Nexus phones are typically thought of as the ultimate form of Android greatness. They deliver timely updates straight from Google, are bloatware free, and get special perks like access to beta releases of Android.
But there are many good reasons why you may want to go for something other than a Nexus phone. The Nexus 6P is an unwieldy beast unless you have sizable paws. The 5X is too plasticky and underpowered—it's affordable, but you sort of get what you pay for.
By contrast, there are plenty of non-Nexus phones that are worthy of your hard-earned dollars. The Galaxy S7 Edge is a beauty and the best camera I’ve ever used on a smartphone. There are a lot of other solid phones out there from LG, HTC, Motorola, and OnePlus that offer their own unique perks. Of course that means you’re giving up what’s arguably the best Android experience.
Or are you? With a little bit of legwork, you can almost get that stock experience without the need to root your phone and slap on a custom ROM. If that’s what you’re after, here’s what you need to do.
Google-ify your launcher
The most basic, and probably the easiest, step you can take is to install the Google Now Launcher. This is the same launcher that comes as default on Nexus phones. It puts Google Now one swipe away, places a search bar at the top of each screen, and organizes all your apps in alphabetical order inside of the app drawer. It’s smooth and minimalist compared to some of the inelegant solutions offered by phone makers.
The Google Now launcher gives you a great Android experience, no matter which device you’re using.
But the Now Launcher isn’t always the best option since you’re not able to change up the number of apps that can appear on each row in the grid. This causes them to look blown up and out of place on some larger phones that have a 5.5-inch screen or above. So try it out to see if it looks wrong to you.
In that case, consider Nova Launcher. With just a few tweaks, you can get a very Nexus-style look on your home screen.
Nova Launcher Prime offers a Nexus-style experience, with a lot of customization choices.
Plus it has a ton of other options that let you change up the look of folders, create custom gestures, and help you feel like you can change just about anything you want.
Also, ADW Launcher recently returned from the dead to offer many choices to slim back your bloated launcher. There are plenty of other launchers out there if you want to try your hand at building your own stock Android experience from scratch.
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