Modder’s Monday is a weekly column about rooting, hacking, and other forms of modifying Android written by Jaroslav Stekl, a man who spends his days coding, hacking, hiking, and of course, writing for Android Police.
One of the many things that I love about Android, especially after spending several years with an iPhone, is how customizable it is - right out of the box. You can change your keyboard, tweak the status bar to make it work any way you like, change apps’ icons, and even install home replacements that alter how your homescreen works. The best part about all this? No hacking, rooting, or other form of voiding your warranty is required. In fact, all that is needed is a trip to the Android Market and a careful read through this edition of Modder’s Monday.
One would think that replacing the way you interact with your phone after a press of the home button would require intense hacking, but alas, a simple download from the Market will do.
For starters, I’d recommend ADW.Launcher since it’s completely free, requires very little technical know-how, and works with a wide variety of themes. No, it doesn’t introduce any mind-blowing new features, but who could resist theming out their Android device in such hilarious ways as the ADW iDroid theme:
or perhaps you're more into summer blockbusters:
You get the point. ADW.Launcher is the way to go if you’re into totally theming out your device.
So what about widgets? Launcher Pro is the way to go. Although you can’t install add-ons like you can for ADW.Launcher, you can add up to seven homescreens (and you can delete them, too, if you want), have a dock with up to fifteen icons (you swipe left and right to switch between rows of them), and of course, carbon copies of the People, Bookmarks, Calendar, and Messaging widgets from HTC’s Sense UI (all of which are gorgeous, even if Federico Carnales, the developer, put very little work into them).
Of course, ADW.Launcher and Launcher Pro aren’t the only home replacements out there, even if they are the most popular ones. Let’s check out some others:
Let’s face it: the stock Android keyboard is a disaster. The keys are hard to hit, hard to discern, and somehow manage to provide an average accuracy rate of about 40-50% (not really, but it’s close). While some manufacturers pack their own keyboards, there are almost always better alternatives to be found in the Market.
My personal favorite is SwiftKey Beta. On first sight, it doesn’t look like anything more than a regular keyboard with rather large keys, but when you dig deeper, you discover its amazing word prediction system. While other keyboards, like the one included in HTC’s Sense UI, have prediction systems that guess at the word you’re writing while you’re halfway through it, SwiftKey starts guessing before you even start typing the word. Unfortunately, it only works its magic when you’re pecking out an email, chatting in GTalk, and a few other instances, but at least for me, that’s enough to make it a keeper.
The keyboard that everyone knows and loves (and that used to be my favorite) is, of course, Swype. Infamous for allowing users to simply trace a pattern across the letters they’d like to type out, the keyboard does wonders for speed (if not accuracy). Too bad it’s got such an annoying autocorrect system and it’s only available via beta invite (or on devices that ship with it).
SlideIt is essentially another version of Swype, only it’s available in the Market and comes in a paid version (€5.99) and a demo version (free).
There are, of course, a number of other keyboards, including:
With A Cherry On Top: Status Bar
For such a small space, Android’s status bar fits quite a bit. Out of the box you can pull it down to see details on your emails, missed calls, texts, and other notifications as well as view the time, network strength, and battery level. If you spend a little time in the Market, however, you’ll be able to make it do even more.
Needless to say, there are countless more ways to customize your Android device without rooting it and therefore voiding your warranty, most of which will be covered in some way, shape, or form on Android Police in the future. For now, if you have any favorites yourself, feel free to share them below in the comments section.