Ah widgets. Android's ace in the hole against iOS. You're probably familiar with the standard weather and clock widgets by now, but did you know they can look so much prettier?
Two apps you'll definitely want to check out are UCCW and Zooper, both of which offer unparalleled customisability over pre-made widgets. From gorgeous calendars to minimalist weather forecasts, these two apps can be used to provide you with important information at a glance, in styles never-before thought possible.
Once you've installed either app and browsed through their pre-loaded widgets, you can hit up the Play Store for the likes of 'Zooper weather widget' for example, install extra widgets and tinker away at your leisure.
Found a nice weather widget but disappointed that it doesn't display the max temperature? No problem. Open up the widget's settings and add the feature in yourself from a list of pre-defined options. Powerful stuff.
Take a few for a spin and search around the Play Store for more. Once you get the hang of it, you can even take a stab at designing your own widget from scratch.
This all sounds like a lot of work…
Well yes, it can take a little time to set up your phone just the way you want it, but the payoff is worth it. We spend around seven hours a day glued to our phone screens (give or take a couple of hours) and we take pleasure in using something that looks beautiful, which we've customised to our tastes.
If you're feeling lazy however, then you're in luck. A couple of launchers are on the horizon, and one of them – Themer – aims to automate the whole theming process. Simply browse through the catalogues of user-built themes, hit select and that's it. Welcome to your new phone.
Two of the apps below are currently in the invite-only beta stages, but it's well worth getting an invite if you can before they hit the Play Store proper.
Themer: Based on the Android theming site mycolorscreen.com, Themer takes all the fuss out of setting up a customised Android experience by letting you browse through pre-set themes. Find one you like, hit apply, and marvel at the instant transformation. Wallpapers, icons, widgets – all are automatically applied and laid out instantly. Sign up for beta activation code at themerapp.com
Aviate: Sadly another invite-only launcher for the time being (sign up at getaviate.com), Aviate takes a slightly different approach. Instead of having a library of pre-built themes, Aviate allows less customisation and has a rigid layout. The layout itself is very easy on the eye, however, and will appeal to fans of minimalism and function. Doing away with clutter, Aviate automatically categorises apps for you (work, travel, games etc), saving you from having to create your own folders. It also puts them in alphabetical order on a third screen. It's able to automatically change which information it displays throughout the day, with your work email and tasks displayed in the day while weather information and your calendar events are prioritised in the morning.
Smart Launcher: Special mention also goes out to Smart Launcher, which unlike Aviate and Themer, is out now for everyone to take for a spin. Like Aviate, Smart Launcher provides a pre-defined launcher experience, based around a ring of icons which you can customise to open your most-used apps. It's also got a handy customisable shortcut bar which you can drag in from the left-hand side of the screen.