Customizing your Android phone

Many choices are available for Android users who want to change the look of their phones.

Android allows deep customization of the home screen. Tim Gonzales

Though the open nature of Android has always allowed you to alter the G1's software, options for personalizing the exterior of the phone have been few. Fortunately, however, the upcoming T-MobileMyTouch 3G offers customization choices both inside and out.

We can get a preview of what's in store for new MyTouch 3G users by looking at current Android modifications. By far, the most popular options are home-screen replacements. For a couple of bucks, users can purchase apps in the Android Market that completely replace the default home screen. Once installed, there are hundreds of free themes for changing the look of the phone and updating everything from the clock and search bar to the menu icons and display font.

In addition to applying new themes, the home screens can add a new level of functionality to the phone, such as capturing screen shots and adding a task manager. The most popular home replacements are Open Home, aHome, and dxTop, but Android users should also be on the lookout for Sweeter Home, which is nearing the release of Preview 2.

Better Keyboard is a paid application that allows you to replace the default virtual keyboard with new designs for QWERTY and compact QWERTY keyboards and a number pad. What's more, users can change the look of the keyboard with up to 20 skins that are available for free on the Android Market. The developer Better Android has released regular updates that continue to improve performance and add new features.

Widgets are another popular way to customize your desktop. More than 250 options are available on the Android Market that can display the current weather conditions, allow you to control your audio settings, show the latest updates from your favorite website, send tweets, and toggle phone settings. As the developer API for creating widgets was just released with Android 1.5 update , we are beginning to see more advanced creations hit the market. The new HTC Hero has demonstrated excellent widget design, which is now making its way to other Android devices.

Soon, Android users will be able to play with some of these modifications for free. T-Mobile is set to relaunch aHome under the new name Fresh Face and distribute it for free. With the release of the MyTouch 3G, customers will get a chance to personalize their phones and truly make it unique. To see what current users are doing with their phones, check out this Flickr gallery for a nice set of Android Home screens.

About the author

    Taylor Wimberly became obsessed with cell phones working as a Sprint reseller as a teenager. When he's not writing about the newest handsets on the market, you can find him on the beach working the BBQ pit. Taylor also blogs about the Android community with Android and Me. Taylor is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. E-mail Taylor.

     

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