How to Customize Your Android Phone


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You possibly can reside a superbly pleasant cellular existence utilizing an Android telephone with out tweaking a single setting. However the place’s the enjoyable in that? Particularly when a handful of downloads and some minutes of tinkering can flip, say, your Galaxy S8 from a TouchWiz minefield right into a digital zen backyard.

This has all the time been true. And should you’re an Android energy person, should you’ve put in a customized ROM (and even know what meaning), this information shouldn’t be for you. However there are two billion energetic month-to-month Android units on the earth now. A lot of these units are smartphones. One in every of them is perhaps yours. And if there’s something about that Pixel or Moto or Galaxy or LG that bothers you even slightly—the keyboard, the gestures, the app icons—know you could make it higher. Here is how.

Prepared For Launch

Let’s begin massive with the piece of software program referred to as the launcher, which dictates not simply how your smartphone seems to be, however the way you work together with it. Your telephone got here with a launcher, though you doubtless simply consider it as “the best way my telephone works.”

A whole lot of the time, your out-of-the-box expertise works simply nice, particularly if it hews near the inventory Android you will discover in a Pixel or Nexus telephone. However generally producers marry terrific with clunky software program, or embody elaborations that really feel extra like bloat. Typically you need extra tinkering selections; generally you need fewer. Typically you simply wish to strive one thing new. For all of these instances, you’ll be able to merely set up a launcher.

An excessive instance would possibly assist contextualize this slightly higher. One Launcher transforms your Android telephone into one thing that very a lot resembles iOS. A gimmick? Positive! However on the very least it provides you a small style of how the opposite UI lives.

Even Microsoft, regardless of largely tapping out of its personal cellular working system aspirations, provided a darn good Android launcher referred to as Arrow for 2 years; it freshens up your wallpaper each morning, and guarantees fast entry to your most incessantly used apps and contacts. It not too long ago overhauled that into Microsoft Launcher, now in beta, which amongst different options enables you to choose up the place you left off in your PC. It is just like the macOS Handoff characteristic, besides between a Home windows laptop and an Android system. Neat!

And so forth. The primary knock towards launchers is that they’ll gradual your system down. It will depend on how heavy a coat it places on, however usually you both will not discover or, should you choose the correct one, will not thoughts the trade-off.

However which one is greatest? Apologies for the copout, nevertheless it actually will depend on what you are in search of. And should you do not even know that, go forward and obtain Nova Launcher, which leads virtually each “greatest launcher” roundup you will discover. Nova’s a pleasant chameleon, providing you with as many customization choices as you may ever probably need. Simply filter out slightly time in your calendar earlier than you begin; from gestures to themes to subgrids to notifications, you have obtained loads of potential selections to make.

Personally, I had used the Google Now launcher to attempt to get as near inventory Android as I might on my Galaxy S7. However when Google pulled assist earlier this 12 months—and because it solely makes its Pixel Launcher obtainable to Pixel units—I hopped over to Motion Launcher, which prides itself on holding tempo with Pixel and Android Oreo options—even should you’re nonetheless on Android Jellybean—with some further customization inbuilt and an emphasis on shortcuts for fast outcomes. You recognize, motion. Working example? When Google relocated the search bar to the underside of the show on the Pixel, Motion alerted me that it provided that choice inside a couple of days.

That works for me! It won’t for you. The excellent news is, most Android launchers come free, so you’ll be able to experiment till you discover one which fits you. Additionally, Google gives an Android “style take a look at” that recommends numerous set-ups you would possibly like.

To the Window, To the Wallpapers

It has been so lengthy since I’ve regarded on the inventory Android wallpaper, I do not even keep in mind what it seems to be like. I am certain it is … nice? However you are able to do higher! And it takes no time in any respect.

All it’s essential do to rotate in a brand new show background is faucet and maintain a clean spot in your homescreen. From there, a backside row of choices will seem: Wallpapers, Widgets, and Settings. Faucet on Wallpapers, and from there you will have the choice to sift by way of My photographs, or select out of your apps that present “reside wallpapers,” animated backgrounds that brighten up your display time. (MLB At Bat, for example, gives team-based wallpapers, whereas Shadow Galaxy places your apps in entrance of a swirling nebula.) Watch out with reside wallpapers, although; they are often hell in your battery.

Actually, watch out with wallpapers usually. There are numerous apps to select from, however not all of them are completely respected. In some instances, builders have even used wallpaper apps to sneak malware previous Google Play’s defenses. That is to not scare you off of wallpapers altogether; simply attempt to follow respected distributors as greatest you’ll be able to. Sadly, you principally must go by downloads and critiques, which clearly aren’t foolproof.

