You’ll be able to stay a wonderfully pleasant cell existence utilizing an Android cellphone with out tweaking a single setting. However the place’s the enjoyable in that? Particularly when a handful of downloads and some minutes of tinkering can flip, say, your Galaxy S8 from a TouchWiz minefield right into a digital zen backyard.

This has at all times been true. And when you’re an Android energy person, when you’ve put in a customized ROM (and even know what meaning), this information shouldn’t be for you. However there are two billion lively month-to-month Android gadgets on the planet now. Plenty of these gadgets are smartphones. One in every of them is likely to be yours. And if there’s something about that Pixel or Moto or Galaxy or LG that bothers you even somewhat—the keyboard, the gestures, the app icons—know you can make it higher. Here is how.

Prepared For Launch

Let’s begin huge with the piece of software program referred to as the launcher, which dictates not simply how your smartphone seems to be, however the way you work together with it. Your cellphone got here with a launcher, though you probably simply consider it as “the way in which my cellphone works.”

A variety of the time, your out-of-the-box expertise works simply effective, particularly if it hews near the inventory Android you may discover in a Pixel or Nexus cellphone. However typically producers marry terrific with clunky software program, or embody gildings that really feel extra like bloat. Typically you need extra tinkering decisions; typically you need fewer. Typically you simply need to attempt one thing new. For all of these occasions, you may merely set up a launcher.

An excessive instance would possibly assist contextualize this somewhat higher. One Launcher transforms your Android cellphone into one thing that very a lot resembles iOS. A gimmick? Positive! However on the very least it provides you a small style of how the opposite UI lives.

Even Microsoft, regardless of largely tapping out of its personal cell working system aspirations, supplied a darn good Android launcher referred to as Arrow for 2 years; it freshens up your wallpaper each morning, and guarantees fast entry to your most continuously used apps and contacts. It not too long ago overhauled that into Microsoft Launcher, now in beta, which amongst different options allows you to decide up the place you left off in your PC. It is just like the macOS Handoff function, besides between a Home windows pc and an Android gadget. Neat!

And so forth. The primary knock in opposition to launchers is that they will sluggish your system down. It is determined by how heavy a coat it places on, however typically you both will not discover or, when you decide the suitable one, will not thoughts the trade-off.

However which one is greatest? Apologies for the copout, nevertheless it actually is determined by what you are in search of. And when you do not even know that, go forward and obtain Nova Launcher, which leads virtually each “greatest launcher” roundup you may discover. Nova’s a pleasant chameleon, providing you with as many customization choices as you possibly can ever probably need. Simply filter out somewhat time in your calendar earlier than you begin; from gestures to themes to subgrids to notifications, you have acquired a whole lot of potential decisions to make.

Personally, I had used the Google Now launcher to attempt to get as near inventory Android as I may on my Galaxy S7. However when Google pulled help earlier this yr—and because it solely makes its Pixel Launcher out there to Pixel gadgets—I hopped over to Action Launcher, which prides itself on conserving tempo with Pixel and Android Oreo options—even when you’re nonetheless on Android Jellybean—with some additional customization inbuilt and an emphasis on shortcuts for fast outcomes. You already know, motion. Living proof? When Google relocated the search bar to the underside of the show on the Pixel, Motion alerted me that it supplied that possibility inside a number of days.

That works for me! It may not for you. The excellent news is, most Android launchers come free, so you may experiment till you discover one which fits you. Additionally, Google gives an Android “taste test” that recommends numerous set-ups you would possibly like.

To the Window, To the Wallpapers

It has been so lengthy since I’ve appeared on the inventory Android wallpaper, I do not even bear in mind what it seems to be like. I am certain it is … effective? However you are able to do higher! And it takes no time in any respect.

All you should do to rotate in a brand new show background is faucet and maintain a clean spot in your homescreen. From there, a backside row of choices will seem: Wallpapers, Widgets, and Settings. Faucet on Wallpapers, and from there you may have the choice to sift by way of My photographs, or select out of your apps that present “stay wallpapers,” animated backgrounds that brighten up your display time. (MLB At Bat, for example, gives team-based wallpapers, whereas Shadow Galaxy places your apps in entrance of a swirling nebula.) Watch out with stay wallpapers, although; they are often hell in your battery.

Actually, watch out with wallpapers typically. There are numerous apps to select from, however not all of them are fully respected. In some circumstances, builders have even used wallpaper apps to sneak malware previous Google Play’s defenses. That is to not scare you off of wallpapers altogether; simply attempt to follow respected distributors as greatest you may. Sadly, you largely need to go by downloads and opinions, which clearly aren’t foolproof.

