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How to make your smartphone look like stock Android without rooting

Do you want to use the stock Android user interface on your device without rooting and flashing a custom ROM? We've put together a simple and quick way to do so! Curious to know more? Read on to find out!
June 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?