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Android customization: The simple joys of making your phone your own
When you get a brand new smartphone and take it out of the box for the first time, it can be an experience of pure joy. The newness of it all and the excitement of investigating what your new toy can do is something most of us tech enthusiasts can ride on for days.
Then days turn into weeks, and weeks into months. After a while, that fresh smartphone feeling goes away and your once-exciting new device starts to feel like old hat.
Luckily, by using various Android customization methods, there are ways to revamp the software of your smartphone and make it look, feel, and act differently. It might not give you the same feeling as getting new hardware, but it might prevent you — if only temporarily — from dropping serious cash on the latest-and-greatest to get that “just out of the box” feeling again.
Although Android customization can make your phone feel fresh, it’s not only the end result that keeps customizers going. In my case, I find the act of customizing my phone — picking the launcher, poring through icon packs, carefully selecting backgrounds, etc. — to be almost a zen-like experience. In a way, the journey is almost better than the destination.
I’m not really sure what it is about Android customization that makes it so enjoyable. I can only imagine it’s a similar feeling people get when doing other seemingly-monotonous things for pleasure, like working on an old car, bird watching, or collecting baseball cards. I have zero interest in those three examples, but there are lots of people out there who love them. I assume we all like things such as these for the same reasons.
Below are the three reasons I keep changing up my smartphone layout every few months. Give them a read and then hit up the comments and tell me what keeps you in the Android customization game. Feel free to share your home screens, too!
Creating something from nothing
Here at Android Authority, nearly everyone on staff is a creator of some sort. Myself, I’m a writer, and every day I take a blank text box and turn it into an article which eventually gets published on the site.
That act of creation — developing something from nothing — is always a thrill, regardless of the perceived success of what I’ve created. In a way, Android customization is its own act of creation. Starting with a blank canvas — in this case a default home screen launcher — a person can make something entirely new and totally their own.
There are lots of sites online that focus on Android customization and a few subreddits centered on the topic as well. Sometimes I’ll be perusing various user-submitted home screen layouts and am just amazed at how people can be so unique in developing their own smartphone “style.” Sure, some people just change their wallpaper and rearrange some icons and that’s it, but some people go all out and create something that’s really fresh and exciting.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a custom Android pro by any stretch of the imagination, I do really enjoy getting creative and seeing what kind of cool layout I can build that day.
Putting in the work to get the reward
As I mentioned in the previous section, some people put in the bare minimum effort when it comes to Android customization. There’s nothing wrong with this — it’s their phone, after all. However, when you really take the time and effort to build something cool it can be all the more rewarding.
I have no idea how long it takes me to make up a new home screen design, but it’s gotta be at least a few hours. I test out different icon packs, peruse through wallpaper collections, and fiddle around with the various aesthetic settings in OxygenOS until I find something that fits my mood at the moment.
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.Marthe Troly-Curtin
What’s funny about this process is I always start out by trying something totally bizarre — neon icons with a hot pink wallpaper or something. Invariably, I do a lot of work and then decide I hate it and go back to the drawing board.
Some would perceive this as a waste of time, but I think it’s really helpful. Any creator will tell you that every mistake you make is a chance to clarify what about your creation isn’t a mistake, so every time I test out something different that fails it’s just part of that journey.
In other words, after putting all the work in for each mistake, it makes the eventual outcome that much more rewarding.
Developing an identity
As I mentioned, I often try things with Android customization that I end up hating and erasing. Interestingly, I’ve found over the years that I’m consistently drawn to a certain style when it comes to my smartphone layout.
Although my home screens almost always end up looking pretty different from what they were prior, I do notice certain themes. My favorite color is red, for example, and I find that when I stray away from that color I’m just not as happy with the layout.
I’m also really into simple, minimalist icon packs. I try icon packs of all types, such as these ones that are pretty close to the stock experience, or these ones that are really abstract and bizarre. Inevitably though, I’m drawn back to simple icons like these or these.
I’m sure there are therapists out there who would have all sorts of theories about why my taste runs along these lines, but all that matters to me is that I’m discovering my own style.
This is where I’m at now
The image above shows my home screen as it is today. The wallpaper is one of the included designs with Minima Pro, although slightly tweaked to different color hues. The icon pack is called Flight and the launcher is Nova Prime.
I made the widgets at the top with KWGT, an incredibly fun app that has seemingly limitless potential for creativity. If you like modding your layouts and don’t use KWGT, I highly recommend checking it out.
Now it’s your turn — head to the comments below and tell me about what kinds of things you like to do with Android customization. I would love to see a bunch of home screen layouts people are proud of as well. Let’s see what you got!