How do you customize your Android device?

by: Bogdan PetrovanNovember 22, 2013

Friday Debate aa (1)

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!

Robert Triggs

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.

Kevin Nether

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.



Nova Launcher

Flatro Icons

HD Plane Icons

Tendere Icons

Joshua Vergara

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.

Joe Hindy

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?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”422″]

  • Leonardo Rojas

    Looks like the flashaholicsm is decreasing some. O.o I’ve always liked the stock ROMs of the 3 Androids I’ve had (Xperia Pro, Razr i, Xperia ZL) with their simple but fully working features… Couldn’t been bothered to flash a custom ROM no matter how famous this was. I do my own “tweakings” to my devices; root them, uninstall some useless apps, manage some useless processes, add some apps, and done. So my customization is pretty simple, and follows a basic idea: Keep it actually useful n.n

    I’ve already shared these pics, but here they are again :P The first ones are from the Razr i, the next ones from my current device the Xperia ZL, only 3 pages. I’ll be using Circle Launcher on it too, and maybe I’ll add a page for calendar n.n Also,I’ll probably try some launcher, Smart Launcher is pretty neat! I had customized more my Xperia Pro but right now I don’t have pictures.

    – L

    • APai

      same here – unrooted all my devices, back to clean slate. no time to juggle a lot of it. but I do customize to keep in pace with my needs. likewise 3 screens and on nova for a long time now.

    • Thang Fozika

      Ilike Smart Launcher is pretty neat! I had customized more my Xperia Pro but right now I don’t have pictures.

  • APai

    widget managers – uccw, zooper widget pro, glass
    launchers – nova, apex (tried a whole lot of new ones aviate and others, however keep bouncing back to nova)
    used a bunch of icon packs, not very particular, keep switching: miui 5/ flat/
    nfc tags (car and specific use cases)
    now relying on carbon for backup of my unrooted phone, all the usual tools when rooted and swapping ROMs
    Always designed own wallpaper to be functionally relevant than for only looks.
    no live wallpaper – found it to be a distraction.

    additionally, I keep picking up a lot of apps on sale or whenever they drop prices, so I have like multiple apps for the same purpose (media players, calendar, task managers, news apps – with widgets etc.)

  • Ben Bauer

    Gotta love the MinimalUI icon pack, I’m running nova with that and it looks great

  • ichuck7

    I used to customize a ton with Galaxy Devices. Now with my Nexus 7 and HTC One, I don’t even use a custom launcher. I think that’s because I like the aesthetics these devices way more than I ever did touch wiz. (ugh, touchwiz)

  • monkey god

    My favorites are Nova Launcher with Zooper widget. Far and away the most customizeable clock widget app i’ve seen.

    • Tristan Isaac

      Thanks dude, I’m always looking for highly customizable widgets, but you helped me on getting one app to do it :) (And I also use Nova Launcher ;) )

      • monkey god

        Hope you like it. It’s great for anyone that is extremely OCD with their clock. You have the ability to change the clock around in layers, very similiar to Photoshop, so that means that you decide the position, size, and angle of every object down to the pixel. I’ve spent so many hours just editing things. The editor is so powerful that If you have enough time on your hands, you can practically reproduce the look of almost any clock widget on the market.

    • phuongot
  • Luca

    I design my own wallpapers and use cyanogenmod. I think that’s enough already – my phone should do the job and not look fancy.

    • Tristan Isaac

      For me it’s not just about having a fancy looking screen, it’s about having a fancy looking screen that is efficient in use ;)

      • Edwin Chua

        Action Launcher is about as efficient as you can get ;)

        • Tristan Isaac

          Going to look at it, I now use Kcin launcher Prime, and before that I used Buzz Launcher :) Also both worth looking at, but be sure to check Buzz :)

  • lambo

    No Lock screen customization ?

    So far I only use Launcher8 to customize homescreen, app drawer, status bar, and lock screen wallpaper. I love big tiles for all my game shortcuts :)

    • lambo

      uh wrong disqus html tag :(

    • allyson

      Gotta love the MinimalUI icon pack, I’m running nova with that and it looks great

      • Thang Fozika

        oh copy to monkey god :))

  • It’s pretty insane how much I used to flash my devices. It would be at least once a month to try out new ROMs, and once a week or so to update my current ROMs. So much backing up and frustration came from it even though it was rewarding at the end. I’ll be honest, I’m happy the manufacturers picked up their game and started creating better looking UIs.

  • SeraZR™


    Best customisation out there IMO

  • Edwin Chua

    Anyone’s tried Action Launcher? Great features which put all your apps and their widgets at your disposal. All in a single screen. It is awesome. =D

  • Tristan Isaac

    Buzz Launcher is also nice. You can make your own screens, but as extra, you can share it so others also can use them :) You can call it “Social Homescreen customizing” :p