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Xposed - a guide to Android customization extravaganza

Posted: , by Luis D.

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Xposed - a guide to Android customization extravaganza
Customization - the beauty of Android! Many users cite the freedom to tweak and modify Google's operating system as its strongest virtue against its main competitors - iOS and Windows Phone. While Apple and Microsoft's mobile offerings are supposed to be "perfect" the way they are, they are full of little and not so little things that even the most casual, unpretentious users wish were different. So is Android, of course, but unlike iOS which requires jailbreaking, and Windows Phone, which looks and stays the same no matter what, it comes with the privilege of being relatively easy to customize. Seamless, even, if you just want more personalization options without going deep. Simply open the Play Store, install a launcher, choose a different theme and enjoy it. And for the adventurous, there's even the possibility to switch to a different Android ROM all-together, although this comes with a fair share of risks and inconveniences - including data loss and bricking. That's where Xposed comes in.

Xposed is like a software version of Google's Project Ara. It's a framework which lets you install "modules" with added functionality on top of Android. Many of them replicate functionality you'll only find inside custom Android ROMs, such as the ability to set a screen unlock pattern with a 4x4, 5x5, or even 6x6 grid, for example. Now this feature is just a few taps and a reboot away. No flashing necessary, but you will have to root your device. If you haven't done that already, by the end of this article, you will surely know whether it's worth it. You will need a device that runs either Android Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich, and we recommend at least 1GB RAM, as all of Xposed's active modules consume small amounts of additional memory.

Installing Xposed


Before proceeding, we suggest you back up your device just in case. Use Titanium Backup or whatever your preferred method is to get a snapshot of how your gadget was before we tinkered with it. We also demand that you carefully read each downloadable module's description and don't install it if something about it looks sketchy. As the modules feature tweaks that require many Android permissions, there is some potential for ending up with unwanted malware on your phone. But if that was the case, Xposed wouldn't have been as popular as it is now.

Backed up or not, let's get Xposed. As framework isn't available from Google Play, you will have to sideload the APK file from this link. It will automatically download the framework's latest version http://dl.xposed.info/latest.apk. Moving on, open the APK file and install it. The Xposed Installer will appear in your app drawer. Open it, tap Framework, and press "Install/Update". Reboot your phone, and that's it. That was quick, wasn't it?

Going modular


Here's where the fun begins. Open Xposed Installer again, and tap Download. You will be greeted by an extensive list of modules waiting to be explored. Simply tap on one you like and hit Download to get it. When you get all the modules you're interested in, go back to Xposed Installer's Modules menu. You will see a list of installed modules with checkmarks to the left. These activate and de-activate them. Note that these actions require you to reboot before you can see the changes. So it might be best to activate all the modules you want to toy with at once, reboot your device, and start exploring.

Customizations galore!


We went through the list, picked a bunch of them that made sense to us, tried them out, and demonstrated how they work on a stock Nexus 5 - our beloved "guinea pig" of a smartphone. Along with random tweaks, we tested two very feature-rich customization tools - Gravity Box and GEL Settings. They offer extensive options for changing how various details in the Android interface look and work. Needless to say, we had a blast exploring them, so without further ado, here they are.

Immerse Me and Immersive Mode, Don't Panic! - these two modules work in tandem to provide a quick and dirty way to get rid of the omnipresent Android software control keys. when you don't need them. It's not like you always want them stealing screen space, right? For some reason, Google realised this only when Android 4.4 KitKat came around, and enabled the so-called Immersive Mode for games and multimedia. With these two modules, Immersive Mode goes system-wide. The obtrusive keys and upper navigation bar automatically disappear when not in use, and to get them back, you simply tap or slide upwards. It's the kind of elegant solution that should have been included in Android in the first place.

CyanLockScreen - an excellent solution to change the grid for the lock-screen unlock pattern to a 4x4, 5x5, or 6x6 grid and really get creative with your patterns. We tested it and had no problems so far.

Overflow Mod - this simple tweak replaces the three squares overflow menu icon with a version made of three circles. It's a small change, but the circles definitely look more sophisticated.

Smooth System Progress Bar - this module lets you give the Android system progress bars (visible when installing an app, for example) a complete makeover according to your wishes. You can adjust the speed, the bar width, the length of separation between the bars' sections, and the section count. And you can select a different color, of course - what's the purpose if you couldn't paint the progress bar a lovingly nerdy CRT green?

YouTube AdAway - this module deals with annoying YouTube ads once for all.. until you update the YouTube app, that is. But fear not, because AdAway's developer has no problems with updating his creation along the way. It works really well, although whether you'll choose that, or the ubiquitous AdBlock is entirely up to you.

