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Bored of your phone? Give it a makeover

If you're a bit bored of your current smartphone, there are plenty of ways to make it interesting again without having to buy a new phone.

Published onJune 7, 2017

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Given that we’ve just made it through 2017’s big batch of flagship launches relatively recently, there’s that inevitable allure to upgrade our current “boring” handsets for something cutting edge and fresh, even if our wallets scream that we shouldn’t. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to breathe new life into even an older handset. Here are just some ways that you can give your smartphone a makeover.

Grab a new skin or case

Perhaps the best place to start when making your phone feel new again is by changing its actual appearance or feel. Fortunately this is a quick and cost effective process, given the huge range of cases and skins available on the market. If you’re unaware, skins are often just vinyl decorations that you can stick to your phone, and don’t tend to offer anything in the way or serious protection, other than from perhaps a minor scratch. If you’re worried about dropping your phone, then a stylish hard case is probably your best bet.

A growing number of companies now offer covers and skins for a variety of handsets, but dbrand is probably the most well known. The company sells a massive selection and completely customizable skins for most flagships smartphones, as well as laptops, tablets, and even games consoles. Of course, you should certainly check around at some other retailers too, including FireFlex, Skinit, and xtremeskins, to name just a few.

Cases come in a variety of different types, ranging from hard protective covers designed to save your handset from an accidental drop, through to mostly cosmetic choices that can integrate your phone as part of a wallet or belt clip-on. Sometimes you will find that smartphone manufacturers offer a range of case accessories, such as for the new Galaxy S8, but there are also a wide range of third party options out there and you’ll almost certainly be able to find a ton of choices for popular flagships. Some of the most popular smartphone case brands include Spigen, Otterbox, and Ringke.

Our guide to picking the best case for your new phone
Google Pixel 3a Purple-ish Case Headphone Jack

New launcher and icons

If you’re pretty happy with the look of your phone already, it might be time to breath some new life into it with a change to the UI. Android already gives us pretty good control over the look of our home screens, but a third party launcher can usually do so much more than what comes in the box. Fortunately, making these changes is as simply as installing an app from the Play Store.

ADW, Apex, Nova, are three of the consistently most popular launchers, and are well worth a look if you don’t want anything too drastically different from the norm but with a few extra features. These launchers allow you to change the grid layout of your home-screen, dock, and the app draw, while also throwing in a few extras of their own, ranging from swipe gestures to configurable app icons.

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Nova Launcher with gesture navigation

While some launchers retain a familiar look to the stock Android experience, others, such as Evie or Launcher 8, make some more notable changes to the look, feel, and functionality of your UI. These can change anything from the app draw to creating a full on Windows Phone-esque experience.

Speaking of customization, nearly all of these launchers support icon packs and even switching out icons on an individual app basis. Extensive and regularly updated paid-for options are out there, but there’s also a large selection of free packs to pick from on the Play Store if you just want to try out some news looks. There are hundreds, if not thousands of icon packs to pick from out there, so check out the list below for some of our favourite picks.

10 best icon packs for Android (by developer)
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Mingo best icon packs for Android

Go waterproof

Water resistant or IP rated smartphones are big business these days, with the majority of modern flagship smartphones able to take a brief dunk underwater. Fortunately, non-IP rated phones can be brought to the water too, thanks to the market for water resistant pouches.

CaliCase, pictured above, is one of our favourite picks, as these cases are rated at an IPX8 standard, so can withstand submersion up to 100 feet, and the case floats too, so you won’t have to worry about losing your phone in the depths. Joto, 3iArt, and MoKo offer similar products that we think are pretty good value too, and you can read more about them at the link below.

What's the best waterproof phone pouch you can buy?
Best products
Unihertz Atom XL Underwater Photo

This certainly isn’t as foolproof as buying a phone designed to withstand a little water, but being able to browse the web in the bath or capture some pictures swimming in the sea might just stop your old handset from becoming boring.

Install a custom ROM

If you’re looking for a more drastic change to the look, feel, and capabilities of your smartphone, and aren’t shy about taking some risks and tinkering deeper down in your handset, then you could go down the route of installing a custom ROM. In other words, changing the version and features of the operating system installed on your phone. The modding scene continues to pump out stock-like and heavily customized version of the latest Android builds that are supported on not just the latest handsets, but also many older community favorites.

Installing a custom ROM is certainly more involved than the previous suggestions, but it can be a great way to reinvigorate your handset. Especially if your manufacturer has stopped providing official updates. There is plenty of support out there for those looking to get started with custom ROMs, here’s a list of good starting points:

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Try Xposed

If you’ve managed to get as far as rooting your phone but can’t quite bring yourself to mess around with ROMs, then you can check out the hugely popular Xposed Framework for a whole world of new software customization options. Xposed allows users to modify much more of the software installed on our phones without having to completely change the OS.

Xposed is a software framework that opens up much more of the Android OS for easy manipulation, hence the need for root access first. What this means for us users is that we can install a huge range of additional modules that offer up new features, ranging from a range of sound, lockscreen and security features, through to finer grain battery saving options and app controls. Best of all, you don’t have to be running the latest version of Android to enjoy all of these features.

There’s a bit of work involved to get Xposed up and running, so check out our guide below if you want to get started.

Xposed module and installer basics - Android customization
root Xposed modules

Wrap Up

There you have it. Thankfully, Android has plenty of third party developers and manufacturers out there to cater to your customization needs. And those are just some of the few options out there if you’re planning to give your smartphone a new lease of life, or if you’re just looking to make the most of your latest purchase.

Do you have any of your own recommendations for revitalizing your older handsets? Let us know in the comments below.

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