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How to get the Stock Android look on any smartphone

A guide to getting the Stock Android experience on your phone.

Stock Android has always been considered as the ideal state by the purists. Custom UIs on smartphones come loaded with features but their utility is questionable. The bloatware typically slows down the phone and consumes more battery life. The vanilla approach adopted by Google in their Pixel devices, and previously Nexus lineup, have been a highly sought-after commodity in the smartphone market. The redesigned layout of the Pixel 2’s home screen, as well as the ‘At A Glance’ calendar widget, adds functionality and elegance to the phone which is desired by a significant amount of users. The Google phones are no longer what we can call ‘pocket-friendly’. Many have resorted to rooting their device and obtaining their desired look, however, this is not an option everyone is willing to try. Users desiring the highly coveted ‘Stock Android’ experience can get it using just the right combination of third party applications, as well as changing the settings on their devices. Here is how it can be done.

Installing the right launcher

The Pixel Launcher will be able to provide you with the closest Stock Android look and feel, essentially google- ify your phone’s core aesthetic. You are going to have to sideload the Pixel Launcher on your phone as it is exclusive to Pixel devices only on the Play Store.

The Method: First, you are going to have to allow the phone to download apks from unknown sources since it is not available on the Play Store for non-Pixel devices. Go to Settings, select Security and then turn on ‘Unknown Sources’. Download the Pixel Launcher’s APK from apkmirror. Install the apk onto your phone. Lastly, hit the home button on your device after the installation is complete. This will make the Pixel Launcher your new default launcher.
Tip: If you are against sideloading apps/ downloading apks from unknown sources, you can use Nova Launcher and customize it to Google settings or the Google Home Launcher.

Get the Google Dialer look-alike

The dialer is one of the most frequently used apps on a smartphone. Google does not provide its stock dialer app on the Play Store so we will need to resort to a third-party look-alike which comes very close to the original: exDialer.

The Method: Head over to the Play Store, find and install exDialer. Once it has installed, go to ‘Settings’ on your phone and find ‘Apps’. Go to default apps and set exDialer as your default dialer/calling app.

Take it one step ahead and disable your stock contacts/calling app on your smartphone by finding it in ‘Apps’ in your phone Settings and clicking on ‘Disable’ once you’re there.

Change your messaging app

Android Messages has proven to be one of the most popular, easy-to-use messaging apps across all platforms. It also sports a handy function where you can swipe the messages you deem unimportant away, only to have them return when the person texts again.

The Method: Head to the Play Store and download the ‘Android Messages’ app. Avoid confusing it with duplicates by looking for Google Inc. as the developer. Install the app. You can now ‘Disable’ your stock messaging app and get rid of the extra clutter in your app drawer. Setting Android Messages as your default messaging app is a fairly simple procedure. Just follow the prompts on Android Messages, post-installation, as it will set itself as the default messaging application. All you need to do is click ‘Ok’. Ridiculously simple, right?

Swap your keyboard

How about setting up a Stock Android Keyboard to compliment your new messaging app?

The Method: Go to the Play Store and install GBoard. Once the installation is complete, just open the app and follow the setup procedure which will lend itself to making GBoard your default keyboard. It’s as easy as that!

Change your browser

Chrome is one of the most widely used Internet browsers all over the world since it is so closely integrated to your Google account. It is also vastly acclaimed because of its simple, yet efficient interface. Most smartphones have Chrome pre-installed. If your device is not one of these, go ahead and download Google Chrome from the Play Store.

The Method: Download and install Google Chrome. Go over to your phone Settings and head to Apps. In the default apps section, set Chrome as your default browser and disable the stock internet browser on your phone to get rid of the unsightly clutter.

Replace your Calendar

The Google Calendar app is easily available on the Play Store and also comes pre-installed on some smartphones from other manufacturers. This one is a slightly lengthy process, but it’s another important step towards achieving your desired look.

The Method: Download and install the app from the Play Store. Set it up completely, then head over to your phone Settings and find Apps. Locate your phone’s native calendar, click on it and then select ‘Clear defaults’. This will remove your stock calendar as the default app. Ensure that the next time you need to input an event you select Google Calendar from the list of apps. This will set up Google Calendar as your default calendar app for future actions as well.

Tip: Double notifications is going to be a problem at this point. To tackle this, click on ‘More Options’ in the same window and ‘Turn Off Notifications’. Double notifications from both calendar apps will no longer be a problem after this little step.

Get the Pixel Live Wallpapers and the Icon Pack (Optional)

One of the recent additions to the Stock Android experience on the Pixel phones has been the ‘Living Universe Wallpapers’. Since, we are aiming for the most recent, near Stock Android look and feel, the live wallpapers are an absolute must-have. These animated wallpapers, although not conventionally Stock Android, replicate the Pixel’s modern look as they depict exotic locations and outer space. They add a much-needed vibrancy to any smartphone.

The Method: Head to the Play Store (one last time) and download the Google Wallpapers app. The app already comes equipped with a large variety of wallpapers, however, the ones we are looking for were absent. Fortunately, the good folks over at XDA developers have the entire collection of the Pixel Live Wallpapers ready for installation. Search for the Pixel Wallpapers 2017 apk link. Download and install it on your smartphone. Now, the Wallpapers app has been updated with these new Pixel wallpapers. Find them under the ‘Live’ category and set them to both home screen as well as lock screen to achieve the complete Pixel experience.

Tip: For this step, you will need to allow Unknown Sources to download apks as we did for the Pixel Launcher.

The icon pack we’ve found to resemble the Pixel icons the most is the Pixel Icon Pack 2 by Saurabh Gupta. Additional perk: it is available for free on the Play Store, while most other authentic-looking icon packs are paid. Unfortunately, this particular icon pack works only with the Nova Launcher, and not with the Pixel Launcher.

Well, there you have it! A makeshift Stock Android experience on any smartphone from other manufacturers without having to root. Your phone should be pretty darn close to the Google devices at this point, in terms of looks. Don’t let the lengthy process deter you from achieving a near-perfect Stock Android look. It is, certainly, worth it.

Dhriti Datta

Dhriti Datta

Reader, thinker, writer. Dhriti spends most of her time engrossed in technology reviews and gaming walkthroughs. When not at her post-graduation college studying journalism, she can be found eating, singing out loud and whining incessantly about the smallest things.