Gravity Box - this customization module is worthy of an article of its own, but we'd rather keep you busy with awesome new smartphones and tablets instead. Anyway, here are some of the highlights we discovered inside its many menus. The Lockscreen tweaks part lets you decorate the unlock ring with a battery indicator arc, fire up the flashlight with a long press on it, and even make minute adjustments to its horizontal and vertical offset. 

The Statusbar tweaks menu contains nifty options to add data usage indicators to the Wi-Fi/3G status icons in the status bar. The Power Tweaks section lets you enable an advanced power menu with the added options of rebooting, taking a screenshot and screen recording while in the power menu, and more. 

The Telephony menu lets you choose an action to be performed when the device is flipped face down while ringing, set a full-screen caller photo, and keep incoming phone calls in background. The Launcher tweaks lets you choose a number of rows and columns for the home-screen, which sadly didn't work on our Nexus 5 for some reason. Navigation keys are customizable as well - each of the three software keys can be assigned double-tap and long-press actions to your whim. 

Finally, the Misc tweaks page lets you add a helpful RAM usage bar to the recent tasks menu. There's lot more to be found in Gravity Box, and that's only one of two free customization suites we got from Xposed. The next one's called...

Xposed GEL Settings. This is one of the sleekest power-tweaking apps/modules we've had the pleasure of using, and we owe it to the background which is ripped straight of Ubuntu to an extent. Anyway, let's see what this puppy can do. 

The General settings page lets you lock down the desktop to prevent dragging, hide the page indicator, resize widgets and other harmless little tweaks. The Google Search bar can be hidden and configured to automatically show up on the Google Now page. 

The Homescreen page offers columns and rows adjustments, while the App Drawer page lets you make many changes to how the drawer and icons look. For example, you can make it fully transparent, and add shadows to the icons' labels. 

The Gestures page gives a taste of some paid functionality, namely assigning different actions to swiping and tapping gestures. 

The Backup and Restore functionality is also only available after donating to the developer, while the Settings page offers the ability to import and export GEL settings.

Wrap-up


Mind you, all of the stuff we demonstrated is just obvious tweaks that we felt like checking out. As long as Android stays true to its open nature and continues to evolve, Xposed's potential is vast and limitless. And since it's a developer-driven community effort, it's practically guaranteed that if you ever feel like something else in Android needs to be changed, some developer has already felt the same and whipped up an Xposed module. The beauty of Android, indeed!

29 Comments
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posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:02 39

1. Anshulonweb (Posts: 319; Member since: 07 Feb 2014)


let me say it again.... the beauty of android....

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 11:44 5

11. DEATHSTROKE9 (Posts: 399; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)


The beauty of rooted android* but that's not necessarily a bad thing! :-)

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 12:04 7

12. Wiki_jaan (Posts: 703; Member since: 24 Jun 2012)


you can unroot any time

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 21:50

19. DEATHSTROKE9 (Posts: 399; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)


Unless you have a galaxy s3 like me. The phone that's fights back when you try to root it! (After receiving 4.3 update). I had to rollback to 4.1.2 and forcefully lose my data!

posted on 26 Apr 2014, 03:15

20. Wiki_jaan (Posts: 703; Member since: 24 Jun 2012)


mine s3 rooted more than 10 times and i also unroot many times..... i didnt lose any thing coz all my data is on sd card even titanium backup data is on sd card

posted on 26 Apr 2014, 10:40 1

23. adecvat (Posts: 131; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


Root = lost warranty

posted on 26 Apr 2014, 20:04

24. Planterz (Posts: 881; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


Possibly. Depends on the phone (Nexuses, for example), and whether you can undo it or not. Most warranties only last a year anyway, unless you've got some extended plan with your carrier or vendor or something.

posted on 27 Apr 2014, 01:09

25. fuelband (Posts: 22; Member since: 19 Jul 2013)


trip Knox 0x1 and void your warranty...beautiful indeed!

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:13 9

2. Suo.Eno (Posts: 182; Member since: 17 Feb 2013)


rovo89@xda-devs deserve to be well rewarded by Google and his user base for his efforts. In fact xposed is that very well made mod that adds to the foundation for the Nexus program's existence dare I say it.

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:54 3

7. jroc74 (Posts: 4931; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


Like with a few features of the manufacture UI's...and a few things from ROM developers, and a few thing from just regular app developers..

If it works well and the Android OS team likes it....it will make its way into stock Android.

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:23 9

3. Antimio (Posts: 267; Member since: 11 Nov 2013)


for 3rd time... The beauty of Android

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:27 9

4. CyberFalcon (Posts: 170; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)


"Android FTW....."

Can't think of anything else to post thats y...

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:35 5

5. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5480; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)


Android advantages :)

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 10:48 14

6. SleepingOz (unregistered)


No other mobile OS comes close!

