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Tweaks and tricks to give your Android smartphone a complete makeover

Customise your UI with Iconpacks and themes

Be it wallpapers, user-interface, fonts or even app icons, one of the most distinguished feature of Android is the ability to customise or transform your device to any way you want. After all, don’t you get tired of seeing your boring interface with the same clutter of icons on your phone everyday? There are so many ways you can customise your smartphone, and one among them is by installing a custom icon pack.

There are plenty of icon packs in the PlayStore that can completely revamp the way apps look on your smartphone. In addition to the five different icon packs we mentioned in our workshop last November, let’s take a look at another five of the best free icon packs you can download for your Android phone or tablet. Do note that you might need a 3rd party launcher (like Nova, ADW, Go, Action, Evie, etc) to apply the icon pack incase your default launcher does not support icon packs

Lines Icon Pack

Talk about minimalist, Lines Icon Pack has one of the cleanest icons that you will definitely love if you’re someone looking for a flat design. To apply the icons, Open the app after installation > Navigate to ‘Apply’ tab on the menu > Select your launcher.

lines icon

The icon pack has over 2500 handcrafted icons that feature flat outlined shapes of the apps. There is also a pro version of the app available for ₹132.28 where you get about 1200 more icons, 200+ online wallpapers and system widgets for battery, digital/analog clock and weather. However, the free is good enough if you only want to customise those icons. Plus you also get a few wallpapers. Lines Icon Pack is currently compatible with over 20 different launchers and is definitely worth a try.

Outer Space(FREE)

Still can’t get over cartoons? Outer Space is the complete free icon pack that transforms your icons to gleeful cartoons. It is currently compatible with Go launcher, NOVA, ADW and Apex launcher, but during our testing, it seemed to work best with Go launcher. The icon pack does not offer any other settings or options and is one of the simplest icon packs you can get. Download the app, apply it to Go launcher and you’re all set. The only con to this light-sized app is that the number of icons is very limited.

outer space iconpack

Themecraft 8-bit

Brought to you by the same developers that made Lines Icon Pack, Themecraft 8-bit, as the name suggests, is an 8-bit retro gaming themed icon pack that is pure joy to any Minecraft fan and someone who still can’t get over the 80’s retro pixels. Once you’ve downloaded the app, navigate to ‘Apply’ on the app menu and select your launcher.

themecraft

Similar to Lines, this theme also features over 2500 different 8-bit retro themed icons and few wallpapers. Pro version includes extra icons, wallpapers and few widgets. The icon pack is compatible with over 20 different launchers. However, Nova is recommended.

Pixel Icon Pack

If you are craving for that sleek Nougat-style theme of Google’s Pixel phones but still want to hang on to you old Android phone, you can now do that using Pixel Icon Pack and tweaking it with Nova Launcher.

pixel launcher

To get the Pixel look, first download Nova Launcher on your device and set the launcher to the new Nougat-style layout. Now get the Pixel Icon Pack and apply it to Nova launcher. By now your phone should feel vaguely similar to a Pixel. Here’s the detailing part- on your Nova launcher settings under Desktop, change your search bar style to the one like Pixel and Page Indicator to ‘None’, then on the app and widget drawer, set your app grid to 5×5, turn on ‘Swipe to Open’ and set the scroll accent color to Blue. Finally, on your dock background setting, change the color to white and set transparency to 50%. Hola! Your very own Pixel launcher.

Mellow Dark

Mellow Dark icon pack is actually a paid application that is currently available for free. With over 1700 different icons and many alternative app drawers, this icon pack is a good option for those who like dark high contrast hues. The app also includes many interesting wallpapers and is compatible with over a dozen different launchers. However, it seems to work best with Nova launcher and Apex launcher.

mellow dark iconpack

Themes and Theme managers

Unlike the heydays of Windows, Android doesn’t support themes as a separate installable feature. It is tied in with the UI/Custom ROM you are using – and usually, all of them come with their own theme manager as well. Along with that, many of them also have a theme marketplace – where you can browse through hundreds and thousands of free and paid themes. These marketplaces are usually all-in-one customisation solutions as well, offering things like ringtones, wallpapers and more. These themes usually comprise of their own wallpapers and icon sets too.

Best launchers to customise your Android smartphone

One major feature that sets Android apart from other counterparts is its customizability and the huge collection of icon packs, theme managers and launchers available on the Play Store. Every Android phone comes preloaded with a custom UI (or launcher) respective of brands. These default launchers may offer specific functionalities and change the appearance of your device. But if you want more customisation or just want to change the look of your android software entirely, you can do that by downloading a third-party launcher from the store. Apart from the three launchers (Nova Prime, Arrow & Aviate) we covered previously, which you can find at http://dgit.in/ALaunchers, here are five more awesome launchers you can try out for free–

