back to you on it!! I'm really sorry.
Yes, there appear to be various third-party "launchers" that would do it.
Unfortunately, many third-party apps come with some undesired baggage.
I'll try living without it and see how frustrated I become...