In this edition of the Friday Debate, we discuss one of the core strengths of Android – the ability to customize the appearance of the operating system in just about any way you like. From widgets and live wallpapers, to icon packs, and custom launchers, it’s easy to give your Android device a full makeover. And even if you prefer the appearance of stock Android or an OEM layout, you can still add a few touches to make it truly your own.
So, how do you customize your Android device? What apps do you use? Launchers, wallpapers, icon packs? What else?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!
Android is a pretty good looking and functional OS as it is, but I personally prefer a more minimalistic look. I’m not a massive fan of the cartoony looking default Android icons, instead I much prefer the Tiny White Icon Pack, which has an icon for virtually everything. As well as the different icons and wallpapers, I’m also using a couple of apps to tweak my handset’s appearance.
Nova Launcher is one of my favourite apps, and not just for the extra launcher functions. There are plenty of options for customizing icons, organizing your apps, and changing other aesthetics, such as wallpapers and screen animations. The gestures feature is especially useful, as I’ve assigned my most commonly used apps to simple swipe commands, saving me precious space on my home screen.
Ultimate Custom Widget (UCCW) is also a must have for the vain Android user, with a virtually limitless number of options for customizing the look of your clock, battery life, and weather widgets. If you don’t fancy making your own widgets, there are also thousands of downloadable skins in the play store.
Widget wise I suppose I’m a little boring. I only use UCCW clock and weather widgets, a search bar, and Flipboard for keeping track of the latest news items. But then again I do like to keep my home screens clutter free.
If I were to answer this question last year, I would have enough customization that I could write a novel. Now, with constant phone changes, flashing roms, and lack of time, that has changed a bit.
It seems like as of late I’ve become very basic mostly only using one screen.
However, here is my set up.
The one thing that is a requirement for me is the T9 appdialer application. I keep that in my dock for quick access. This allows me quick access to all of my applications. I could search and find an application from this tool faster than anyone could via an app drawer. After that requirement is complete, then it’s time to install Nova launcher. I will then install one of the dozens of icon packs that I’ve purchased over the years. Next, install beautiful widgets. I usually use a 4×3 grid lay out, and just install a random clock and weather skin (whatever is in the showcase within their marketplace.). Next – I’ll change the grid layout on Nova. I have different values depending on how I’m feeling, but a lot of times I end up on 9×8. Finally, If i’m feeling froggy, I may put the Google Now widget on my home screen and call it a day.
HD Plane Icons
I’m actually somewhat in the same camp as Kevin. I used to be really into customizing my phone – everything from the launcher to flashing ROMs, etc. That was true for everything I had, including my computer (ArchLinux, anyone?).
However, nowadays I find that if the way a phone is set up means high functionality and is at least elegant enough, then I like it even more. And when you’re working with phones at as fast a pace as I do, you don’t want to take up any time trying to fiddle with how your phone looks. With that in mind, I usually go for a one or two screen setup, as well.
I go for two things depending on how I feel at the time – either full simplicity or full elegance. When it is full simplicity, I have one homescreen (or two, in the case of Google Now for the Nexus 5) and put nothing on there but a nice wallpaper. Many of you have probably seen the mminimalistic superhero wallpapers that I have put on my Moto X and my Galaxy S4.
However, when I want full functionality, I only really put two widgets on that one screen, usually with a black (or other solid color) background. This is because it bothers me when elements of an otherwise good looking wallpaper are covered up. So, solid color background and my two most used widgets – Evernote and Google Play Music. I get easy access to my notes and my tasks while being able to stop or play my music whenever I need.
For the vast majority of my phones, that is basically what I do. Someone once told me that when it comes to navigating a phone, all he requires is everything he needs to be accessible within two or three swipes. I think when you are going to accessibility and functionality, that is a fair way to put it.
It depends on my device really. Like Kevin, I could write a novel about all the stuff I had on my HTC EVO 4G, but these days things require a little less tinkering because there are fewer issues to fix. One of these days, when there is an applicable Friday Debate, I’ll tell the story of how I hard bricked my EVO 4G LTE for 6 hours when trying to get S-Off.
On my Nexus 7 2012, I decided to battle against the lag issue by rocking only a single home screen. I use an HD Widgets widget with a clock, current weather, and 5 day forecast. I use this tablet primarily for school so I have educational apps like Wolfram, Andy-86 (a TI-86 calculator emulator), VitalSource Bookshelf (where I can download my text books for offline reading), and others. It’s a pretty simple layout because I use the tablet for only a few things. I do have some fun apps on there, like the Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey app so I can check my team without getting on a computer. I also use the tablet to listen to podcasts and I connect it to a little pod speaker so I can hear it better.
My Note 3 has undergone a few changes. I run a custom kernel and a custom ROM. It’s mostly under the hood changes (removal of Knox, for instance) but my S-Pen does make light saber noises when I pull it out. I got to try Aviate when it was a thing a few weeks ago and loved the layout but a few bugs prevented me from really enjoying it. So I downloaded Nova Launcher, cut it down to 2 home screens and made an Aviate-like set up. My home screen has the same HD Widgets widget as my tablet (clock, weather, forecast) along with a few favorite apps. On the second page are a myriad of categories like Play Games, Time Waster games, root tools, tools, social media, banking, video, and music. I’ve found that even though the layout isn’t as fun, it is a lot more functional. I use the Nox icon pack, ringtones and wallpapers I found on Zedge, and that’s really about it.
I do have Tasker on my Note 3 but not for use on my actual Note 3. I use Tasker along with another app to program custom tasks onto NFC tags. I have a whole bunch of those things ranging from key chains to stickers and little pogs. With Tasker, I can make them do whatever I want and it’s come in handy around the house for various things. My favorite is the NFC tag I keep on my washer and dryer that, when swiped, will set a timer for the length of time it’ll take to wash and dry my cloths.
What do YOU think?
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