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There are so many great Android home screen designs, why do the stock ones look so bad?

custom home screens - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

Android home screen customization is an art. Dragging a few icons around is one thing, but there are people out there that redefine the very basics of the design, creating seemingly entirely new interfaces using the same basic settings and tools available to anyone.

Some examples include the designs you see above, made by Colorfulvisuals, Jeppe Foldager, and rawdealer, respectively. When you see home screens like that made by someone in their spare time, you have to ask why on Earth millions and millions of devices sold by multi-billion dollar companies look like this:

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Honestly, I don’t understand how Samsung (first two images) sells any phone at all. I’m pretty sure my home screen back on Android 1.6 looked better than that. HTC is a bit better, at least showing the ability to match colors with one another, but the layout isn’t exactly the most imaginative. Given a choice between devices looking like the ones in the first trio and devices looking like these, which ones do you think the customers would choose?

You might say that the traditional icon based layout is necessary for people to understand how to use it, and I agree. There’s nothing stopping these companies from making theme system however, integrating the ability to instantly switch between several styles of home screens in the stock launcher. There’s also no reason why the traditional icon based home screen has to look like the two Samsung devices above, with icons that look like they’re made by a five year old and (in the case of the S II, far left) wallpaper that is just ugly colors splattered all over the place.

The reason why this annoys me despite the fact that you can switch out the home screen yourself, is that so few people don’t. I spotted someone using the stock S II look above in a lecture hall just last week, and it seriously looks like garbage. It doesn’t look like an expensive smart phone, it looks like one of those generic “MP3/MP4/MP5/MP6” players. A lot of people don’t know that they can change the look, or how to do it, which arguable isn’t that weird seeing that you can’t on the iPhone. As a result, there are millions of devices out there using the same ugly, thrown-together stock home screen.

If I were a company like Samsung, I would be ashamed. More than that, I would be concerned. In a world where design sells (like it or not), I can’t imagine how this isn’t costing them money. The home screen is often the first thing a potential customer sees, so why that part of the phone doesn’t reflect the cost of it is beyond me.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

14 thoughts on “There are so many great Android home screen designs, why do the stock ones look so bad?

  • I think the answer is that the vast majority of smartphone consumers don’t care about the homescreen, and they just stick with what has been given to them. And the people who do care already have homescreen replacements lined up, so they don’t care about the stock one either.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      I think there’s truth to that, but I think it classifies both people who actually don’t care and people who don’t know they have a choice in the same category. The concept of a launcher is lost on many Android users, and the level of customization possible even more so.

      Reply
  • Avatar of D. Stroya

    “A lot of people don’t know that they can change the look, or how to do it, which arguable isn’t that weird seeing that you can’t on the iPhone.”

    It frustrates me to no end that people will pay hundreds of dollars on ANYTHING and not take the time to get to know how to use it. I’m not saying that everyone should be 1337 Hackzors or anything like that. At least, go through the settings and see what each button does, and if you don’t know what something is, Google it.

    But yes, perhaps if a little more ingenuity was put into the design, Samsung may not have lost a billion dollar lawsuit to Apple. It’s not like any of the user made interfaces are difficult to navigate by look.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      It has annoyed me at times too. I know people who buy expensive smartphones more or less just because they’re expensive, and in the end they just use text messaging and the music player.

      Reply
  • Are you saying you can do stuff like the top three out of the box? I.e. no rooting? Didn’t know you could do anything that fancy

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      Sure, no problem at all. It’s basically clever use of wallpaper, icons, and widgets- nothing else. I had a multi-part guide going for this type of customization a few months back, but abandoned it due to a lack of response/feedback.

      Reply
  • I can’t stand stock ANYTHING on my devices. It’s just so bland. On android: stock messaging only uses 1 ringtone, stock music player only does lists, stock wallpapers look terrible, stock lockscreen just sucks, stock ringtones sound like they were made for a phone from the 80’s… I custom make all my own ringtones, make collages for my backgrounds, & tweak everything else that I can.
    It’s not just Android either, I jailbroke my old iPod Touch, & discovered what I was missing. I never pirated a thing, just used the tweaks. Hands free music control, wifi sleep toggles, SB Settings!, Winterboard (theming icons & backgrounds), multi-tasking, etc…
    Many of the “new” features in iOS 5 & 6 are ideas taken from the jailbroken community.
    Sorry for the long reply.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      We love long replies :D I’ve jailbroken my iPad as well, but I found the themeing system to be a bit backwards. Then again, it’s made as a complete addition, whereas Android has it from the ground up. Some tweaks loko nice on the iPhone though, like that folding lock screen. Still prefer my Widgetlocker, but at least it’s not stock xD

      Reply
  • Avatar of Closet Nerd

    I have always wanted to fully customize my phone to this extent but I never had the know how, and articles like this re-kindle that desire. Any chance you would revisit the guide to doing this type of customization?

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      I’ve had other requests for it, so yes, it’s very likely. I might have published the first ones at the wrong time, missing those who have an interest in it. Any guide type article is always a lot easier to write when people give feedback, ask questions, and have requests for topics etc. Writing what you already know in guide format without a feel for what people want to know often leads to miscalculation of what’s important.

      Reply
      • Avatar of Closet nerd

        Well it seems like you guys are building a a dedicated fan base so hopefully you won’t have that issue anymore

        Reply
  • Avatar of Hayden Smith

    I think the UI overlay is as important as the rest of the phone, your customization from there really makes the home screen what it is

    Reply
  • Avatar of kasrhp

    I agree with your article, but Look at the competition. IOS looks terrible from a home screen design standpoint. Its just icons. Windows phone looks beautiful and is really the only well designed OEM product on the market. Android falls in the middle depending on the mfr.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Abraham

    WOW! Just WOW! What a great site mycolorscreen is! Thank you for sharing those links!
    I will definitely be checking that site up for some home screen ideas! I am DEFINITELY not as creative as those guys that upload theirs.

    Reply

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