Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

When it comes to customization, no competing platform comes close to Android. Yes, it sounds like a tired old phrase, but the reality is that the OS' underlying open source design has spawned a legion of faithful developers that are always hard at work, and the fruits of their labors are enjoyed by millions. If anything, by now it should be obvious to all that the surrounding ecosystem of apps and devs is what makes or breaks a platform. That is, most of us want to change things up with our smartphones through third-party apps and tools, and many still like to do that on a regular basis.

That's where our new columns dedicated on the various different customizations that you can carry out come in. If you haven't noticed, you can now find the very latest new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers neatly organized each week for your consideration – we dig 'em up, you stand judge and decide if anything's worth your time. But today's a little different – this time around we went through the entire catalog for January and selected only the very best of each category. You should consider trying those.

Let's start with launchers.

Best new launchers

Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

What caught our attention in terms of launchers in January? It was mostly slim pickings, but we definitely have a few favorites that you should check out. 

SF Launcher 2

Price: FREE (Paid version available)

Designed around a scrolling list of cards, the new SF Launcher 2 is one of the few that does the Material Design and Android 5.0 Lollipop theming right – in fact, the result reminds us a lot of a Google Now-themed launcher. You get twelve cityscape headers that change based on the time of day, and all the basic app and widget launcher functionality is here, but the new kid doesn't bog down in meaningless extra functionality or fancy, but excruciatingly slow graphics. Besides the cityscape headers, there are also light and dark themes. Best of all, managing the homescreen cards is super easy, too.


T9 Launcher

Price: FREE

Remember those T9 predictions from times when phones had physical keyboards? Well, the T9 Launcher is built on the same principle, and learns your usage patterns, improving your searches with predictive matching. It sports the trendy Material-based design, and can automatically theme the status and software navigation keys bars to fit the color of your wallpaper.


Metro UI Launcher 10 Preview

Price: FREE (Paid version available)

With Windows 10 now set for release sometime within the next 6 months, excitement around the phone version of the OS has started mounting. If you, too, are anxious to try it out, the best you can do right now is check out the Metro UI Launcher 10, which offers a Windows 10-inspired Metro UI. If you end up liking it, however, you'll have to dole out north of five bucks to get the Pro version, which can actually be used as a daily driver.


Best new widgets

Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

Widgets galore! As you'll notice, most of these are based on the amazing, highly-customizable DIY Zooper Widget, and that's actually a stamp of quality. Let's see what January brought us!

Plastix - Zooper Widget

Price: $0.99

This add-on for the popular Zooper Widget tool brings about a few good-looking themes that are heavily inspired Google's Material Design guidelines. If you dig the look of Android 5.0 Lollipop and have been trying to achieve similar results, Plastix will fit right into your plans.


Golden Clocks - Zooper Widget

Price: FREE

If the transition to ever flatter visuals doesn't sit very well with you, then Golden Clocks – a Zooper Widget set of skins – may just be what you're looking for. As the name implies, gold color is used throughout all of this, but we've got to say that tacky is the last word that came to mind when checking out the artwork.


Neon Clocks - Zooper Widget

Price: FREE

We quite like the disco style of the 80s, and the Neon Clocks - Zooper Widget skin makes us feel quite at home. Most of the art is minimalist and beautifully crafted, and goes well with any darker theme or wallpaper.


Widgets for Nest

Price: $3.54

If you have one (or several) of the nifty Nest thermostats installed at your home, you can use the app to control their temperature. But if you prefer to do so through a widget readily available on your homescreen at all times, then Widgets for Nest is precisely what you're looking for.


Action Widgets

Price: FREE

Action widgets lets you configure any set of quick toggles and place them on your homescreen in the form of a widget. The great part about this widget is its vast trove of 28 themes, so don't worry about the possibility of it not matching your homescreen's current style.


