Android 12’s customization shortcomings drove me again to third-party launchers and icon packs

Within the fall of 2020, it was inconceivable to go wherever on social media with out seeing screenshot after screenshot of iPhone residence screens. Apple added help for widgets within the then-new iOS 14 and, paired with the power to create customized Siri Shortcut icons, it appeared like everybody determined to deck their gadgets out in all kinds of how. Retro tech layouts, Animal Crossing-themed icons, even older iOS variations — Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok had been all loaded with examples.

To Android customers, this stage of personalization was nothing new. Google’s imaginative and prescient for cell phones has had this type of function baked in for the reason that earliest iterations of the software program. I nonetheless bear in mind the primary time I attempted out Launcher Professional on an HTC Thunderbolt — it was like a breath of contemporary air on the time. When you regarded for it on-line, you’d discover Android followers yelling to nobody specifically about how telephone themes had been nothing new. One factor, I believe, hadn’t been wholly thought-about: customization on Android had, to a sure extent, stalled out.

Greater than something, the arrival of Android 12 has rendered that mind-set outdated. With Google’s latest replace, cellular customization is again in an enormous approach. Whereas some might argue they’ve by no means stopped personalizing their telephone, loading up on customized launchers and ROMs to get their gadget working simply as they meant, Android has grow to be comparatively stagnant on this area lately. The times of untamed, distinctive, and downright ugly residence screens have been changed by a necessity for utility, particularly as one of the best smartphones flip into productiveness machines than ever earlier than.

Android 12 — at the least, Google’s model of it — appears to separate the distinction between your boring, fundamental structure and the hours it takes to tweak the animations excellent when scrolling between screens. It is nonetheless a reasonably typical residence display screen, however with dynamic colours pulled robotically out of your wallpaper. Abruptly, what would’ve been a boring, run-of-the-mill structure on Android 11 turns into way more artistic in Android 12, with out way more than a few faucets in settings.

From the onset, Materials You looks as if a super compromise for any old-school smartphone person who finds themselves too busy lately to place a lot effort into customization. That stated, there is a catch: it solely works for Google’s personal apps proper now, with no signal as to when third-party devs can tweak their icons to match. The second you place every other app on your private home display screen — podcast catchers, messaging apps, even simply Twitter — you lose out on that monotone look. Certain, you possibly can hold alternate apps on different residence pages, however in line with that design development, you may must take away any third-party companies out of your dock as properly.

And that is simply taking a look at Google’s implementation of dynamic theming. Samsung has carried out an amazing job bringing Android 12 to its telephones in a well timed method, however One UI 4 does not use Materials You themes for its customized icons. As a substitute, the corporate constructed a proprietary type of this know-how with the very same flaw: it is solely able to coloring in Samsung’s personal app icons. Providers like Chrome will sit in your Galaxy S21’s residence display screen, clashing with the remainder of the interface.

It is totally doable that future software program variations — Android 12L, and even Android 13 — will enhance this case, providing APIs for Materials You that open up computerized icon themes to all builders and telephone producers alike. Proper now, nevertheless, anybody operating Android 12, no matter whether or not it is a Google Pixel or Samsung gadget — has to make do with nearly all of their app icons clashing with that stunning monotone look.

I believe this would possibly create an fascinating dilemma, the place lapsed customizers and newcomers to personalization alike understand one factor: Materials You, in its present state, simply is not sufficient. Certain, these customers would possibly love the brand new look supplied by their Pixel 6, however with most of their icons excluded from theming, is it even price leaving enabled? And similar to that, an old-school Android passion comes again into play.

Icon packs have been round for so long as I can bear in mind, and with the shortcomings of dynamic theming on full show in Android 12, I believe they’re due for a comeback. So long as you are prepared to make use of a supported launcher, icon packs can ship the appear and feel of Materials You, with out counting on Google’s eventual third-party help.

A fast seek for “Materials You icon packs” on the Play Retailer reveals a dozen or extra choices to select from, and whereas my expertise wasn’t excellent, it did coat many of the apps on my telephone in contemporary colours. “Pix Materials You Icons” — the primary end result, and the one I selected — contains help for tons of of apps and matches the final colours of no matter wallpaper I’ve set. My residence display screen was practically utterly coated in Materials You-esque paintings just some minutes of set up.

Because it seems, it is simple to fall down a personalization gap if you happen to’re not paying consideration. Since I needed to change from the Pixel Launcher to a third-party service — Nova, aka “ol’ dependable” — I all of the sudden had a ton of tweaks and customization obtainable at my fingertips. Clearly, I needed to end making use of customized themes to my unsupported icons — even when the match wasn’t excellent, utilizing a generic Materials You icon was greater than sufficient. That is begin, however the search bar wasn’t matching, in order that must be fastened as properly. And whereas I used to be scrolling via residence pages, I observed I did not love the bounce-back impact. And perhaps the grid is outsized — a bit of padding tweaking would do lots of good. And, oh man, the app drawer font actually wants some work.

You see the place that is going, proper? Within the chase to excellent what Google began in Android 12, falling again into outdated habits — or rediscovering new ones — could be sufficient to kick off a brand new golden age of customization. And whereas future updates would possibly make Materials You a bit of extra welcoming to 3rd events, you need not wait. Launchers, icon packs, even customized ROMs — they’re all nonetheless on-line, ready so that you can commit a few hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon to make your telephone your personal.

iOS customers had their second on social media, however Android has at all times been the king of personalization. Possibly it is excessive time we reclaim the crown and lean all the way in which again into custom-made residence screens — irrespective of how embarrassing they may look a decade from now.

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