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Apps to help customize your Android experience

by Kristen Nicole

One of the greatest things about an Android phone is the ability to personalize the device, inside and out. From live wallpapers to custom home screens, you can pimp out your Android device to make it more aesthetically appealing or better organized. And nearly every aspect of your Android experience can be tweaked according to your needs. Don’t like the default SMS app? Download one of your own. Need a better keyboard? No problem. These apps will give you exactly what you want, making that Android phone of yours even smarter.

LauncherPro (Free)

Launcher Pro is a great way to create the home screen of your dreams. It offers an alternative to the standard scrolling screens that come with most Android phones, with some additional settings for organizing your apps. It comes with seven home screens for widgets, shortcuts, bookmarks and apps, with fast scrolling. You’ll also get numbered notification icons for new messages and missed calls. Best of all, you can make this your default home screen, so it’s always accessible when you whip out your Android phone.

GO SMS Pro (Free)

For chatty Android users, you may want to check out GO SMS Pro. It’s a full-featured replacement app for the default SMS tool that comes with your Android, and it’s well designed too. There’s custom interfaces for night and day use, as well as a handy setting that launches a pop-up for incoming messages. Where GO SMS Pro really shines is its support for batch actions, making message management a breeze. You can also back-up your messages to the SD card, email or Dropbox, restoring them as needed or wiping them all together. It’s also easy to search messages by person, phrase or keyword. The list of perks is pretty long, and the GO Dev Team actually has several pages of apps for customizing your Android, so it’s best to peruse the many options and pick the exact app that addresses your need.

SwiftKey X Keyboard ($3.99)

I much prefer the Swype keyboard that comes with my Android phone over the standard keyboard that’s on my iPad. But even picky Android users have alternatives beyond Swype, including the SwiftKey X Keyboard. It learns as you type, making it easier to write on a touchscreen over time. Additionally, it can be customized for use with Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and even blog posts. For multi-lingual users, you can add up to three languages to use at once (SwiftKey X supports over a dozen). Whether you’re a typing pro or a slow poker, SwiftKey X can make you better. There’s a free version of the app, as well as tablet versions.


Looking for even more launcher apps? Try these.


Root Explorer ($3.99)

Those savvy Android users with root access have the ultimate in Android customization, tapping the very bowels of their smartphone device. With Root Explorer you can access the whole of Android’s file system, including the data folder, to do with your device what you will. The app comes with an SQLite database viewer and a text editor, as well as the ability to create and extract ZIP or TAR/GZIP files and RAR archives. Execute scripts, search, remount and send files via email, Bluetooth or any other mechanism. You can even change the file owner or group, play with the APK binary XML viewer and modify your “open with” capabilities.

Snowfall Live Wallpaper ($0.99)

Live wallpapers were some of the earliest ways to customize your Android device, and remain a major differentiation point between Android and iOS devices. There’s thousands of live wallpapers to choose from, but developer Kittehface has some of the most prominent in the market. Their Snowfall Live Wallpaper is a great one to start out with, given the season. As with most live wallpaper apps, the background will change from day to night according to the actual time of day, and can be personalized for various settings. It’s best to get the full version of most wallpaper apps, so you can set your preferences for colors, speeds and other perks. Other live wallpapers from Kittehface include an aquarium, koi pond, city lights, thunderstorms and blue skies.