Best new icon packs

Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

It's about time we talked icon packs. Tens of those come out every month, and you'll be surprised just how good some of them are, not to mention that many of these packages contain tons of skinned icons and are supported by a wide range of third-party launchers.

Illus - Icon Pack

Price: $0.99

Flat, square, with shadows – that's what you get with the Illus icon pack. The set includes over 2,000 skinned icons and is compatible with Nova, Apex, Action, Aviate, Themer, Smart, Atom, Inspire, KK, Solo, Holo, ADW, Nine, Trebuchet, CM11 Theme Engine, XGELS, Unicon (Icon Themer), Launchmate Pro.


Dekk - Icon Pack

Price: $0.99

You can deck out your homescreen with over 2,000 custom-styled icons with the Dekk icon pack, and they'll work with a number of launchers, including Nova, Apex, Action, Aviate, Themer, Smart, Atom, Inspire, KK, Solo, Holo, ADW, Nine, Trebuchet, CM11 Theme Engine, XGELS, Unicon (Icon Themer), Launchmate Pro.


FLEX - Icon Pack

Price: $0.99

The FLEX icon pack contains some 2,750 icons, which is downright impressive, not to mention that it works with pretty much every popular launcher you can think of. Get FLEX if you're looking for beautifully-styled, stock-like icons.


Retron icon pack

Price: $1.00

With more than 1,100 icons, 13 Zooper widgets, and automatic skinning for unsupported app icons, Retron is quite the deal for just $1. Add to that the beautiful, retro styling to the mix, and you've got yourself a great icon pack. Definitely one of our favorites of the month. Retron works with your usual set of launchers.


Cyrcol

Price: $0.99

If you like round icons, then the Cyrcol icon pack may just be the one you're looking for. It contains more than 2,200 icons and supports the following third-party launchers: Apex, Nova, Aviate, ADW, Action, Smart, Next, Holo, Go, CM11 Theme Chooser, etc.


Shadoway Circles

Price: $1.16

For an icon set so simplistic, Shadoway Circle is quite effective. As the name suggests, a lot of attention has been to shadows, and the results are beautiful. The icon pack contains 350+ skinned icons and works with the Apex and Nova launchers.


Best new wallpapers

Android customization monthly: Best new launchers, widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers (January)

Lastly, let's talk wallpapers. Now, unlike the rest of the customization tools on this list, these can be used and enjoyed by anybody, regardless of whether you have an Android phone or not. What's more, while these have been hand-picked to be both beautiful and high resolution (higher than your Quad HD display, even), they will still work on your 1080p or 720p resolution smartphone. They'll even look better than a competing, resolution-fitting wallpaper.

The images in the gallery have been re-sized to save you some bandwidth and time. You can download the full-sized versions from here.

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6 Comments

1. AfterShock

Posts: 4146; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

I stopped using icon packs but still love the ability. This is one of the beauty's of not being locked up in a controlling OEMs freaky reach. Or it'd cost five to ten times more if they could, if.

2. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

True but even with some lock downs on the OEM, other OS's do have icon packs still and even custom icon ability (even if a little more limited). I have tried a few on my z3, but nothing has wowed me just yet. I like the shadoway pack, will probably load that up.

3. LuckyS

Posts: 154; Member since: Dec 07, 2013

Only on Android.

4. frydaexiii

Posts: 1476; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

Meanwhile @ Camp iOS... Top customization apps: 1) Swiftkey 2) Top HD wallpapers: 1) No point for this since the iPhone's screen ain't even HD...

5. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

There no point trolling on iOS fans. They are just people with a different perceptives for mobile tech.

6. valneja

Posts: 32; Member since: Dec 21, 2014

Why do you reccomend us apps that have less than 3,9 rate on google play? That means they are not that good. I love having an android phone (LG G3). I use Nova launcher and coconut theme :) it looks great and works so smootly. I love Nova launcher because it offers us customization that stock android doesn't (overlap, the look of menu and so on). I would have been so bored with an iPhone :D I just love customization too much.

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