How to customise your Android smartphone
Customising your Android smartphone's look and feel will allow you to add your own personal style to the homescreens, menus and ringtones.
It's easy to add shortcuts to your most frequently used tasks, change the colour theme of your phone, edit the launcher and completely reconfigure the homescreen. They're little things to make your mobile more you.
One of the biggest changes you can make to your Android device is to replace the entire user interface design (commonly known as the Launcher) with a new one, and refresh the wallpaper, menus and screensaver.
There are lots of Launchers available to download from the Android Market, each one customisable in its own way. To check the quality of a Launcher, have a glance at reviews from other users and screenshots of the Launcher in action before you download it. Tap and press on a screenshot to view it in full screen mode
If you scroll down the page you will find reviews provided by people who have installed the Launcher already. Like all reviews, some of them should be taken with a pinch of salt as poor marks can be given for the most obscure reasons! The average rating will give you an idea of quality, also the number of high star ratings compared to low ones.
Installing your Launcher
Once you have decided on a Launcher to install, download it from the Android Market as you would do with any other app. After the download completes, the Launcher should automatically become available to use!
To switch Launchers:
- Press the Home key on your device and you should be offered a list of the Launchers already installed
- If you simply wish to test the Launcher out, make sure the tickbox marked “Use by default for this action” is unticked. This way you can press the Home key again and select your normal Launcher to return to your original layout
- Once you have made a decision regarding which Launcher you wish to stick with, tick the “use by default” box before making a selection from the list
Should you choose the wrong Launcher as your phone or tablet's default, this can be easily reset by opening your apps list, browsing to Settings>Applications>Manage applications and pressing on the name of your downloaded Launcher.The app's Info page should be displayed, and by scrolling down to the bottom and pressing 'Clear defaults' you can make the Launcher forget your choice to make it your default home-screen replacement.
Launchers can be uninstalled in exactly the same way an app would be, through the Settings menu or by visiting the Launcher's page on the Android Market and pressing 'uninstall'.
Most popular Launchers
A very lightweight and friendly Launcher designed to work well on most devices, old and new. Probably a good Launcher replacement to start with.
This Launcher has a lot more customisation options under the bonnet than you might expect, allowing you to tailor your handset or tablet much more to your liking - hence the £2 charge for the privilege.
This one may be pricey, but has a great selection of 3D widgets, panels and transition styles. If flashy design is what you are looking for, this may be the Launcher that meets your requirements.
For many users, simply changing a few graphics on your device gives a great level of personalisation. The Launchers that come with your phone or tablet are far from flawed and can be customised in their own ways. One of the biggest changes you can make to your current layout is replacing the wallpaper or background image of your phone.
There are two types of wallpaper you can choose to display, a standard image or a live wallpaper. Live wallpapers usually consist of interactive scenes that respond to touch, but there are many more variations of live wallpaper to choose from. Some are time reactive, for example changing the image from a daylight scene to a night time scene as your real life surroundings change. Some aren't interactive at all, and simply rely on an animation to express their 'live' functionality like the Super Mario wallpaper, which plays through randomly generated levels of Super Mario Bros. in the background.
Live wallpapers can be downloaded from the Android Market. Make sure to check which permissions the wallpaper requires before installing - our smartphone app permissions guide can help you with that.
If you have a Live wallpaper or a standard image you want to set as your wallpaper, both can be set up in nearly exactly the same way:
- When you are looking at your homescreen, either long press on the background image or press the 'Menu' button to reach the 'Personalisation Menu'
- Press 'Wallpaper' to continue
- Choose the source of your new wallpaper. Select 'Live wallpaper' if that's your preference, or choose 'Gallery' if you want to use a photo you've taken
If you are using a live wallpaper, you may be prompted to choose some settings on the next page. Altering these can sometimes help to conserve your battery life, so it's always worth exploring what settings are on offer.
If you are using a static image, you may be prompted to crop or resize the photo to fit the visible area of your screen.
Be warned, using a live wallpaper over a static one will put extra strain on your battery life. If your phone or tablet is already running out of juice too quickly, it may be best to stick with a static background.
If the sound of your phone ringing has started to bore you, or you dread waking up in the mornings and being subjected to a shrill, loud alarm, then why not turn your favourite tracks or sounds into ringtones? As always with Android, there is more than one way of setting custom sounds on your handset. The simple way is to find and play a track on your handset. While the tune is playing, press the Menu key, select 'More' and press 'Set as ringtone'. You should then be asked to set it as a phone ringtone (goes off when anyone calls you), a contact ringtone (goes off when a specific contacts calls you) or to trim the ringtone (if you only want to use a small part of the track).
If the sound you want to use isn't on your handset, you may want to follow the slightly more in-depth route for adding new tones listed below:
- Plug your handset in to your computer
- When prompted, select 'Disk Drive' or 'Mass Storage mode' on your phone or tablet
- Browse through your phone's memory card until you find a folder entitled 'Media'. If this folder doesn't exist, right click on an empty area and click 'new' followed by 'folder'. Rename the folder to 'Media'
- Once inside the Media folder, open the Audio folder. If it’s not there, create it as above
- Inside the audio folder, you can create a subfolder for the sound category you want to change: Ringtones, (for sound files you want to use as ringtones) alarms, (for alarm tones) and notifications (for incoming notifications such as SMS alerts and emails).
- When you've followed the steps above, simply copy your music or sample to the relevant folder. You can copy the track to more than one folder, for example if you want to have your alarm match your ringtone
- Disconnect your device from the computer
- For ringtones and notifications, open the 'Settings' menu and press on 'Sound' (or Sound & Display). Press once on either 'Phone Ringtone' or 'Notification Sound' to select your new tone from a list of available sounds.
- For Alarm sounds, press once on your clock widget or open your apps list and press Clock. Select the alarm clock icon to set the time, dates and tone for your next alarm. On the 'set alarm' page, press on Alarm sound to choose from a list of available alarm tones. If you followed the instructions correctly so far, your new tone should appear in this list.