Despite calls for Apple to make a super-cheap iPhone, we’ve still got mid-range and premium offerings only. You can, however, find some really cheap Android devices, so we wondered…

Just how much extra would it cost to turn that handset into an iClone ?


A back-story on why we’re doing this

A couple of weeks ago, I found that my dear mother had accidentally dropped my first-generation iPhone in the toilet. This was the model that was never officially released here, complete with an aluminium casing that made it much more resistant to drops than either the plastic 3G/3GS and current glass 4/4S models ever were.

When she first wanted a smartphone, I gave her an Android, but the complexity of the operating system was a bit much for her. She wanted something simple and the handset that I’d given her just didn’t cut it. So I figured I’d let her have the iPhone.

She loved it. She loved how easy it was to use, how simple the icons were to understand, and generally just how it required no effort to use.

And then two weeks ago, she dropped it in the loo. It was an accident, so I wasn’t angry, and I’ve heard from other women that this is a fairly common thing, so I can only imagine that handset makers make lots and lots of money from customers dropping $900 gadgets in the toilet.

In any case, my Mum did what she could to fix it, her partner helping her out and showing her how to dry it and bring it back to life.

But there are aspects of it that don’t work anymore. There’s a speaker glitch. It’s not performing the same way. The power button just doesn’t work the way it used to. Things like that.

And then it dawned on me: with all of the articles we write here about making Android devices look different, how much would it cost to make something look like an iPhone?

Minimum requirements

We should start of with the most obvious thing you’re going to need, and that’s an Android phone. That’s the part of this guide that goes out of the $20 spectrum. If you’ve already got one, great, but we can’t just magically turn a twenty dollar note into a gadget. You need an Android phone for this guide.

We’d say “any Android phone”, but that’s not true. You’re going to need something recent, with at least Android 2.2 on it. To find out what you’ve got, head to settings and press “About phone”. At the bottom of this menu, you’ll see a section labeled “Android version” with a number in it.

The first two numbers are critical here: you want 2.2 or 2.3. If it says 2.2.1, you’re fine. If it’s say 2.3.5, you’re fine. If it says 2.1.anything, check the manufacturer’s support page to see if there’s an update – if there is, download it; if not, you’re going to need a new handset.

We've got lots of phones to test this on.

You’re also going to need a Google account – don’t worry, it’s free – and a credit card/debit card number to associate with the “Market” part of your Google account. That’s pretty easy to do: just fill in the required info when the phone asks for it. The reason you need a credit card is because we’ll be purchasing a few apps to make the handset look more like an iPhone. These apps do cost money, but it’s not much.

It’s also important to note that while these modifications will make your Android look like an iPhone, your Android phone will never actually be an iPhone.

Don’t walk into an Apple store and ask them to help you with your iClone. They’ll probably just give you dumbfounded looks and stares. They may even laugh at you.

To help you understand just how this can be applied to nearly any Android phone, we’ll be showing the process on several devices, including the $99 Huawei X3, HTC’s Desire S, and Motorola’s new ultra-thin RAZR. You can do this on nearly any handset, although it may not work the same way on every device.

Getting the “look” of the iPhone menus

The first and most obvious part that we need to change is the look of Android: it just looks nothing like Apple’s iOS.

Let’s change that.

Our handful of iClones running Espier. From left to right: Motorola RAZR, HTC Desire S, Huawei X3

We’ve written about this a few times now, but Espier Launcher is still one of the best home screen replacement tools around. It’s free and literally switches your Android over into an iPhone-styled device.

Simply install it, hit the home button on your Android, and then select Espier. The first time you run Espier, it’ll present you with a quick introduction to how it works that you can either go through or skip.

Basically, it works exactly the way iOS does, so if you’ve ever used an iPhone, you’ll be at home here.

You can drag left and right on the menu and you’ll get shortcut icons only. No widgets or homescreens to deal with: just icon-based menus. Flick all the way to the left and just like on iOS, you’ll see a search box allowing you to search your entire device.

Espier allows you to make folders just like on an iPhone.

Just like on iOS, icons can be moved around easily. Simply hold an icon down with your finger until they wiggle and then drag them around. Once you’re done, hit the “back” button and they’ll stop wiggling.

You can also group icons into a folder just like you can on iOS. Simply get the icons wiggling again by holding one down, and then drag it into another icon. A box will appear around both and you can let go, a folder being created that you can rename. Like on iOS, you can drag shortcut icons in and out of here with ease.

And still – like iOS – you can remove apps by hitting the “x” in the corner of the apps while they wiggle. In fact, this is actually an improvement on the way you’re normally forced to uninstall apps from Android.

We’re big fans of what Espier does, simplifying Android and even mapping icons for phone, contacts, and messages to the parts of the phone that use them. It won’t change those sections to look like an iPhone, but it does make the experience closer to an iDevice.

Slide to unlock: making the iPhone lockscreen

The next thing we’d do is replace the lockscreen, as Android doesn’t normally look like an iPhone here. Every handset is different, so we can’t give you an exact idea to what this looks like for all devices, but trust us.

That’s an easy fix though. We can make one of those “slide to unlock” screens quite easily.