On the very least, Google gives a separate Wallpapers app with a various array of photographs from Google Earth and past, and provides you the choice of waking up every day with a freshly picture. If that is not typically sufficient, Wallpapers HD can cough up a brand new high-resolution wallpaper each hour, from a group of over 80,000 photographs, tailor-made particularly to your display dimension.

Icon Consider It

The look of your Android smartphone goes approach past your wallpaper, and even your launcher. Actually, until you are some kind of home-screen swiping maximalist, app icons cowl the majority of your show. Why are inclined to the opposite aspects of your Android aesthetic however go away that actual property as much as every app developer’s whims?

Icon packs serve a twin function in that respect. First, they prettify ugly or boring customary app icons. Possibly extra importantly, although, they provide your house display a unified look. I exploit Rugos Premium, which supplies my apps a kind of retro rumpled paper look. Why not! There’s additionally the Cornie Oldie pack, which can also be classic however flattened out and with much less muted colours. There’s the Revolution icon pack, for the minimalist in your life. Strains simply straight-up makes use of a bunch of white-lined silhouettes. And on and on. You will not must look lengthy to seek out one that matches your temper.

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There are a couple of essential issues to notice earlier than you enterprise into icon customization. First, not each pack has an icon for each app. In case you have much less well-liked downloads put in and on your house display, chances are you’ll be caught utilizing the default icon. It is slightly jarring. You possibly can all the time both simply disguise these outliers within the app drawer, or accumulate them on their very own display in order that they at the least have widespread firm. Higher nonetheless, some icon packs slap an icon masks on high of each single app, no matter if it particularly designed a substitute, giving every thing at the least a considerably comparable vibe.

Alongside those self same traces, after you obtain your icon pack of alternative, you will want to put in it by way of your launcher, which might not be totally suitable. Brace your self for some funky outcomes should you go for much less totally developed variations of both. Which brings us to the final level: A whole lot of builders within the icon/wallpaper world are part-timers and hobbyists. Chances are you’ll not get the extent of match and polish you’d anticipate from, say, a Netflix or a Robinhood. And the identical safety cautions talked about for wallpapers apply right here as properly.


Here is the deal. Selecting the very best launcher, wallpaper supervisor, and icon pack comes down to non-public desire. There is not any actual proper reply for any of them. Experiment! Stay slightly!

Cease utilizing no matter keyboard your Android telephone got here with and set up Gboard as a substitute.

This doesn’t apply to keyboards. As an alternative, cease utilizing no matter keyboard your Android telephone got here with and set up Gboard as a substitute. It is every thing you’re keen on in regards to the inventory Android keyboard, with a Google search constructed proper in. And extra! It has wizardry, like translating your textual content in actual time earlier than you ship it. It has pleasant absurdities, like with the ability to seek for the correct emoji by drawing it in your display. You possibly can seek for and ship GIFs (ideally response GIFs that categorical your shock while you discover out all of the issues that Gboard can do).

The best way to personalize your keyboard is to put in Gboard as a substitute, full cease. To take action, obtain it, go to Settings, then Language and Enter, then Present keyboard, and choose Gboard as your new day by day driver.

Let’s shut with a enjoyable truth: Google launched Gboard on iOS earlier than Android. It is the very best keyboard over there, too. Inform your pals!


The inventory Android messaging app, Android Messages, is completely nice. It is nice! You ship messages, get messages, toss in an emoji or two alongside the best way. You recognize, primary stuff.

However should you’re in search of one thing extra in your day by day chats, you have obtained a shocking variety of choices, any of which is able to enhance on what your smartphone got here with.

We’ll begin with the home favourite, Sign, a comparatively stripped down messaging app save for one essential characteristic: rock-solid encryption. As a result of Sign makes use of an open supply cryptographic protocol, you’ll be able to relaxation assured that it is as safe because it claims, one thing a shocking variety of encrypted chat apps cannot boast.

Sign’s safety bona fides are so good, in truth, that each WhatsApp and Fb Messenger use the underlying protocol as properly (by default and while you specify “secret dialog,” respectively). These are additionally completely legitimate messaging replacements, relying on what number of of your pals are on these platforms and the way a lot you worth stickers.

For those who do go the Fb Messenger route, I would additionally strongly encourage you to go along with Messenger Lite as a substitute. It is Messenger with out all of the battery and soul-killing video games and such, which is to say, it is what Messenger ought to have been all alongside.

