Some phone customisation tips (mostly for people that are new to the S3)


It seems that there's a few people that have swapped from an iPhone to an S3, so I thought I would make a thread with some customisation tips in it. Rooting your phone and installing an entirely new ROM is probably the biggest change you can make, but I'll focus on stuff you can do without having to root, then it's not so daunting!

Why customise the phone at all?

There's a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can make your phone's screens look just how you want them to look. Customising may take a little while when you're new to the phone, but once it's done, that's it! Secondly, customising the phone adds new features that you may find useful, so it's not all about looks.

What is a launcher?

Some phones run stock or "vanilla" Android, which means that Android has not been customised in any way. The S3 is not one of them, as Samsung use a custom user interface on top of Android called TouchWiz. These custom user interfaces are known as launchers.

What is the advantage of switching to a different launcher?

Switching to a different launcher allows you to do things that you couldn't otherwise do, for example: -

Changing the size of the icon grid on your phone (so you can have 5 x 5 icons or whatever)
Changing the animations that occur when you change screens
Changing the icons for your app shortcuts and folders
Adding gestures based on swiping the screen to perform certain tasks
Renaming app shortcuts, or having icons without a name underneath them

That's just a few examples. Some launchers are also a bit more snappy in use than TouchWiz, although the S3 is a powerful phone and it's generally snappy in use anyway.

How do I install a launcher? What options are available?

You can download launchers from the Google Play store, just like you would with any other app. They are usually either free, or there's a free version that has certain extra features locked away until you pay. One or two only have paid versions.

Here's some of the popular launchers: -

Apex Launcher
Nova Launcher
GO Launcher EX
Launcher 7

My personal favourite is Apex as it's designed for Ice Cream Sandwich devices, it offers some nice features and it performs really nicely on the S3.

What do I do once the launcher is installed?

Once your launcher has installed and you're on the screen where it says "Open" and "Uninstall", just tap the home key on your phone. Rather than taking you to the home screen, it will pop up a little menu asking if you want to use TouchWiz or the new launcher you installed. Select the new launcher and the phone will switch to it.

You will notice that it's basically like starting from fresh in terms of your home screens, as any shortcuts and widgets you were using in TouchWiz will not be there any more, but don't worry - if you decide you don't like your new launcher, you can just uninstall it and you'll be back to where you were with all of your original shortcuts and widgets intact.

If you decide that you like a particular launcher more than TouchWiz, you can set it as the default so that the phone boots up to that launcher and when you press the home button, it no longer asks you which launcher you want to use.

Themes and icon packs.

There are plenty of themes and icon packs available for various launchers in the Google Play store. If you do a regular Google search for Android icon packs or Android themes, you'll find screenshots, details and download links.

Can I change the default applications in Android?

Yes. When you install multiple apps that do the same thing, sometimes when you try and do a particular task a little menu will pop up asking which app you would like to use - just like when you press the home screen after installing a new launcher. One of the options on that little menu is to make your choice the default, so check that, make your choice, and from then on that app is the default one for that particular action. You can change the settings in app management in the main phone settings menu if you need to.

Can I use an alternate keyboard?

Yep! The 2 most popular replacement keyboards are probably Swiftkey and Swype.

Swiftkey works by trying to predict which word you are going to type next, so for instance, if you start a sentence with the word "Happy", then one of the options it will come up with is "birthday" and you can just tap that word to insert it in 1 press. Sometimes you can pretty much type whole sentences one word/tap at a time. It also has a learning feature, so it changes its suggestions based on what you type. There's a free version in the Play store, but the full version costs £2.99.

Swype works by allowing you to trace a word out without taking your finger off the screen. As it's a fundamental change in the way you type, it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you're used to it, it can really improve your typing speed. It also has the word prediction feature of Swiftkey as well as built in Dragon voice recognition, so you can tap a button, say what you want to type, and Swype will insert it into your text message or whatever. Swype is currently in beta (although it works fine) which you can download for free.
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Very good post.

I'm coming from iOS to Android and I have not got a clue.:confused:

I installed Apex but for the life of me I can't seem to get the customisation sorted. Any widget I try to install tells me to add super user and root - :(

I'm assuming that rooting Android is like JB iPhone?

I would need a step by step guide with colourful pictures ( pop up would be good ) to use Apex - I'm normally tech savy but this is really getting to annoy me now.

Any advice for a complete Android noob? :smashin:


Active Member
Very good post.
I installed Apex but for the life of me I can't seem to get the customisation sorted. Any widget I try to install tells me to add super user and root - :(

If you are trying to add a widget via the app drawer 3rd party launchers do require root access.

To add a widget with these launchers just press and hold anywhere on the home screen and a list of options should appear with one being the ability to add a widget.


Well-known Member
WOW DJSigma great effort you have put into this thread :smashin:
thank you for your time in this as i do not have a clue :blush:


@TsaraBomba - As garymontague said, do a long press on a blank area of any home screen and a small menu will pop up giving you the following options: -

Apex actions

So then you can choose Widgets and it will give you a full list of all of the available ones on your phone (aside from any launcher-specific widgets that are not available to Apex). Scroll to the one you want and tap on it to select it and it'll be added to your home screen.

Long pressing on a widget or app shortcut also brings up a menu for customising that particular widget or icon. If you want to change the name of a shortcut for instance, you would long press on it, select Edit from the little menu that pops up, tap on the shortcut's name, then you can change it and hit OK to accept the changes. You can also change the icon for an app shortcut in a similar way.

So, basically with Apex, this is the main stuff you need to know: -

1. Long press on a blank area of one of your screens to add new stuff.

2. Long press on a widget or app shortcut to move, remove, resize, edit, share etc.

3. Double-tap a blank area of the screen to bring up a small menu where you can get to the main Apex settings. Alternatively, while on a home screen just press the menu key on your phone and Apex settings is listed there too.

4. Once you're done customising, double-tap a blank area of the home screen to bring up the little menu and choose Lock desktop, then you (or anyone you let use your phone) can't change anything. To unlock it, just double-tap and choose Unlock desktop.

There is no need to root to do any of the stuff I've mentioned up to now.

@Ashmanuk - Thanks, and no problem!
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