How to make your smartphone look like stock Android without rooting

by: Brad WardJune 14, 2013


Android handsets are purchased on a daily basis, whether we’re talking about that shiny new HTC One, a mid-range device like the Galaxy S4 Mini, or any other phone for that matter.

However, far too many people come to be disappointed with their purchase due to the modifications on top of Android that ruin the experience for them. This problem can be solved by rooting and flashing a custom ROM, but that’s hardly a solution for everyone. But there’s another way to get that vanilla Android experience on a smartphone without rooting.

Developers have been hard at work creating solutions to feed our stock Android craving, in the form of launchers, icon packs, keyboards, and other apps. We’re going to walk you through some of the most useful and show you how to transform the interface into a vanilla-like one, without root and without hassle.


There are a lot of cool launchers out there. Action Launcher Pro combined with the Stark icon pack is one of my favorites, however, there are a lot of offerings to get that stock Android feel.

So the first step is to choose a launcher. For that, we’re going to take a look at Nova Launcher, Apex Launcher, and Holo Launcher HD. Alternatively, you can use Holo Launcher Plus to achieve stock Android for Ice Cream Sandwich.

Nova Launcher is a free download, however, paying for the Prime version of the app will give you access to a few more features. Apex Launcher and Holo Launcher HD are both free downloads, but they have pro versions for added features as well.


Before and after

When it comes down to it, you’re going to need to choose which one you’re most comfortable and satisfied with. In my case, I went with Nova Launcher. After you have a launcher downloaded, simply hit the Home button on your device. A pop-up window will appear, and you’re going to need to set your chosen launcher as the default (instead of TouchWiz, Sense, etc). Alternatively, open up the Nova Settings, and, on the first page, there’ll be an option to set the Nova Launcher as the default launcher.

Once that’s done, your home screen should, more or less, look like the image above.

Lock screens

Custom lock screens on Android are a fickle thing, as they’re often filled with bugs and are unreliable. However, there are a couple that’ll get the job done, though not many.

Holo Locker Plus is a good a Jelly Bean locker to use when paired with a Jelly Bean-themed wallpaper. If you don’t want to pay for anything, a great alternative is the GO Locker, which will require you to download two apps, the base GO Locker app and then a theme addon, namely a Jelly Bean one.

Once GO Locker is downloaded, adding the Jelly Bean theme is pretty self-explanatory. However, Holo Locker Plus is another story — it’s easy to enable Holo Locker, but in my findings, it does not come with a Jelly Bean wallpaper. So you’re going to need to find your own. To do that, you need the Plus version of Holo Locker to access the features that let you add a custom wallpaper to the lock screen. You can use any wallpaper you’d like, but, to get the coveted stock Android feel, a Jelly Bean wallpaper would be ideal.


If you’re looking to achieve stock Android with Ice Cream Sandwich, GO Locker is your best bet with this theme.

If you’re using Holo Locker, the final outcome should look like the image above.

Keyboards and Wallpapers

best android keyboards

Nexy, you need a new keyboard and wallpaper to finalize the makeshift vanilla Android experience we’ve created. A Jelly Bean wallpaper package can be easily found in the Play Store. Anyone will do, but I used this one. A Ice Cream Sandwich wallpaper package can be found in the Play Store easily as well. Lastly, we need a new keyboard.

When it comes to keyboards, you really don’t need a Jelly Bean one in particular. Any kind will do as long as you’re comfortable with it, even if its your manufacturer’s stock keyboard. However, a lot of people tend to go for things like SwiftKey or Swype. If you insist on a stock Jelly Bean keyboard though, Google recently brought it to Google Play.

Final thoughts

It should only take you a few minutes to complete these steps. After you do though, you’ll have an awesome makeshift vanilla Android experience on any device of your choosing. If you’d like to break away from stock Android a tad bit, I like to download the Stark icon pack to freshen things up a little bit. It’s not a requirement though, it just looks nice.

Finally, to show you that this was all done using apps through the Google Play Store, we used Root Checker to prove that there was no rooting or flashing involved.


Do you plan on using this method for a makeshift vanilla Android experience? If you went ahead with it, how did it work out for you?

  • Downtoearth2

    not interested,this article is like how to have sex with a virgin girl without disvirgin her.Also stock android is boring,outdated,only for aged people.