For this to work, you’ll need to grab WidgetLocker Lockscreen, an app that’ll set you back around $3.

This app turns your lockscreen into a widgetised homescreen, effectively allowing you to add your own slider, a clock, and any other widgets you want to that screen you’ll see when you pick the phone up from standby.

Install this, run through the guide to see how it works, and then get stuck into it. Making the iPhone-style screen is fairly easy, and we’ve included some nifty pictures to help out.

To start with, hold down on the icon labeled “Tool mode”. A menu will pop-up with “Edit”, “Remove”, and “Resize”.

Click the remove button and the tool will be removed. Now hold down on the lock icon and hit “Edit” when the menu pops up.

We’ll now get to choose what sort of lockscreen we want. Press the section seen as “Theme [ics]” and when the menu comes up, choose the iPhone setting.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll see an iPhone lock slider with an arrow at each end. To make it more like an iPhone, we need to get rid of the right arrow, so put your finger on the right arrow and swipe it to the left.

We’ve now selected that arrow and can remove it from the slider. To do this, press “Disabled”. Now hit done and you’ll find you have an iPhone unlock bar.

We need this just a bit smaller though, so hold down on it with a finger and select “Resize”, dragging the arrows on the top down so it’s thinner and pressed against the bottom of the screen.

You’re almost done with this part.

Now, we’re going to edit the clock on the top. Hold down that section and click “Edit”. Once the edit screen pops up, scroll down and check “Show battery percentage”, scrolling down a little more so you change the “Owner info line 1” so nothing appears.

Once this is all done, hit the back button on your phone. Finally, hold the clock section one last time and select “Resize”, making it thinner and dragged all the way to the top.

You’re done! You can click either the back or home button on your phone, and WidgetLocker will save your settings. The next time you bring your phone back from standby, you’ll have an iPhone lockscreen.

I like the way you type: replacing the keyboard

You’ve almost got yourself a fully-fledged iClone! Great work!

Now it’s time to make the keyboard more iFriendly. For this, we’re turning to a $5 keyboard replacement called iTap.

iTap makes your Android keyboard more like an iPhone one.

If you’re not sure if you can replace the keyboard, we’d recommend trying iPhone Keyboard Emulator Free, made by the same people. If you find that you can replace the keyboard with this – and it works – then purchase iTap and use that, as there’ll be word prediction and no ads on the paid version.

To replace the keyboard, grab one of these apps, let it install, and then press the home button on your Android phone. Find the settings shortcut or click the menu button and then “Settings”.

Scroll down to “Language & keyboard” in the Android settings section and check the box marked for that app. A box will come up asking if you’re ok with this application collecting your data, hit “Ok”. Now hit “Select input method” and press the keyboard you’re wanting to switch to.

Strangely, this is one section that doesn’t always work on a handset.

In our testing, we found two phones that lacked the input method setting, thereby stopping us from replacing the keyboard: Huawei’s Vision U8850 and HTC’s Desire S. We’re sure there are others, making it possible that your phone won’t let you replace the keyboard.

Let there be music

Much like the last section, this is an app that may not work on your handset. It’s also not required to make the phone into an iClone, but if you want a music experience like that on an iPhone, this is the app you want.

Available for a little bit under $2, bTunes will emulate the look and feel of the iPhone and iPod Touch music player, even downloading album art, supporting voice commands, and featuring lockscreen controls.

Because we’re using a custom lockscreen, we need to turn off the lockscreen controls, as these will conflict.

You can also ignore this app altogether and just go with whatever music application you want, including the one that came with your phone. If it came with a widget – like many of them do – you can add this control widget to your iPhone-esque custom lockscreen with WidgetLocker, letting you control your music without unlocking your phone.

But wait, there’s more!

At this point, we’d be pretty happy with our iClone. We’ve dealt with most of the core functions that make the handset look like an iPhone and would finish there, but you don’t need to.

You can go forward and make the phone dialer and SMS area look like it does on an iPhone with Go Contacts and Go SMS Pro, free applications that allow you to change the look and feel of those sections on an Android handset.

There’s another application – iPhone Notifications ($2) – that can even give you pop-up notifications for calls and messages the way it happens on an iPhone.

You can even add a Siri clone with either Jeannie or Iris (both free), allowing you to say things directly to your phone and have them performed by the handset.

Iris can be very hit and miss, sometimes yielding successful answers derived from Wikipedia (left) while falling flat on others (right).

But there’s a reason why we stopped before this section: ultimately, these modifications can be harder for beginners to work with and setup.

When we experimented with these applications, we found that while they worked well, they often resulted in some clashes. The messaging programs would, for instance, give us duplicate message notifications. We found the notifications wouldn’t even work with the lockscreen that we’d worked so hard to make.

And we still – annoyingly – haven’t found a way to change the call answer screen so that it resembles an iPhone version. We’re sure there’ll be a way soon, but this isn’t an iPhone, so we don’t imagine it’ll be around until someone else programs it.

But that’s the key: this isn’t an iPhone, it’s an Android phone that we can make look like an iPhone, and if you’re ok with that – if you just want the look, the layout, and little cost – you’ll have that.