On the very least, Google gives a separate Wallpapers app with a various array of photographs from Google Earth and past, and provides you the choice of waking up every day with a freshly picture. If that is not usually sufficient, Wallpapers HD can cough up a brand new high-resolution wallpaper each hour, from a group of over 80,000 photographs, tailor-made particularly to your display dimension.

Icon Imagine It

The look of your Android smartphone goes manner past your wallpaper, and even your launcher. Actually, except you are some type of home-screen swiping maximalist, app icons cowl the majority of your show. Why are inclined to the opposite aspects of your Android aesthetic however go away that actual property as much as every app developer’s whims?

Icon packs serve a twin function in that respect. First, they prettify ugly or boring commonplace app icons. Perhaps extra importantly, although, they offer your house display a unified look. I exploit Rugos Premium, which provides my apps a type of retro rumpled paper look. Why not! There’s additionally the Cornie Oldie pack, which can be classic however flattened out and with much less muted colours. There’s the Revolution icon pack, for the minimalist in your life. Lines simply straight-up makes use of a bunch of white-lined silhouettes. And on and on. You will not need to look lengthy to search out one that matches your temper.

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There are a number of necessary issues to notice earlier than you enterprise into icon customization. First, not each pack has an icon for each app. When you’ve got much less well-liked downloads put in and on your house display, you could be caught utilizing the default icon. It is somewhat jarring. You’ll be able to at all times both simply conceal these outliers within the app drawer, or gather them on their very own display in order that they at the least have frequent firm. Higher nonetheless, some icon packs slap an icon masks on prime of each single app, no matter if it particularly designed a substitute, giving all the things at the least a considerably related vibe.

Alongside those self same strains, after you obtain your icon pack of alternative, you may want to put in it by way of your launcher, which might not be totally appropriate. Brace your self for some funky outcomes when you go for much less totally developed variations of both. Which brings us to the final level: A variety of builders within the icon/wallpaper world are part-timers and hobbyists. Chances are you’ll not get the extent of match and polish you’d count on from, say, a Netflix or a Robinhood. And the identical safety cautions talked about for wallpapers apply right here as nicely.

Keyboard

Here is the deal. Selecting the perfect launcher, wallpaper supervisor, and icon pack comes down to non-public choice. There isn’t any actual proper reply for any of them. Experiment! Stay somewhat!

Cease utilizing no matter keyboard your Android cellphone got here with and set up Gboard as an alternative.

This doesn’t apply to keyboards. As a substitute, cease utilizing no matter keyboard your Android cellphone got here with and set up Gboard as an alternative. It is all the things you’re keen on in regards to the inventory Android keyboard, with a Google search constructed proper in. And extra! It has wizardry, like translating your textual content in actual time earlier than you ship it. It has pleasant absurdities, like with the ability to seek for the suitable emoji by drawing it in your display. You’ll be able to seek for and ship GIFs (ideally response GIFs that categorical your shock once you discover out all of the issues that Gboard can do).

The best way to personalize your keyboard is to put in Gboard as an alternative, full cease. To take action, obtain it, go to Settings, then Language and Enter, then Present keyboard, and choose Gboard as your new each day driver.

Let’s shut with a enjoyable truth: Google released Gboard on iOS earlier than Android. It is the perfect keyboard over there, too. Inform your mates!

Texting

The inventory Android messaging app, Android Messages, is completely effective. It is effective! You ship messages, get messages, toss in an emoji or two alongside the way in which. You already know, fundamental stuff.

However when you’re in search of one thing extra in your each day chats, you have acquired a shocking variety of choices, any of which is able to enhance on what your smartphone got here with.

We’ll begin with the home favourite, Signal, a comparatively stripped down messaging app save for one essential function: rock-solid encryption. As a result of Sign makes use of an open supply cryptographic protocol, you may relaxation assured that it is as safe because it claims, one thing a shocking variety of encrypted chat apps cannot boast.

Sign’s safety bona fides are so good, in reality, that each WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger use the underlying protocol as nicely (by default and once you specify “secret dialog,” respectively). These are additionally completely legitimate messaging replacements, relying on what number of of your mates are on these platforms and the way a lot you worth stickers.

For those who do go the Fb Messenger route, I would additionally strongly encourage you to go along with Messenger Lite as an alternative. It is Messenger without all the battery and soul-killing games and such, which is to say, it is what Messenger ought to have been all alongside.

