If you don’t want to spend a whole lot of cash, but are after a budget device that has the look and feel of a more premium model, here are a few ways you can pull it off.
Everything we’re doing today can be done with an Android handset, but for the purposes seen of this article, we’re doing it with the $99 Huawei IDEOS X3.
This budget handset replaces the X1 (that phone now drops to $71) and has a small 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen, plastic body, 3 megapixel camera on the back, microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, GPS, and Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
These days, that’s a pretty decent feature set, though the phone by no means compares to fast and multimedia friendly handsets form Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, Sony, and Apple.
It may be enough for you, however, and you just might not like how your operating system looks.
We can fix this quite easily, however, thanks to a little piece of technology called a “homescreen replacement application”, a form of software that can change the homescreen design, menu, icons, and shortcut dock on an Android device.
Many of these solutions are free, although some may cost a couple of bucks for extra features. All are currently available through the Android market and will change the way you interact with your Android smartphone.
*Homescreen images were taken on the Samsung Galaxy S2, a handset with a bigger screen resolution and the ability to capture screenshots, a feature not normally seen on Android handsets.
A very Windows feel
After the look of a Windows Phone 7 handset? There’s an app for that. Launcher7 is a homescreen replacement application designed to emulate the look and feel of a Windows Phone 7 device.
It keeps the the easy to use icons, the simple colour scheme, and still allows you to take advantage of Android’s Market.
The free edition keeps ads running at the bottom, but an ad-free version can be purchased for $1.99.
A little bit Moto, a little bit HTC
Fancy the look that HTC or Motorola phones have?
HeLauncher offers both of the styles seen on handsets with HTC Sense and Motorola Blur, offering similar looking skins and graphics for no cost.
Sadly, you don’t get the same widgets that each manufacturer offers, but it will make the look more like that of the premium handsets from these companies.
A slightly more advanced version is also available – HeLauncher 2 – for a littler under two bucks. This one offers more options to make your phone look like a premium model, as well as lots more screens to store your widgets.
For a little extra realism, you can grab some wallpapers that make up the rest of that HTC look.
A real iClone
We’ve mentioned it at least once on this site, but here it is again: Espier Launcher manages to do one of the best jobs at making an Android phone looking like an iPhone.
Espier goes one step further from the look, though, also adding the same menu structure, complete with the left-most screen searching through the entirety of the device.
Folders are even supported, as is the truly easy way of uninstalling apps, handled the same way as it is on the iPhone: simply hold an icon down until it shakes and hit the “x” button.
In fact, about the only thing you don’t get is widgetised homescreens, as this launcher doesn’t use them.
Made by Samsung
A new homescreen app by Samsung tries things a little bit differently.
Called the “Pure Breeze Launcher”, this one allows you to easily colour-coordinate groups of applications in your menu, making it really easy to find things.
The main homescreen still supports widgets and shortcuts, with the interface flying out like a kite.
A paid version exists, costing roughly two bucks, and offering more organisation groups.
All around excellent
Some homescreen apps aren’t really designed to emulate anything, and they still manage to be brilliant.
Available in both free and paid versions, LauncherPro manages to be a very customisable homescreen with support for your own shortcuts, scrolling menu screens, and even horizontally scrolling shortcuts in the dock.
The paid version – which sits at under $4 – even comes with its own widgets, as well as the ability to resize other widgets.
One screen to rule them all
Once you’ve installed an extra launcher, every time you hit the home button, you’ll be greeted with a screen asking you which one you want to use.
To make a permanent choice, first tick the box marked “Set at default” and then press the launcher you want to use. Android will now keep using that homrscreen whenever you hit the home button.
If you installed a few different homescreen replacements from this guide, now might be an excellent time to go through and uninstall the ones you’re not using.
If you decide that you’re over this homescreen and you want the original one that came with your phone, you don’t need to resort to a full reset to get it back. There’s an easy fix.
Simply press the “settings” shortcut, and in that, go to applications, manage applications, and then select the launcher you’re using. Once inside the application settings, you can drag the screen down to the “Launch by default” section and press “Clear defaults”.
Once you’ve done this, the default launcher will disappear, and you’ll be able to choose another launcher to use as a default once again.