Android Customization Toolkit: the apps you need
As we begin to push out some new content to help you customize your Android phone’s look, such as our first official app, we want you to know the basics and have the tools to put together our future suggestions. Let’s check out the Getting Things Tech Android Customization Toolkit.
First up are custom launchers. A launcher is an app that gives you your home screen. If you’ve never used a custom launcher, such as if you are coming from iOS, you may have never thought about the launcher being anything but part of the operating system. Every operating system comes with a built-in launcher and the majority of users are never the wiser that even the home screens can be usurped by a third-party app.
Why use a custom launcher? Well, because you can almost always do more with a custom launcher. For our purposes, we are focused on the customization. For instance, many third-party launchers allow you to fit more apps on your screen, resize widgets that weren’t made to be resized, and even change the graphics used for the icons.
While we are less concerned with these, some third-party launchers serve other purposes. Take the EverythingMe Launcher, which is less about theming and customization and more about intelligently predicting what you need based on what you’re doing and what time of day it is:
Our recommendation for a custom launcher is Nova Launcher. It’s brilliantly programmed for speed, minimal battery drain, and is the most customizable launcher. Even if you don’t wish to customize for theming purposes, Nova offers you a very much “vanilla Android” interface, now even with an always-listening “Okay, Google” feature if you want it.
One of the coolest things you can do to make your Android device look unique is change the icons of your apps to something different than what the developer intended. This is something you can’t do with your stock launcher, but almost all icon pack designers make sure that their icons are compatible with Nova Launcher. Let’s take a look at how this looks:
What you’re seeing is Circlons Icon Pack, which is one of literally thousands of icon packs available in the Google Play Store. There is truly something for everyone out there in this regard and, as you can see, many come with matching backgrounds and widgets. Getting Things Tech will be bringing you suggested themes with icon packs, backgrounds, and widgets very soon.
Remember, Circlons is just one example of many. To apply an icon pack, download it through the Play Store and then go to the “Look and Feel” section of Nova Launcher’s settings and tap on the icon menu.
Most widgets are associated with an app. What if you want a widget that is really just making the functions of another app more beautiful? Well, you need a middle-man. One of the main players in this category is Zooper Widget Pro. While it comes with some built-in widget “skins,” the Pro version really comes in handy for using the skins made by third parties. A skin is what Zooper calls a single widget design.
For an example you’ll be familiar with, look at the widget in the middle of the screenshot above for the Circlons Icon Pack. The widget in the middle uses Zooper Widget Pro. It’s not uncommon for an icon pack creator to also make matching widget skins through Zooper Widget Pro, like Circlons offers.
There is some learning curve involved in apps like Zooper, but if you’re just using custom skins it shouldn’t be too difficult. Our own app is built through Zooper, so you’ll need it if you want our app.
The lazy/do-it-all-at-once option
The good folks at MyColorScreen, who also brought us Zooper, made an app appropriately named Themer. What sets Themer apart is that it places very highly customized skins over the top of Android that leave no doubt that you’ve gone all in with your Android customization efforts.
It replaces your launcher and contains a built-in theme search engine to let you easily swap out pre-designed themes. There is limited customization of the individual themes, but it is not difficult to switch at the slightest whim. I should warn you that they sometimes don’t work as well as they look; for instance, I usually have trouble getting unread SMS or missed calls to display correctly on themes that try to display that info.
Keep up with everything on our Playboard Channel
We are using the app discovery service Playboard for a few different things nowadays. You may have noticed the pretty graphics that link you to more information about the apps mentioned in this article. Those come courtesy of Playboard.
Likewise, Playboard allows anyone to create custom “channels,” which are curated groups of apps for certain purposes. To keep our recommended Android customization apps in one place for you to find easily, we have created a channel for that! Check out the fancy graphic below for more on that. We’ll be updating as our opinion of the best apps change and as we suggest Android themes for you to check out.
Featured image by Lucas Zallio (Flickr).
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