9 Ways to Customize Your Android Device

How to customize your Android lock screen, wallpaper, apps, and more

Overhead view of pattern preparation to make blue suit jacket

Sofie Delauw/Getty Images 

There are many ways to make an Android smartphone or tablet your own, from transferring contacts and apps to installing widgets to downloading fun wallpaper. Once you dig in, you'll be surprised at the many ways that you can customize your Android device, even without rooting it. After you transfer your data and wiped the old phone, sell your old device or donate or repurpose it. Here are nine ways to make your Android device all about you. 

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

01
of 09

Transfer Your Contacts, Apps, and Other Data

Woman using smart phone in subway

Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Before you activate your new Android, take advantage of the Tap and Go feature that transfers data from one device to another using NFC. If you have your old phone on hand, this is a painless way to go. There are other apps you can use to back up data on one device and transfer that data to another device. The Google Pixel line of phones come with a cable for fast and easy transfer; the setup process guides you through it.

If you're coming from iOS, you can transfer most of your data to an Android.

  1. Download the Google Drive app on your iPhone.
  2. Launch the app and sign in.
  3. Go to Menu > Settings > Backup.
  4. Tap Start Backup to choose what to back up or back up everything.
  5. Sign into your Android device using the same Google account.

Turn off iMessage on your iPhone to avoid issues with text messages getting to your new Android. Tap Settings Messages, then turn off the iMessage toggle switch.

02
of 09

Replace Your Home Screen with a Launcher

Nova Launcher on Android

You don't have to use the home screen and app manager that comes with your phone. Without rooting, you can download and install a third-party Android launcher that cleans up the interface and customizes your home screens beyond app shortcuts. Additional features include resizing icons, setting up personalized gesture controls, and changing the color scheme. 

03
of 09

Install a Better Keyboard

SwiftKey Keyboard on Android

Smartphones running stock Android (or close to stock) default to GBoard, Google's well-regarded keyboard. Devices that run a custom version of Android may default to the manufacturer's keyboard, such as Samsung. 

If you're not happy with your built-in keyboard, try another one. There are many third-party keyboards available on Google Play, including the top-rated Swype and Swiftkey, as well as GIF keyboards and other specialty apps.

Whether you keep the stock keyboard or install a new one, customize the autocorrect settings to match your lingo to avoid awkward interactions and general frustration.

04
of 09

Add Widgets to Your Home Screens

Android widgets

A favorite Android feature is the large selection of widgets that can be added to the home screen. The options are endless: weather, time and date, calendar, sports scores, music controls, alarms, note-takers, fitness trackers, social media, and more. Plus, many widgets come in multiple sizes so you can make the most of your screen real estate. 

05
of 09

Download Wallpaper

Set a custom wallpaper on Android

Most of the wallpaper options on smartphones and tablets are boring, not to mention that thousands are walking around with the same designs. Have a little fun. Spice up your screen with your favorite photos, or download a wallpaper app, and find something that fits your preferences. You can even cycle through your favorites, so you're not stuck with just one background. There are also apps you can use to design wallpapers with your favorite colors and patterns. Best of all, most of these apps are free or inexpensive.

06
of 09

Set Up Default Apps

Set Default Apps on Android

Ever clicked a link in an email and your smartphone launched an app instead of a browser? Or tried to view a Tweet only to have it open the browser instead of the Twitter app? Set up default apps and clear any defaults that you set and no longer work for you. It's straightforward to do if you're running Lollipop 5.0 or later or have a stock Android device

07
of 09

Customize Your Lock Screen

Customize Android lock screen

Like everything else in Android, you don't have to stick with the out-of-the-box lock screen on your Android device. In addition to choosing the unlock method, you can also show notifications and designate how much information you want to display to protect your privacy. Use third-party apps to add widgets to the lock screen and add to the variety of unlock options. If you set up Google Find My Device (previously Android Device Manager), add a message and a button that calls a specified number when someone finds your lost phone.

08
of 09

Root Your Device

Android root apps

Rooting an Android smartphone opens up a host of options. When you root the device, you gain access the latest Android features first, and can update your OS whenever you want; not when your carrier and manufacturer provide the update. That also means that you can use stock Android, without any skins the manufacturer might build in, or annoying bloatware. Rooting can be intimidating, but if you follow the instructions carefully, the good definitely outweighs any drawbacks

09
of 09

Flash a Custom ROM

Flashing LineageOS on Android

When you root an Android smartphone, you can opt to install (also known as flash) a custom ROM, though it's not required. Custom ROMs are modified versions of Android. The most popular ROMs are LineageOS (formerly CyanogenMod) and Paranoid Android. Both offer added features beyond stock Android such as custom button configuration and the ability to hide screen elements. Each tends to offer bug fixes at a faster rate than Google, and sometimes the best features show up in official versions of Android.