Z launcher

First launched in 2014, the Z launcher from Nokia has a very interesting design. This minimalist launcher features a single home screen that displays six of your most-used apps. Swipe from the right and you get access to all your installed and system apps, swipe from the left and you get a blank window where you can add different widgets. Apart from the super neat design, the one noteworthy feature of this launcher is its gesture control. On the home screen, scribble any letter and it will give you a list of apps and web-search suggestions based on what you write. With simple machine learning, the launcher learns your usages and will offer you better app suggestions the more you use it.

z launcher

Buzz Launcher

A ‘highly customizable launcher’ as they call themselves, Buzz Launcher is actually not one launcher but the access site to a community of super awesome theme makers. Forget about everything, let’s talk about themes– Buzz launcher houses an online site with over 1 million different themes which you can apply to your phone on top of Buzz and the best part of it is, they’re all free!

buzz launcher

In the launcher, you get access to a site called ‘homepack buzz’ where you can literally type in any mood, color, season, a superhero, thing… you want and prepare to be mind blown, well, not really but you do get the themes. There are just too many apps and it might take you some time to find the perfect one that works for you, but once you do, it’s definitely worthwhile.

OF Launcher

The true purpose of this launcher is to be able to do everything OF your phone’s home screen. OF Launcher hasn’t been officially released yet, however, you can still roll in the early access and it is definitely worth a shot. This launcher lets you create unique ‘smart-folders’ and organise your clutter of apps into categories of folders with each one having different wallpapers.

OF launcher

Swipe left from your home screen to access your folders. Swipe left again to manage your folders or create a new one. Tap on a folder and hold it to change the wallpaper, manage or rename. From the home screen, swipe to the right for widgets and other settings, swipe right again to manage your widgets. Swipe down to get access to all your apps.

Evie Launcher

Just launched in 2016, Evie is one of the highest rated launchers in the Play Store right now. It features a very simple and fast to navigate design that is easy to get used to. Similar to launchers like Nova, Action, and ADW, Evie also has support for icon packs so you can change the way your icons look and also the grid to any way you want.

evie launcher

The most prominent feature of Evie launcher is its easy access search bar. On the home screen you have a search bar (swipe down to open) using which you can type in and search any apps, contacts, music or even specific system settings. You also get suggestion for Google search. Activate gestures like two finger swipe for Google Assistant, double tap to lock and home button for search from the Evie Settings.

ap15 Launcher

Are you tired of seeing your icons and colourful theme on your smartphone everyday? If you are someone looking for a completely different look, then you definitely need to check out ap15 Launcher. Talk about minimalism and simplicity, this launcher has no icons, no app drawer, no fancy layouts, just text. Every app on your phone is listed in a complete clutter of text with different font sizes.

ap15

The size of your app grows bigger the more you use that app so it’s easier to spot out your favourite apps from the list. The only customisation you can make is changing the default max/min text sizes, fonts, text colors and transparency. Sometimes, it’s amazing to think what app developers can come up with and ap15 is one truly unique launcher that totally deserves your attention.

Use Xposed framework to tweak your phone completely

Now that you’ve rooted your phone, it’s time to unleash your Android phone’s true potential in terms of customisations. You may have installed icon packs, theme managers and launchers, but now you should start messing with the SystemUI. Getting root access to your phone’s file system authorises you to make changes to every tiny detail you see on your screen. Your phone’s primary UI might add a level of customisation that you can tweak around but they are limited. What Xposed does is it installs a framework that enables further installation of modules and apps to enhance the existing UI. The list of modules populated in this framework is exhaustive, hence we’ll point out the most important ones.

Xposed framework
The Xposed framework unlocks the door to endless customisation

It would be a shame if you install Xposed in your phone and don’t install GravityBox. Not only is it the most downloaded module, but the one which offers the most number of features scaling to a granular level. After arming yourself with this module, you wouldn’t even need theme managers since you can edit every little aspect of your phone right from the status bar to the notification window. You can edit the position of the system icons such as battery level indicator, clock, etc., and even change their colour and transparency. Another popular module is Greenify, that allows you to monitor your background apps and stop them at will. This results in saving a lot of battery. You can play YouTube videos in the background using this interesting module called Awesome Pop-up video.

gravityBox
GravityBox is the ultimate UI management tool

There are literally hundreds of modules under Xposed and it’s a rabbit hole. If you wish to read about its installation process and more about GravityBox and Greenify, make sure you check it out at http://dgit.in/XBoxify.

Customise APKs to skin that droid

So you call yourself an advanced Android user eh? Well, we have something for you. Beginners must have had a great time replacing and playing around with iconpacks and launchers. Intermediate users were able to take advantage of root access and managed to pump up their phone’s capabilities. Advanced users should simply transcend into the next level – take complete control of your UI. Wouldn’t it be great if you could change everything in the OS and rebuild the theme from scratch? This workshop will get the job done.

You will learn how to install the Android SDK and the necessary tools required to pull APKs from your phone, decompile them and tinker around with the UI elements. Use any photo editing tool to create your own icons and push them into the extracted APK. After having all the changes made, you will be recompiling the APK and pushing it back into your phone, replacing the existing elements.

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