The first app I downloaded for my first Android was a live wallpaper. Despite its battery-sucking ways, I was thrilled to add so much customization to my new phone. It’s one of the perks Android users still have over iPhone users. Four years later, there’s even more variety for customizing the Android experience, from launchers to widgets. Here are my top five of 2012.
Nova Launcher Prime ($4.00)
Updated for Android 4.0 Jelly Bean, Nova Launcher Prime is a customizable home screen replacement with plenty of features. You can create color themes, add more than the stock five apps to your dock (with Nova they’re scrollable), add icons to your app folders and effects to your desktop scrolling. Your App Drawer can be customized as well, and even resize and overlap widgets on your home screen. With this premium version you get unlimited custom tabs, more app organization, dock swipes and more scroll effects, to name a few extra features. Nova Launcher will back up your widgets in case something happens to your phone, and supports themes from other launcher services like GO.
Apex Launcher Pro ($3.99)
One of the best launchers for previous Android versions, Apex doesn’t disappoint with their home screen replacement for Android 4.0+. Apex supports up to nine homescreens, with a scrollable dock that fits seven icons per page (for five pages, versus Nova’s three pages). Other custom features include transition effects, changeable icons and labels, personalized folder preview styles and backgrounds, and a number of drawer app features and styles. With the Pro version you’re able to use two-finger gestures, add more transition effects and configurable drawer tabs and overlap widgets. Many of Apex’s premium features, including support for other launcher themes, are included in Nova’s free version.
GO Launcher EX (Free)
From the most popular series of custom Android launchers, GO Launcher EX replaces your Android home screen with thousands of options. You can choose from a number of themes, add custom gestures and several widgets for weather, your calendar, and more. The app has animation and effect capabilities you can add to your screen, useful management features for sorting, hiding, searching and cleaning apps, and icon resizing. GO Launcher EX developed a bunch of launcher tools, so there’s always some new widget or theme to purchase from their store or from Google Play.
Data counter pro ($2.25)
Smartphones use up a lot of data, which becomes rather costly. To keep yourself from exceeding your monthly data limits, the Data Counter widget keeps an eye on your network traffic on your Android device. It’s a simple little widget you can add to your home screen, and it displays how much cellular and Wi-Fi data you’ve eaten up weekly, monthly, or from a custom date. The widget is minimally customizable for background and font colors. If you upgrade to the pro version, you’ll also get a widget that displays your monthly data quota. Open the widget to see your monthly, weekly and daily statistics for incoming and outgoing data for a comprehensive view on your mobile activity.
Make Your Clock Widget Pro ($2.49)
Widgets don’t get more customizable than this. With the Make Your Clock Widget app you can use quite a bit of imagination to create something truly personal for your Android. There are dozens of layouts available for your custom clock, with minimalistic designs to more elaborate options. And while the name suggests this widget is just to keep tabs on time, you can also include weather information as well as battery and memory data to your custom widgets. Nearly every widget size is supported, and you can tweak text size and color, transparency, background and font size. There are more designs available for download and the pro version includes more data display options for battery life and weather.