By Brandon Miniman | September 21, 2011 11:24 AM
Most people keep a phone for nearly two years. Unless you’re keeping things fresh, you’re likely to get a bit bored with the look and feel of your phone. And while you can’t change the hardware (unless you want to buy an expensive off-contract phone), you can surely change the software. Here are four ways to make your Android feel new again, in order of easiest to most difficult.
1. Change your wallpaper
This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a change of wallpaper will make to your experience. Most devices let you change the lock screen wallpaper independently of the home screen, so you can get even more variety by making them different.
If your battery life is on the fritz and you don’t want to toll your CPU with animated backgrounds, try Backgrounds HD for a huge selection of high-resolution static images.
2. Change your lockscreen
If the “slide to unlock” function on your homescreen is feeling a bit stale, check out WidgetLocker to increase the functionality of your homescreen. This app is well worth the the $2 pricetag, as it gives you endless flexibility to make your homescreen functional. You can add widgets, place multiple sliders to quickly launch your favorite apps, and more.
3. Change your launcher
Android is unique in that you can install a third-party launcher to change your home screen interface entirely. Don’t like HTC Sense, MotoBLUR, or TouchWiz? Try either LauncherPro or ADW Launcher EX. These apps let you set custom gestures for dock icons, apply visual styles to your application tray, and lots more.
4. Change your ROM!
At the end of the day, your phone is only as good as its core software. Thankfully, there’s a huge selection of third-party ROMs available from the development community that can increase your battery life, improve device performance, and drastically change the look and feel of every screen. For example, I’m currently running VillainROM on my Galaxy S II, which has improved my battery life by around 20%. Another popular ROM series is MIUI, which transforms your Android in what appears to be a totally different operating system.
To load a custom ROM, you must root your device and install a custom bootloader. To do this, allocate at least an hour of time to make it happen, as rooting often involves running through a handful of steps. Check out the development forum for your device over at XDA; you’re likely to find a sticky thread with instructions on how to get started.