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How to make your phone look and work more like stock Android

Derek Walter | July 15, 2016
Just because your phone doesn't have a Nexus logo doesn't mean it can't work like stock Android.

Sideload the Google dialer and contacts app

Google makes a contacts and phone app, and they’re supposed to only be for Nexus devices. But with a little trickery, you can get them on your non-Nexus phone. 

That means you’ll get the same cool features from the dialer, like the ability to look up nearby places right from the search bar and a consistent experience with your Google contacts entered or edited from your Gmail. 

google contacts

You can get the Google Contacts and Phone apps, as long as you’re willing to sideload them.

You need to know how to sideload an APK. Then head to APK Mirror and the specific sections for Google Phone and Contacts. 

You may need to experiment, however. I tried this out on different phones, and the correct version to use varied depending on them. The latest edition worked on the HTC 10, while I had to go back Google Phone 2.5.12_rc9 on the Galaxy S7 Edge. The key is trial and error until you get it right.

Another point to remember: next time you go to initiate a call or open a contact from another app, you’ll have to select the Google app as the default. It’s a minor annoyance, as this step is what allows this freedom to switch up default apps.

Grab a theme

Some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy line and many HTC phones, offer a theme store where you can change up the icons, settings page, and overall design by piggybacking on the hard work of a developer. If you’re after a Nexus look, this can be a great way to go since several developers have built themes that look similar to stock Android.

themes and launchers

There are plenty of themes to be found in Samsung’s store that give your phone a stock Android look.

If you search for “material” you’ll find many good options in the Galaxy Themes store (I’m a particular fan of Material Dark). Same goes with the HTC marketplace, though there aren’t quite as many choices to be found. Keep in mind that developers may update those themes from time to time, so it means yet another place to check for updates. 

While most are free, a few of the themes will cost you a dollar or two. It’s a worthy price to pay for a much slicker look.

A few lockscreen tweaks

Even if you’ve made the aforementioned tweaks, don’t ignore the lockscreen. On the Galaxy S7 and S6 line, for example, you can change up which apps are available as a quick launch option when you unlock. So if you’ve made the Google Phone app your dialer, then you can add that to the lock screen to replace Samsung’s option.


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