One of the best parts about owning an Android device is that you can custom tailor it to your wants and needs. Depending on your phone’s specific hardware capabilities you may be able to do a lot of customization, but regardless, your device should be able to handle most of the changes that we are going to talk about.
Change your entire interface. Did you get a Motorola or an HTC device that has come with a theme that you are not particularly fond of? Or, perhaps you you have a stock flavor of android and you are looking for something a little more? You can “replace” that interface with one of several that offer enhanced capabilities. I say “replace” because essential you only run software over top of the original instead of actually replacing it, but it makes the phone look and operate in a completely new way making it almost seem like a completely new phone. You can download these apps from the market by searching “launcher.” Here are a few of the top launchers currently available, with a few of their differentiating features.
This is by far my favorite launcher. It has a host of customization options from choosing gestures to changing transition effects, this launcher is full of as much eye candy as you want it to be. There are also a ton of themes available for this launcher, all of which you can find and browse through in the custom GoStore that the launcher comes with. Overall, this launcher is very solid, customizable, and beautiful.
Smooth, responsive, and stable. Slick ui, decent customization options, and speed is what this launcher seems to be all about. If not, that is definitely where it excels at. LauncherPro is a very slick launcher that comes with a nice, clean UI with a few options to customize things.
The main focus on this launcher is themes. There are seriously too many to even begin to think that you could try them all. The great thing about themes is that they are the fastest and easiest way to make your phone feel like an entirely new device.
Simple, light, fast. If you want something that is simple, minimal, and is a very lightweight app to run, this is the launcher for you. It doesn’t come packaged with all the fancy customizations that most of the other launchers offer, but that is the entire point of this launcher.
Windows phone clone. If you want to try the Windows phone interface, this is about as close as you’ll get on an Android device. It also includes a few color options if you don’t like the stock black and green interface that it comes with.
One part of the phone that we are constantly interacting with through out the day is the lock screen interface. Most people are unaware that they can change their lock screen interface, but despite that, there are a few nice options for your device out there.
This app brings in the sense UI lock screen from HTC phones. This allows you to have a few options directly at the lock screen including checking your notifications, and one one swipe access to your phone dialer, email/texting, your web browser, and your camera. It’s a simple and effective approach that brings some simple options to the main screen without overdoing things.
One of Androids greatest features are the widgets that you can use on your home screen. Many apps that you use come bundled with widgets that help bring parts of the app directly to your desktop to allow interaction without even needing to open the app. Some of these widgets are for more aesthetic purposes than they are for functional use, and that is also welcomed because, well who doesn’t want their device to be beautiful?
While this app isn’t something that will drastically change your Android experience, it is something that can help add a nice little touch. If you find yourself having difficulties using folder and other options to sort your apps, you’ll definitely want to consider this option. It allows you to put a bunch of apps together on your home screen to take up less space and make them easier to find and access. How you choose organize and use this app is completely up to you, but I have found that the interface and the way your app pop up in a little ring is a very efficient way to handle your access to key apps from your home screen. There are also a nice amount of customizations available for this app, especially concerning visuals that can help you match the widget to the rest of theme and style of your device.
This is one of the most highly functional and useful widgets that I have found to date. It mainly serves as a great way to manage your phone all from one place. You can turn on/off things like your GPS, WiFi, and sync as well as control things like your screen brightness or volume levels. This thing can really do it all, you can even create widgets that have shortcuts to your contacts in addition to customizing the look to match your phone or suite your needs. To add to its usefulness, you can even put the widget into your notification bar for quick access to change your settings on the fly.
Another feature that many Android users complain about but have absolutely no idea that they can take some control over is the ability to download and use different keyboards. This is actually a really underrated feature for android as the keyboard is the main way that we interact back with our apps. Android’s ability to use different keyboards allows for specific functions and enhanced features to be brought in as well as just some really nice looking keyboards that can improve upon the aesthetics of your device. Here are some keyboards worth checking out:
This keyboard was released a while back, but its features remain strong. It is a very simple and dark skinned keyboard that offers pretty good text correction, much better than the older stock keyboards. Use this if you are looking for something dark skinned, simple, and light.
I haven’t actually had a chance to test this app, but from the description and the reviews it seems that this is a high contender for Android replacement keyboard options. It seems very iPhonesque in appearance, but the integration with GoLauncher and its themes seems to be the major selling point of this option. If you have had a chance to try it out, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
The part of your device that is used to do what a phone was originally meant to do, make phone calls, is also customizable on Android. You can replace your phone’s dialer with a new interface that better suits your needs. Many of these dialers not only offer a different take on the interface design, but they also often offer enhanced functionality to more easily make phone calls and reach your contacts. Here are some of these dialers that are worth mentioning:
This Dialer thrives on simplicity and speed. The interface is very sleek and minimal with good contrast, it has a style that is similar to the Twicca Twitter client. If you are looking for something simple and dark to math your phone, this is it.
This App is much more than a dialer, it also offers text messaging and contact management all inside one elegant app. You have quick access to your contacts via T9 style search, as well as the ability to quickly view and sort your recent calls. When you minimize the dial pad via the down button on the top left of the dialing bar you gain access to quickly sort your calls based on missed, incoming, outgoing, or recency of the call. The widget that is included is also very elegant and allows you quick access to the different areas of the app directly from the home screen, it even includes some notification bubbles if your phone software allows it.
You are also not trapper with Android’s stock messaging app. Although it does what it needs to do, the default app leaves a lot to be desired. Using a replacement app can change your entire experience of using text messaging on your phone. Here are a few of these apps that are definitely worth looking into:
Chomp was my original choice for my texting app on Android. It offers a nice interface that allows the use customize with different colors, images, and themes. This app remains one of the most customizable options on the market. Aside from that nice feature, the other place that this app shines is that it allows a popup option for your text messages, allowing you to see and respond to text messages without leaving whatever other app you may be using at the time. You also get the option to turn this feature off as well, so you are not stuck with it if you decide it is annoying.
We already briefly went over some of the features of this app in the Dialers section, however this app does pack in a little extra punch. The texting on this app is great not only because of the beautiful interface, but the app is also great because it gets integrated more deeply with your contacts and phone calls. When you are going through your contacts you can long press to pull up texting or calling options for the contact, and then your choice will open up inside of this app making it a slightly speedier solution than the other options. Like ChompSMS, this app also allows for a popup messaging option if you so choose. Another nice feature of this app is the ability to swipe across your screen to access the different sections of the app. Overall, it is very elegant, offers good customization options, and it is pretty speedy to use.