A common problem with many Android smartphones is the interface. From Samsung to Gionee, most manufacturers like to customise the interface. It can often be unattractive (like with the Lenovo Vibe Z), sacrifice functionality (like with the Gionee Elife S5.5), or slow down the phone (like with several Samsung models).
And it’s not just the interface alone. Manufacturers will load up their own apps that are different from Google’s stock Android experience, which you’ll find on the Nexus series. So here’s how you can get as close as possible to “pure Android” on your phone.
Install A New Launcher, Lock Screen and Icons
A launcher is the core of the Android interface—it’s what gives you home screens and an app drawer. There are several third-party launchers available on the Play Store, but Nova Launcher and Apex Launcher stand out for being close to the plain Android look, work well on older phones, and can also be customised with new icons. Of the two, Nova Launcher would be my pick. Install it, choose it as your default home screen when prompted, and you’re good to go.
Next, it’s time to get the best icons for a plain Android look. For that, Holo Icons covers most of the apps you will use on a regular basis and it’s completely free. Download it, go to Nova Launcher’s settings and choose it as your icon pack.
Finally, you need to change the Lock Screen. Holo Locker is the best choice for a simple, no-nonsense option.
Install Google’s Apps
Google has released several of its default apps as easy downloads on the Play Store, so just click this link and start downloading the apps you need, like Android keyboard, Google camera, QuickOffice and more. Again, these are all completely free!
One app that you won’t find on that page but need to run several of Google’s apps is Google Play Services. Click this link and download it to your phone so that all Google apps work smoothly.
The Non-Google Exceptions: Contacts+ & Omega Status Bar
Google has plenty of great apps but it doesn’t offer the default Phone/Dialer app, the Messaging app and the status bar or notifications bar for download. In a way, that’s actually a good thing because third-party apps do a far better job of these.
Contacts+ is a free, all-in-one solution for your phone book, dialer and messaging app, complete with support for pop-up floating messages and the ability to get your contacts’ info on non-Google social networks like Facebook, Twitter and more.
Omega StatusBar won’t only make your phone look like stock Android, it’ll make it better! Apart from supporting all the features of the stock notifications bar, it lets you customise it to your liking and shows number counts for notifications too. If you like the free app, the Pro version …continued »