    • Stock Android is boring? Nice try Samsung. #HOLOYOLO

      • NarutoNamikaze1010

        DAMN!?!? and Isn’t Stock the Origin of Android? and without it no point in Sense,TouchWiz,etc. Right?

        • Daniel DS

          I must say that stock Android makes no Sense.

  • Sascha K.

    Nope, I like Sense 4 too and this slows down my phone.

  • Jatin K

    What’s that wallpaper in the screenshot? Could somebody give me a link to it? Thanks

    • It’s bundled in the Stark Icon pack app. ;)

  • Mrkud

    When u talk about changing ur look u cannot go without free buzz luncher which offers way more then anything in the play store at the mo.

    • Daniel DS

      This article is about stock Android looks, not Buzz Launcher looks

      • Mrkud

        Isnt the whole point of the article about mimicking stock look rather then modyfining it? One of the ways mentioned are lunchers, buzz is a luncher.

  • 윌 스튜어트

    I’d really like to see Google develop official JB launchers for non JB phones.

    • Daniel DS

      Why launchers? You mean ROMS!

    • timi oke

      Why? There’s absolutely no point lol.

      • 윌 스튜어트

        Here is the point: Google will be able to provide services it makes money off to a huge part of Android that doesn’t have access to some of its services.

        • timi oke

          And which “services” are these. Google’s services are available on every single android phone via their apps.
          It would be silly to make features only available in a launcher, instead of just pushing it to the apps that are available on every android device lol.

          Note: What I’m referring to, is exactly what Google did with Google I/O, and how they updated a lot of their apps, and Play Services.

          • 윌 스튜어트

            Google Now and Google Chrome they aren’t available on all Android phones.

          • timi oke

            Due to phone compatibility, and nothing else. They won’t magically be able to put these on un-compatible phones via a launcher… You do realise that don’t you?

          • 윌 스튜어트

            It is up to them to optimize their services – thousands of developer’s are capable of doing the same. You do realize that a huge percentage of Android users don’t have access to Google’s most important service?

          • timi oke

            And what is it you think is their most important service? If you go by usage stats, it’s Maps. And every Android has that. Chrome isn’t that big on mobile devices yet, since it’s only just now being pre-installed instead of the Android Browser, and Google Now is nowhere near “Google’s most important service” due to it’s limited use in some countries, and it’s still a young app. So what is this most important service you speak of?

          • 윌 스튜어트

            Google Now I believe is their most crutial service. They make most of their money from advertising and that is why they should release it for all Android phones.

          • timi oke

            There is no advertising on Google Now…

            I don’t mean to be rude, but by your comments, are you new to Android/Google Apps or something? You don’t seem to have a clue about them

          • 윌 스튜어트

            They need the information for better advertising.

            I’ve been using Google apps for years now.

            And you still haven’t told me a single reason why they shouldnt develop a Nexus Launcher?

          • TheApprentice

            I pity you, you don’t seem to have a place even amoung your own people.

          • 윌 스튜어트

            My people have voted me up. Look at Timis profile.

          • TheApprentice

            I thought you didnt care about votes. And they voted the original comment, after that there are zero votes.

          • 윌 스튜어트

            I don’t care about votes. I meant look at Timis profile, is he really one of my people?

          • TheApprentice

            I guess he is.

          • 윌 스튜어트

            He is new to my people.

  • Kieron Quinn
  • Stan

    If You Did So, used Nova Launcher as an example, Could You then just Disable SENSE!? To save memory? – og do You need to have Sense working in the background?

    • Daniel DS

      1) You spelling and caps gave me cancer.
      2) You cannot disable Sense, it’s already the default launcher for the device.
      3) You can have only the active launcher run without another in the background, so using Nova will might even consume less RAM than using the OEM’s launcher

  • nishantsirohi123

    the custom lockers do not work with phones with hardware home buttons(thats almost every samsung device)

    the phone gets unlocked if you press the home button after the screen lights up

  • I think Google needs to change the applications are somewhat outdated away. otherwise they will be very difficult to compete with other firms

  • Safeer Ansar Mughal

    Is there a way to get stock lollipop status bar and notification panel on a device runing lollipop.