One final possibility value critical consideration: Textra SMS, the ability person’s go-to Android messaging app. Whereas some would possibly discover its customization ranges overwhelming, it’s going to be genuinely life-changing when you’ve ever needed to color-code your texting expertise with 180 choosable hues, or a variety of 21 textual content sizes. You’ll be able to even customise your emoji within the model of Android, iOS, or Twitter, to ensure you’re talking the identical language as your chat recipient. There’s sufficient extra that even pondering of it tires me out. Suffice to say that Textra’s extra granular than a Morton Salt warehouse.

Take It To the Widget

I do not need to spend an excessive amount of time on widgets, each since you in all probability already use them, and since you have a tendency to wish them lower than ever lately because of the Google app and protracted notifications and such. A fundamental rule of thumb: If you end up opening the identical two or three apps a number of occasions a day, in search of quick-hit information, go forward and use a widget to avoid wasting your self a while.

For most individuals, that is going to imply climate, sports activities scores, and calendars. To put in them, simply maintain down on your house display once more, faucet Widgets, scroll till you see one that appears helpful, and discover a chunk of actual property in your show.

For those who’re in search of one thing somewhat extra concerned, some Android apps allow you to construct your individual customized widgets. Need the time, climate, and battery life however not messages or calendar? Positive! Need battery life and calendar however not anything? Why not! UCCW is the standard-bearer right here. It allows you to both construct your individual from scratch, or use a individually downloaded pores and skin to offer you simply the suitable look with out fairly as a lot trouble. A extra user-friendly spin on the identical concept is HD Widgets, which helps you to swipe and faucet your technique to your most popular set-up.

Lock It Up

If you decide up your smartphone, your lock display usually greets you first. What’s on yours proper now? Notifications? Some inventory wallpaper abstraction? The time and date? You are able to do higher! You ought to do higher.

You’ll be able to resolve for your self the extent to which you need to spice your lock display up, however you owe it to your self to offer it somewhat extra verve than it is acquired proper now.

First, some fundamental housekeeping. You have already acquired a PIN or a sample defending your gadget (a PIN is safer, for no matter it is value). You’ll be able to fine-tune your privateness somewhat additional, although. Go to Settings, faucet Lock display and safety, and head to Notifications on lock display (these might need barely totally different names relying in your particular gadget and Android model, nevertheless it’ll be fairly clear the place to go). From there, you may resolve which apps are allowed to bug you—we recommend “none” if possible—and the way a lot content material they’re allowed to point out. Virtually talking, it provides you the choice to cover what’s in your texts out of your lock display, typically a great name when you stay with or adjoining to snoopers.

However why cease there? Have somewhat enjoyable! (Observe: “Enjoyable” right here is extraordinarily relative).

You are not going to get a ton of recent performance out of a lock display app; you are largely going for the look right here. Additionally, know that they are disproportionately buggy. Ensure that to test not only for rankings and opinions, however the date of the newest replace, and keep away from apps that appear like their builders have abandoned them.

All that stated, there are a number of potential upgrades on the market. Go Locker gives a bunch of themes to select from (together with, sure, an iOS look), as nicely some helpful shortcuts. Microsoft has a strong entry right here as nicely; its Next Lock Screen exhibits your notifications, calendar appointments, and notifications, and messages, however you may as well configure it to specify what you need to see, say, at house versus at work.

Full disclosure: I simply follow the inventory lock display, as a result of I would quite simply use the fingerprint scanner to skip it and get to the great things. However hey, it is nonetheless good to have choices.

Tasker

If in any case of this you are still not glad along with your Android gadget’s appear and feel, I’ve two items of recommendation. First: Hold fiddling! The precise mixture is on the market. Second: Get Tasker.

Tasker’s about as venerable an app as you may discover in Google Play, and whereas it’s going to value you a couple of dollars, it is value it for the intense stage of management it provides you over how your smartphone behaves.

It does manner, manner, manner an excessive amount of to cowl in an outline information like this. However at its coronary heart, Tasker allows you to inform your gadget to do sure issues below sure circumstances. As an illustration: Do you want auto-rotation typically, however have that one app you would like would keep in portrait mode? Tasker could make that occur. Need to open Chrome straight into incognito mode, you sly canine? Tasker’s acquired your again. Need to launch your favourite music app robotically when you plug in your headphones? Not an issue.

Effectively, possibly tiny drawback. Tasker’s interface has gotten extra user-friendly over time, however navigating all of its corridors stays, for lack of a greater phrase, bonkers. There are some strong in-depth guides on the market that may at the least get you began. And upon getting the fundamentals, nicely, a part of the enjoyable is the enjoyment of discovery.

And there you go! An Android smartphone that appears and acts simply the way in which you need it to. Or at the least, shut sufficient for now.

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