I’m bored with the look of my Android phone. It’s been the same for years. Is there a way to apply themes or styles to my phone and update the UI?
Generally speaking, the design of a full user interface is complex and surprisingly nuanced. Get a few little things wrong and you can leave users confused, frustrated and cranky. Not so good. As a result, it’s not surprise that the extreme retheme options of yore have been reduced to a fairly narrow band of changes you can make to your user experience. Color palette, maybe a wallpaper or font change for readability, that’s about it. Except that it’s clear the Android development team wants to see users have more flexibility, so in addition to wallpaper, Android is adding a new Styles option too. So far, it’s just on the Google Pixel phones – the reference phone for Android developers – but hopefully it’ll make it to your phone soon!
Note: yes, there are third party apps that offer you the ability to change your theme or “skin” your phone. This feature is actually built into the Android OS and appears within the regular Settings menu. Big difference, and considerably more stable.
Fortunately we have a Pixel 3 XL in the office so we do have the Styles feature and you can at least learn more about it if it’s not yet on your Android phone. It’s easy to find out; just go to Settings and search for “styles”. This feature, also known as the theme engine, was officially added to the Pixel phones in the October 2019 update. But let’s start at home…
Here’s my home screen on the Google Pixel 3 XL running Android 10 (built QQ2A.200305.002 if you’re curious):
Quite attractive. Notice that the icons are all rounded and one – Now Playing – even has an icon element that spills out over the edge of the background circle. The colors of the upper portion of the screen work really well too, with the white on purple design.
With both of those in mind, let’s now jump into Settings where I’ll search for “styles”:
As you can see, Wallpapers has been expanded in this release of Android 10 on the Pixel phone. Nice! Most likely you’ll get zero results for “styles” at this point, but who knows, maybe this feature has snuck onto your Android phone too.
I tap to proceed…
Very cool. As you can see, there are four defined styles in this particular release, Default, Crayon, Collage and Ash. They offer different colors and, more importantly, changes to the icon presentation. Let’s look a bit closer at two of them.
Subtle but fun, where the circular app icons change to having the lower right more squared off in the style of Crayola Crayon color samples. The highlight color has also been changed from blue to purple in the example, though that’s not entirely clear, and the default font changes too.
What about Collage?
I like this one, actually, with the squared off icons and the green highlight color. The font choice? Not too bad, but if I really don’t like it, the “Custom” style button lets you specify individual elements if you’re so inclined.
To apply one of these new styles in the Android 10 theme engine, tap on Apply. This is where you can see it’s not quite a full implementation ready for release too, as it happens. Here’s what pops up:
This doesn’t really make sense if I haven’t changed wallpapers but am instead just changing my style but… I’ll choose “Home screen” and see what happens.
Turns out that it did change the wallpaper, and not for the better:
The time is unreadable – it should automatically change if the background is the same color, don’t you think? – and because the rest of the wallpaper is so light, it’s hard to really see that the icons have changed, but change they have. Now they’re cool and square!
This is much easier to see if I go to the all apps view. Here’s the original view with the rounded icons:
and here’s the new Collage icon shape and view:
Which one do you like better? Soon enough you’ll be able to play with the theme engine on your Android phone too, I expect. Oh, and if you have a Xiaomi phone or some of the Huawei phones, you might already have a UI manager atop your Android so you might already have all these theme features and a lot more. Check it out on your phone – it’d be a different app, not part of the regular Android settings. #android #teampixel