settingsAndroid smartphones are wonderful devices. The ways you can communicate with friends, family, co-workers and clients are almost limitless. Text messaging, instant message, social media, news sites, and yes, even phone calls are all just a finger press away. Add some calendar apps, weather widgets, productivity tools, media programs, a camera and news readers and you have a full-blown computer in your pocket or purse.

So why are you still using that default home screen background and ringtone? Your device has so many ways to customize the experience based on personal or business criteria, making the smartphone a much more powerful way to manage your life.

Below are some tips to make your phone, well, yours. Make it easier to get at apps, data, contacts and more with just a few minutes of customizing. Enjoy!

Launcher

The launcher is the look, feel and function of the whole operating system. It controls how many icons you can add to a page, how large the widgets can be, what shortcuts you have on the dock at the bottom of the screen and more. The default launcher installed by your mobile company is pretty good, but did you know that by adding free or really cheap launchers you can extend the capabilities and function of the launcher? My favorite launcher app is Nova Launcher. I use the $4.99 version to get a few extra features, but the free one works pretty well. This little program will allow changes to :

  • Number of vertical and horizonal apps allowed in the grid. Great for tablets that have WAY more real estate.
  • Icon and folder size and the label layout.
  • Whether or not the Google Search Bar is present and how it looks.
  • How the App Drawer (where all of your installed apps are located) looks including scrolling direction and type, color, , animation and much more
  • Custom gestures and other inputs.
  • The ability to back up your desktop layout and import it into a differernt phone/tablet. This is HUGE is you’re transferring to a new device.

Try out the Nova Launcher or one of the many other launcher programs at the Google Play Store.

Folders

One of the limitations of the iOS platform used on iPhones and iPads is the inability of having an icon located in more than one place. That is NOT an issue with Android, so if you want an application link in a “Tools” folder, and also in a “Financial” folder, you have this option. Creating folders on your home screen, or just about anywhere else, is very simple.

  1. Drag an applcation shortcut on top of another icon. The system will hesitate for a moment and then drop the icon into a newly created folder along with the original appllication.
  2. Repeat this process for all of your applications until the folder is filled with your desired apps.
  3. Click on the folder once to open, then click on “Unnamed Folder” at the bottom and give your folder a name that identifies the types of apps contained like “Contacts,”  “Tools,” or “Social.”

I create multiple folders on multiple pages so I can get at business or personal specific information quickly.

Widgets

Widgets are an awesome way to bring some additional functionality to the Android environment. They are essentially ways to display app data on a particular screen in a way that makes it available at a glance or directly get to the app data. Some examples of widgets are weather data, email accounts, news and tasks.

  1. Widgets can be added anywhere there’s room and is done simply by clicking and holding anywhere on an open area of screen, opening the widget option.
  2. Click “Widgets” and select the information you’d like to add to the page like your weather app, or email.
  3. Drag the widget to the location of the page and release. If it fits, you will usually see some options to configure the layout, color, update times, etc for the data.

And below are a few of my favorites:

  • MoreCast – Great weather app that has several widgets to display current weather data and forecasts.
  • TypeMail – I have four email accounts on my phone so having unread counts or easily viewable widgets makes it easy to get to each account without opening several apps.
  • GTasks – I use Google Tasks to manage my several businesses and personal tasks. GTasks keeps them separate, but combines if I need.
  • Month – Have multiple Google Calendars on your device? Month combilnes them into one easy-to-view calendar widget.

Pages

Still trying to cram all of your information or data on to one screen? Android will let you keep as many pages as you wish, move them around so you can access them on the left or right swipe of your thumb, and set your “home” page.

As stated before, I have four businesses on my phone that I keep track of. Each business has a “page” full of contacts, tasks, email and other widgets and shortcuts. This allows me to keep everything separate and if I need a client phone number I go to the business page, pull up the “Contact” folder and click on the contact to make the call, email or text. I also keep links to specific apps here, shortcuts to web pages, and even a quick way to get to my OneNote or Drive accounts so I can access files or take notes on a specific client.

Pages are also a great way to separate your media like music or podcasts, books, and games from work related or personal information, or just to create a news and social media page loaded with constantly changing info that doesn’t interfere with your main page functionality.

Ringtones

Early on the Android system provided a way to assign new ringtones, and eventually a way to assign ringtones to specific contacts.

This is incredibly handy if you want to keep business and personal contacts straight, or even to know when your daughter calls. Now, changing the default ringtone is pretty simple, but editing a contact with a specific ringtone can be a bit more difficult for inexperienced users, but essentially:

  1. Pull the contact up in “Contacts” and “Edit” the contact.
  2. Select “More” at the bottom of the contact and scroll down until you see “Ringtone”
  3. Select one of the pre-programmed ringtones, or “Add ringtone” at the bottom, which will allow you to search for songs or other ringtones and assign it to the contact.

As I said before, the Android operating system has a TON of ways to customize the experience exactly to your liking. Charge up that phone, create some pages, start adding shortcuts and widgets, and turn that computer in your hand into the device your friends and family will envy!

I have included some images below of my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge pages. Use them as inspiration if you need, or tell me how YOU customized your phone or tablet @BeBizzy on Twitter or in the comments below!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us! 

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