ANDROID Home Screen Customization
One of the best things about Android is its ability to be customized – both aesthetically and functionally – to each user’s liking. In the past I’ve talked a lot about using particular apps for getting things done from your mobile device, but everyone should also have the chance to turn on their phone and see something pleasing to eye right from the start. Sometimes that means nothing more than a quick wallpaper change, while others it may require far more customization than that. It’s all about what you want and how much time you’re willing to spend achieving that look.
Throughout my time as an Android user, I’ve gone through multiple themes, some of which took hours of customization to finalize (only to re-do everything a few days later). Of course, there have also been times when I just went for a stock look. These days I’ve settled for a sort of in-between: I use specific apps and widgets that offer the experience I’m looking for without having to spend too much time customizing every detail.
To get started making your homescreen look the way you want, you’ll need some essential tools. Of those, the most important is probably the launcher – a custom launcher will allow you do things not possible with the stock option; everything from hiding icon labels and the notification bar, to changing the transition animations, icons, and so much more can be achieved simply by swapping out launchers.
If your device is running Android 4.0 or higher, there are some excellent choices for launchers on the Play Store. Of those, the two most popular are Apex and Nova, but there are many other options to explore depending on what you want. Action Launcher and ADW are also good choices, and if you’re looking for the most eye candy you can find, Next Launcher is definitely one to consider, as well. But I’m getting too far into all the options here – a little hands-on time goes a long way, so just pick one that seems the most appealing to you and give it a whirl. If you don’t like it, you can always try something else later.
Personally, I’ve been using Nova for months. It offers basically everything I need from my launcher, and then some. The fact that it’s incredibly fast and fluid doesn’t hurt, either.
Aside from a custom launcher, widgets are clutch in getting the look and function you want from your device. The more you experiment with custom themes and such, the more widgets you’ll find that allow for varying levels of customization, making them incredibly versatile. To get you started, however, I’ll namedrop a few of my personal favorites.
- SwitchPro Widget – This has been a go-to power widget for me since the OG Droid days. It’s customizable, themable, and just works. Can’t really ask for anything more.
- Beautiful Widgets (Pro)- Another goodie from the OG Droid days, BW offers key info in an elegant package.
- HD Widgets – A lot like Beautiful Widgets, but offers different themes and arrangements.
- Minimalistic Text – An insanely customizable text widget. Takes some time to set up, but once it’s done, it looks great.
- UCCW - Highly customizable, but also very time consuming. If you can’t find a widget that does just what you want, look into this one.
Of course, there are dozens of other options (if not more), but this should be enough to get your started on the path to a beautiful homescreen.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what you want – or perhaps you’re just looking for some inspiration – there are some fantastic resources available for that, too (most of which also include a step-by-step guide to recreate the look):
While there are so many different tools that can be used to customize the look if your homescreens, these are just a few of the options that I’ve grown to love (and find invaluable) over my time as an Android user. The amount of customization possible on Android is nearly limitless, so if it’s something you’re interested in, I urge everyone to look into all the options to get the “perfect” look and feel for your device.
I’d like to close with a look at my most recent homescreen, which pays homage to my all-time favorite movie (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre):
I don’t recall where the background came from, but it was a user-created poster for Texas Chainsaw 3D before it was released. The iconpack (Tiny White Icons) fits in extremely well with the wall, and the subtle weather widget at the top provides information that I often want at a glance. It’s very clean and understated, which is just what I like. Oft-used icons and widgets grace the left and rightmost screens so they’re no more than a swipe away, and my primary screen (center) stays clean. It’s far from the complete makeover that you’ll find on a lot of the aforementioned customization sites, but it provides exactly what I want from my homescreen, which is part of the beauty of Android.