Changing the face of Android: how to make a smartphone look different

For the designers out there

If none of these looks have your attention and you’d prefer your phone to look totally different, there are options for that as well. These are things we highly doubt manufacturers will ever try as they’re just not consumer friendly enough, but if you’re game, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Buzz Launcher

Price: Free

Offering more designs than you can shake a stick at, Buzz Launcher is about the unorthodox interfaces we’ve always dreamed gadgets from the future would have.

With Buzz and its Buzz Widget, anyone can be a designer, but the really good ones will get a mention and favourites from people using the Buzz Launcher, with lots of possibilities through this system, currently catering to over 450,000 homescreens. Sheesh!


Price: Free

Like Buzz Launcher, Themer is about designing your phone to look nothing like any other launcher, with small widgets and graphic placements that make the handset look totally out of the blue, with screens that almost look like they animate in and are actually just pulled in from the side.

If you’re curious as to what some of the themes in Themer can be like, it’s worth taking a browse through My Colour Screen, which is a showcase site for people creating themes in and for Themer, sharing these unique creations with the world and letting you redefine your handset to be different from the person sitting next to you on the bus.

Widget Home

Price: Free

Placed squarely in the “less is more” category, Widget Home is one of the more unusual designerly launchers that offers some flexibility on what sort of things exist on your home screen, but uses simple widget blocks to get there. Quite a few options are included, and you can place any widget of your own choosing here, but the sort of options available from this launcher appear to be more typographic than others, which we can see winning friends of design over.

Atom Launcher

Price: Free, but with in-app purchases.

Take one part conventional Google launcher and another part designerly control, and what you’ll have is Atom, a standard Android launcher with a bunch of themes and some widgets that you can really play with.

It too holds the “less is more” message close to its chest, but lets you play with it and fill your home screen with as much as possible if that’s your choice.

Big buttons, little options

Smartphones have more or less killed the dumb phone, or the button phone for those playing along at home, and that’s not good news for people who like big icons, obvious buttons, and the idea that they’re pressing something of substance compared to a tiny icon on an otherwise big screen.

That’s where these launchers come in, making the phone easier to use for people who might have eyesight issues, or prefer seeing something bigger and working with that. This might be your mum, dad, grandparents, or even your kids, making it possible to customise any Android phone so that you don’t need a degree and a half to use it.

Big Launcher

Price: $10

One of the first to try this concept, Big Launcher provides everything a user needs for a phone, and some extras thrown in.

There’s the time, battery life, and reception at the top, and then big icons for calls, messaging, camera, picture gallery, sending out an SOS alert message over phone or text, and then a listing of all apps.

You can replace these icons if needed, change the order around, or add your own shortcuts, ditching the all apps shortcut if you so choose and replacing it with a big Facebook icon instead.

But the icons aren’t the only thing that’s big, with massive text available for people who really do have eye-sight issues, making it easier for them to read messages and alerts.


Price: Free, but with in-app purchases.

Another of the options catering to a different crowd, Crescendo is less about the big buttons and more about a lack of options, offering a quick guide to your day — weather, what you have on — and then offering the basics to you.

There’s a bit more to the app, but not much more unless you decide to spend money and unlock the real version, with the amount of apps you have at your disposal limited by the locked menu.

Smart Launcher

Price: Free, but with in-app purchases.

Only want a few apps to choose from? Smart Launcher has you covered, with six apps arranged in a hexagon, making up your six most important apps — messages, camera, phone, photo album, music, and web browser — with the rest available on the side.

Provided you can remember the icons, it’s a pretty simple mix.