I have been a lifelong Samsung user and my first and only smart phone was the Samsung Galaxy S4. Countless people questioned my reasoning for being to loyal Samsung phones even though technically my job description is developer of iOS applications. I have been told to “just get an iPhone” by so many people but I still defend Galaxy phones. In my three plus years using the S4, I’ve become practiced in how to smartly use Android phones to make them as simple and sophisticated to use as the iPhone.
The biggest pro of using Android phones relative to iPhones for me is how customizable the user interfaces are. There are so many ways you can set up your home page with widgets and application shortcuts. In addition, there are a ton of third-party applications that you can set up as your default messaging service or even customize your lock screen. With the following tips and suggestions, you can really dress up your Android phone and make it slick.
Remove ALL Bloatware
When you pull an Android phone out of the box, you get a fair amount of bloatware pre-installed. Bloatware ranges from Samsung Galaxy apps or apps from your service provider. While you may be tempted to keep any number of these apps because hey, they might come in handy later, don’t count on it. Just delete all the bloatware. Some phones may come pre-installed with apps that are not even from the phone company or service provider, e.g. TripAdvisor or Amazon Kindle; delete those apps too. You can always re-install the apps at a later time should you decide you want them. Removing all the bloatware means a large chunk of notifications that would otherwise clutter your notification panel will be wiped. It will also be easier to find the apps you want to use if you do not have to sift through pages of unnecessary apps.
Replace the Default Messaging App
Unlike with iPhones, Android allows you to replace the default SMS app. This was a real eye opener for me because for such a long I thought I was stuck with Samsung’s ugly preinstalled Messages app. When I finally realized I didn’t have to use it for SMS anymore, I set up Signal Private Messenger by Open Whisper Systems as my default SMS app. In addition to providing a secure, encrypted messaging service, the Signal app has a nice and clean UI and allows you to change the color of messages for each conversation. You can also mute conversations and set up a passphrase to lock the app itself.
Install Snaplock by Ripple Technology
When I set up Signal as my default messaging app, I noticed that my lock screen wasn’t showing the content of individual messages in push notifications. I did some research and discovered that I can install a third-party app with which I can set up a custom lock screen that shows these notifications correctly. I landed upon Snaplock from Ripple Technology, which provides an array of elegant lock screen designs (Samsung S8 lock screen looks eerily similar to them now 🤔) and wallpapers. Notifications started appearing in a clean and elegant format!
- Install a keyboard service that works better for you than the default keyboard service. I like Swype.
- Neatly organize your home page. I suggest having one widget for weather, one widget for Google search, and filling in the rest with application shortcuts and folders of frequently used apps.
- Use “Dark Theme” as much as possible. Admittedly, dark theme is such a tech-nerd-bro preference, but it’s undeniable that on the phone’s small LCD screen, the dark theme looks very sharp. I have both Twitter and Signal set up to “night mode” or the dark theme.
These were some very effective ways you can up your Android game and impress even the most avid iPhone users. The key lesson here is that with Android phones you don’t have to be tied down by default settings and applications. You have the freedom to install as many customizations as you like and get very granular with some of them. Ultimately, you should see what feels right to you and take some time to experiment. Feel free to share your Android tips in a comment below and as always follow me on Twitter for some more #Jainsplaining.