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 11:02 1

8. htcforlife (Posts: 45; Member since: 15 Apr 2014)


the beauty of android
and
the beauty of htc!

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 11:10 19

10. shuaibhere (Posts: 1511; Member since: 07 Jul 2012)


Htc has nothing to do with this...

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 11:06 3

9. networkdood (Posts: 6273; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


One of the best ideas to come to mobile phone computing - especially on Vanilla Android....Xposed did not work on my Coolpad as much, but on my Nexus 5, it is awesome.
And, the beauty of this is one can just run their stock Android phone along with Xposed without having to flash any ROMs, so this is great for those who are afraid to do too much to their phone. The changes can easily be reversed, too...

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 15:57 1

13. Planterz (Posts: 881; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


Wanam Xposed is awesome if you've got a Samsung phone.

posted on 26 Apr 2014, 07:50

21. Ishmeet (Posts: 111; Member since: 16 Sep 2013)


Can't disagree to that.
The possibilities it offers are quite great and limitless.
And best of all, everything works without an issue, on any TW rom.

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 15:58

14. The_Innovation (Posts: 562; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)


January 7, 2007

The beauty of whatever it is that Jobs is holding in his hand calling it the "iPhone".

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 16:05 7

15. CyberFalcon (Posts: 170; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)


and that beauty died with him...

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 16:57

17. The_Innovation (Posts: 562; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)


I wouldn't say that. Premium materials with an aluminum body. But regardless, it still outsells the rest in the United States, even in its death. Not to mention that we're talking like what? 3 iPhone models being sold? Versus more than a dozen Android units as competition.

posted on 27 Apr 2014, 01:18

26. JGuinan007 (Posts: 634; Member since: 19 May 2011)


Are you talking about the HTC Inspire 4g or Desire HD?

posted on 01 May 2014, 16:13

28. The_Innovation (Posts: 562; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)


I'm talking about the first iPhone.

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 16:52 1

16. shahrooz (Posts: 165; Member since: 17 Sep 2013)


Xposed is awesome!

posted on 25 Apr 2014, 21:08 1

18. MobileGuru (Posts: 79; Member since: 18 Jan 2014)


great article!

posted on 26 Apr 2014, 09:20 3

22. Planterz (Posts: 881; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


A few things are missing from this article. First, when it states "You will need a device that runs either Android Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich", it might be obvious, but Jellybean(s) and Kit Kat benefit from Xposed as well.

Second, GEL settings only works on KK, and only on Nexus/GPE devices, since those are the only ones that have the Google Experience Launcher (unless you've flashed a custom rom to a different phone).

Third, GravityBox only plays nice with stock or nearly-stock Android. Heavily customized themes like TouchWiz or Sense aren't supported or recommended. There might be a tweak or 2 that works, but for the most part, stuff won't jive. It's best to read the developer thread on xda to see if it might do what you want it to. Luckilly, screwing your phone up with Xposed hard to do. If it does something funky, or does nothing at all, you just disable the change, and/or uninstall the module and reboot.

Fourth, if you DO have a heavily themed phone, chances are there's a module or few specifically for your brand, or even your specific phone. Like Wanam for Samsung phones.

Fifth, some of the better tweaks is removing certain notifications or toasts (the pop-up message that disappears in a couple seconds) or status bar icons (or tweaking them). For example, on my small Galaxy Light, status bar and notification tray space is limited and precious. I have removed the headphone plugged in icon, the loud volume warning pop-up, the horrible freaking "recommended apps" notification when the audio jack is used, the "Battery Full" notification. I've also replaced the boring battery icon with a pretty cool one. Some of these are in individual modules, some are part of a "suite".

Sixth, there's some functionality tweaks that deserve mention. For example, you enable global rotation (like a tablet does) on your phone. Handy if you wished the headphone jack and USB port were on the other sides. You can also change the behavior of the hardware buttons. Long presses, double presses, etc. Fast forward songs while locked with the volume keys. Trigger the camera LED with a button press+hold. Launch apps. Kill apps. Lots of different things.

Between using a custom launcher (I like Nova Prime) and Xposed, you can turn even a heavily skinned phone like a Samsung into the phone you want, without the risk, pain, or outright impossibility of flashing a custom rom. My Galaxy Light is practically unrecognizable compared to the stock one. If you've ever thought "I wish I could just..." about your phone, Xposed with the right module(s) just might let you do that.

posted on 27 Apr 2014, 04:38

27. techperson211 (Posts: 667; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)


Dude you should have save this for a new article. Just kidding. Thanks for the info almost try it in my z1compact.

posted on 29 Jul 2014, 15:13

29. javy108 (Posts: 163; Member since: 27 Jul 2014)


The beauty of root :')

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