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Customization is what Android fans swear by and there is no doubt that the OS offers unrivaled customization options compared to the competition. However, a lot of Android users are left wondering what the fuss is all about and how they can truly transform their phone or tablet’s appearance. The answer to that question lies in a lot of other questions, most of which we will try to answer in this guide.
We will continue to work on this guide and keep updating it as necessary. Hopefully, once you are done with this, you will understand Android customization and be able to give your device a nice makeover!
What are the main elements behind Android customization?
Let’s begin with the basics first. What do people mean when they say Android is unmatched in terms of its customization? You’ve probably searched all the options in your settings menu and found nothing that relates to themes – that’s because you will be using a mix of the following elements to give your phone or tablet a new look.
#1. Live Wallpapers
Apart from the usual wallpapers (static images), Android supports live wallpapers, which are basically animations that run in a loop. While most devices come bundled with pre-installed live wallpapers, there are several downloadable ones available on the Play Store. You simply have to install one, choose it from the live wallpaper picker and watch your home screen come alive.
While live wallpapers are quite fascinating, they also need more processing power and typically drain more battery. However, some live wallpapers come with battery saving features like inactivity timeouts and low battery modes. Here’s one cute little example for you!
After live wallpapers, you’re going to need to look at widgets. You can think of them as mini apps which can be placed on your homescreen and give out information displays on the go. Some of the most commonly used widgets on Android are those which show the time, date, calendar and weather updates, but there are widgets for almost all major apps, including social media networks, reminder lists and music players.
You can even find some excellent apps which allow you to create your own custom widgets however you want. We’ve actually listed some of the best Android widgets for you and you can check out our selections by visiting the posts here.
A good launcher can truly take your Android experience to the next level. Don’t be confused though, launchers are basically front-end apps which skin (give a face) the user interface somewhat. Installing a launcher doesn’t change your phone or tablet permanently and only gives you an alternative interface to work with. Some of the best launchers are actually available for free and provide a lot more options than your stock launcher (all devices come with a stock launcher), but if you want to shell out some money you can try launchers like TSF, shown below (but it’s quite expensive at $9.90 on sale).
Some great launchers include Nova and Apex, which are both free, fast and easily customizable. If you like a launcher you can set it as the default, and you can always go back to your original stock launcher if you wish.
Installing Nova or Apex launcher will give you control over your home screen transitions (animation effects for when you scroll across screens), color highlights for the interface, some level of gesture control (which will be discussed later) and most importantly, the ability to apply themes and change icons.
Check out some of the Best free Android Launchers you can download now.
#4. Themes & Icon Packs
Themes on Android don’t work like most people think they would. While you will need to download them off the Play Store, they don’t simply take effect after installation. You can think of Android themes as packs with files, including wallpapers, icons, fonts and other graphics – in order to apply these files on to your interface, you need a launcher which supports theming.
Nearly all stock launchers have no theme support, which is why you will need to install 3rd party launchers, like the ones linked to above. If you have Nova launcher for instance, it’s a simple matter of installing a theme or icon pack and applying it from within the launcher.
If you have installed a launcher, you should see our selection of the Best Android Themes for 2015.
Additional Android Customization Tips
The elements above give you control over the visual aspects of your Android phone or tablet’s interface and given the variety of options available on the Play Store, you should be able to play your heart out with different themes, launchers, widgets, live wallpapers and icon packs. However, that’s not all, let’s take a look at two more ways you can customize your Android.
#1. Gesture Control
Gesture controls are actually quite useful, allowing you to perform actions through swiping patterns. For instance, you could instantly close an app with a pinch motion on the screen or bring up the most recent app by simply swiping downwards using three fingers.
Launchers like Nova and Apex have rudimentary gesture control options, but we’ve got a complete post on getting enhanced gesture controls right here.
#2. Keyboard Apps
Yes, you can also change the default keyboard on your Android phone or tablet and use one that has better prediction and some built-in themes of its own. While we’ve got a complete post on the best keyboards available today, you can’t go wrong with SwiftKey, which also has theme support.
While these might seem limited options at first glance, the sheer variety of available apps for the elements listed above make Android customization all the more exciting. You can do pretty much everything with a good combination of these elements; but if you want more, you’ll need to consider custom ROMs which are designed from the ground up to truly change the whole interface and provide features which can’t be accessed on stock Android versions.
If you’ve got any tips of your own, please feel free to share. As mentioned above, we too will continue to update this guide and provide more info to help you customize your Android phone or tablet the way you want to.
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