One final choice value severe consideration: Textra SMS, the facility person’s go-to Android messaging app. Whereas some would possibly discover its customization ranges overwhelming, it will be genuinely life-changing should you’ve ever needed to color-code your texting expertise with 180 choosable hues, or a variety of 21 textual content sizes. You possibly can even customise your emoji within the type of Android, iOS, or Twitter, to be sure to’re talking the identical language as your chat recipient. There’s sufficient extra that even considering of it tires me out. Suffice to say that Textra’s extra granular than a Morton Salt warehouse.

Take It To the Widget

I do not wish to spend an excessive amount of time on widgets, each since you most likely already use them, and since you have a tendency to want them lower than ever today due to the Google app and protracted notifications and such. A primary rule of thumb: If you end up opening the identical two or three apps a couple of instances a day, in search of quick-hit information, go forward and use a widget to save lots of your self a while.

For most individuals, that is going to imply climate, sports activities scores, and calendars. To put in them, simply maintain down on your house display once more, faucet Widgets, scroll till you see one that appears helpful, and discover a chunk of actual property in your show.

For those who’re in search of one thing slightly extra concerned, some Android apps allow you to construct your individual customized widgets. Need the time, climate, and battery life however not messages or calendar? Positive! Need battery life and calendar however not the rest? Why not! UCCW is the standard-bearer right here. It enables you to both construct your individual from scratch, or use a individually downloaded pores and skin to present you simply the correct look with out fairly as a lot problem. A extra user-friendly spin on the identical thought is HD Widgets, which helps you to swipe and faucet your option to your most popular set-up.

Lock It Up

Whenever you choose up your smartphone, your lock display typically greets you first. What’s on yours proper now? Notifications? Some inventory wallpaper abstraction? The time and date? You are able to do higher! You ought to do higher.

You possibly can determine for your self the extent to which you wish to spice your lock display up, however you owe it to your self to present it slightly extra verve than it is obtained proper now.

First, some primary housekeeping. You have already obtained a PIN or a sample defending your system (a PIN is safer, for no matter it is value). You possibly can fine-tune your privateness slightly additional, although. Go to Settings, faucet Lock display and safety, and head to Notifications on lock display (these might need barely totally different names relying in your particular system and Android model, nevertheless it’ll be fairly clear the place to go). From there, you’ll be able to determine which apps are allowed to bug you—we advocate “none” if attainable—and the way a lot content material they’re allowed to point out. Virtually talking, it provides you the choice to cover what’s in your texts out of your lock display, usually a superb name should you reside with or adjoining to snoopers.

However why cease there? Have slightly enjoyable! (Observe: “Enjoyable” right here is extraordinarily relative).

You are not going to get a ton of latest performance out of a lock display app; you are principally going for the look right here. Additionally, know that they are disproportionately buggy. Be sure to examine not only for scores and critiques, however the date of the newest replace, and keep away from apps that appear to be their builders have abandoned them.

All that stated, there are a couple of potential upgrades on the market. Go Locker gives a bunch of themes to select from (together with, sure, an iOS look), as properly some helpful shortcuts. Microsoft has a stable entry right here as properly; its Subsequent Lock Display screen exhibits your notifications, calendar appointments, and notifications, and messages, however you too can configure it to specify what you wish to see, say, at dwelling versus at work.

Full disclosure: I simply keep on with the inventory lock display, as a result of I would moderately simply use the fingerprint scanner to skip it and get to the great things. However hey, it is nonetheless good to have choices.


If in spite of everything of this you are still not happy together with your Android system’s feel and look, I’ve two items of recommendation. First: Maintain fiddling! The suitable mixture is on the market. Second: Get Tasker.

Tasker’s about as venerable an app as you will discover in Google Play, and whereas it will value you a couple of dollars, it is value it for the acute degree of management it provides you over how your smartphone behaves.

It does approach, approach, approach an excessive amount of to cowl in an summary information like this. However at its coronary heart, Tasker enables you to inform your system to do sure issues underneath sure circumstances. As an illustration: Do you want auto-rotation usually, however have that one app you would like would keep in portrait mode? Tasker could make that occur. Wish to open Chrome immediately into incognito mode, you sly canine? Tasker’s obtained your again. Wish to launch your favourite music app robotically should you plug in your headphones? Not an issue.

Properly, perhaps tiny drawback. Tasker’s interface has gotten extra user-friendly through the years, however navigating all of its corridors stays, for lack of a greater phrase, bonkers. There are some stable in-depth guides on the market that may at the least get you began. And upon getting the fundamentals, properly, a part of the enjoyable is the enjoyment of discovery.

And there you go! An Android smartphone that appears and acts simply the best way you need it to. Or at the least, shut sufficient for now.

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