One of the coolest things about Android is how easily you can customize it and make it your own. One of the other coolest things about Android is the platform's tight integration with Google Now, Google's powerful and beautifully designed intelligent assistant tool.
Google Now introduced a new minimalist card-centric UI design that's slowly spreading throughout Android -- and with a little simple tinkering, you can make your entire home screen revolve around its striking look.
Here are a couple of different ways to do it -- one of them simple and one all about control.
1. The simple way: Get a Google Now-inspired launcher
Part of Android's customization potential means you can change practically every facet of the operating system -- and that includes the very launcher that determines how your home screen and app drawer act.
A custom Android launcher called SF Launcher turns your home screen into a simple and sleek-looking Now-like interface. You get a city-themed header at the top of your screen with the current date and time; you can pick what city you want to be shown as well as whether the landscape is day, night, or automatically adjusted based on the time of day. You can also customize everything from the size of the header to the clock's text color and what happens when you tap or long-press different areas of the image.
Beneath that is a widget area in which you can place any regular widget you want. You can add multiple widgets there and then scroll through them by swiping from side to side.
The lower third of the screen, meanwhile, is taken up by a highly customizable app favorites section. And swiping to the right brings up a full list of apps on your device.
SF Launcher is free; a $2 "Plus Key" upgrade gives you access to extra icon packs and the promise of more pro-level features in the future.
2. The total control way: Make your own Google Now home screen
If you want a little more control over your configuration, you can actually create a Now-like look on your home screen just by using a series of custom widgets. First, you'll want to download the free Ultimate Custom Widget (UCCW) app from the Play Store. It serves as the foundation for everything else we're about to do.
Next, grab the Google Now Cards UCCW Skin, which'll set you back $1.28. Once that app is on your device, you'll have to run it once to install the skin. Then, just add a new widget to your home screen -- the same way you always do -- and select "UCCW 4x2" from the list of available options. You'll see a full range of Now-themed choices, including a Google Now alarm clock, Google Now battery status card, Google Now calendar appointment card, Google Now Gmail status card, and a handful of other possibilities.
One caveat: While the skin does have a plain Now-like landscape header that serves as a giant hotspot for Google Search, it doesn't have a more traditional Now header with a full search box and Voice Search command. If you want that, I'd suggest also grabbing the free Google Now UCCW Skin. It has fewer options than the other skin has but does include a more robust Now header as well as a small-sized Now search bar; consequently, it can serve as a nice complement to the other app and work well alongside it.
A few final quick tips for this setup:
- Set your wallpaper to a simple gray background if you want to get the full Now-esque visual effect. Of course, there's no reason not to play around with other wallpapers and see what look you like the best.
- Remember that Google Now itself has a home screen widget of its own. You could always add it into the mix if you want to see actual dynamic Now cards on your home screen in addition to your other Now-themed stuff.
- If you aren't already, you may want to consider using a basic launcher like Nova or Apex in conjunction with this setup. That'll enable you to make a lot of significant changes to the home screen layout -- changes like removing the persistent Google Search bar (if you're using a stock Android device) and adding additional rows onto your home screen grid -- that can help maximize the Now vibe.
So there you have it: The steps to making your very own Google Now-themed home screen. Happy customizing!