Android Expert Profiles

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone

Give your Android home screen a Chrome OS-like makeover with this spiffy custom setup.

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone

Android and Chrome OS are in the midst of coming together like never before. If you use both platforms and want to take the synergy up a notch, this creative Android home screen setup is just the thing for you.

It's a little something I like to call the Chrome Phone -- and it does exactly what you'd expect: It brings a taste of the Chrome OS interface onto your Android device.

Submitted by an Android user who goes by the name "Wall Breaker," the Chrome Phone gives you a Chrome OS-inspired Apps button on the bottom-left of your home screen along with a Chrome OS-inspired status bar on the bottom-right. Throw in a few docked shortcuts of your choice, and you've got a setup that's practically dripping with Chrome-flavored syrup.

(Got a creative home screen setup of your own? Send some screenshots to AwesomeHomeScreens@gmail.com. Fleeting fame, gaggles of groupies, and a $10 Google Play gift card could be yours!)

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone (1)

To fill out the space and keep some Android-specific touches in place, our buddy Mr. Breaker uses a time and date widget at the top of his home screen and a lovely ocean skyline as his background, as shown above. But being Android, of course, you can switch things up easily and change the style of those elements to suit your own personal taste:

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone (2)

You can even tweak the status bar to give it a Chrome OS-like notification box with a live counter for your unread text messages or emails:

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone (3)

It's a match made in mobile platform heaven. Seriously -- would someone get these two a room already?

Want to try it for yourself?

The Chrome Phone setup is super simple to implement -- and also customize, if you're so inclined. Here's the lowdown:

The ingredients

To get the Chrome Phone home screen on your own device, you'll first need to install the following apps from the Google Play Store:

  • Nova Launcher (free). One of the most customizable home screen replacements for Android; it serves as the foundation for this setup and allows everything to function the way it should. If you want extra features, including the ability to have the email or text message counter box, you'll also need to grab the Nova Launcher Prime key ($4.99).
  • Zooper Widget Pro ($2.99). A versatile widget app that powers all of the Chrome Phone's primary on-screen elements.
  • Europa Zooper (free). The specific Zooper widget (think of it like a skin) for the bottom-of-screen app/status bar.
  • Fox for Zooper (free). The specific Zooper widget for the top-of-screen time and date widget.

So all in all, we're talking about three bucks for the home screen's basic functionality -- $8 if you want to go all in with Nova and take advantage of its full set of features.

Remember, too, that Zooper Widget is incredibly versatile and has tons of user-made skins available in the Play Store -- many of which are free. And Nova, of course, can be used for all sorts of custom creations beyond this one setup. So whether you spend $3 or $8, you're investing in apps that are well worth their cost and capable of opening up many more possibilities for your home screen in the future.

The recipe

Once you have the above ingredients installed on your device, follow these steps to get your new home screen up and running:

(Fair warning: This may seem like a lot to do, but that's only because I'm breaking everything down into detailed individual steps. If you follow these exact instructions, the process is actually pretty straight-forward and shouldn't take more than a few minutes to complete.)

1. Hit your device's Home button, then select Nova Launcher and tell the system to do that same thing every time. (You can always change this in the "Home" section of your main system settings if you later decide you want to go back to what you were using before.)

2. Open up Nova Settings, which should be available as an app either on your home screen or in your app drawer. Tap "Desktop," then "Desktop grid." Set both of the values to 7 and make sure "Subgrid Positioning" is checked. Tap "Done" when you're finished.

3. While still in the "Desktop" section of Nova Settings, tap "Icon layout." Set the "Icon size" value to 70% and tap the toggle next to "Label" to turn that option off. Tap your device's Back button when you're finished.

4. While still in the "Desktop" section of Nova Settings, look for the option labeled "Page indicator" and set it to "None." Next, tap "Dock," then tap the toggle in the top-right corner of that screen to disable the dock entirely.

5. While still in the "Desktop" section of Nova Settings, scroll all the way down and tap the line labeled "Advanced," then turn on the toggles for both "Widget overlap" and "Overlap when placing."

6. Head back to your home screen (either by pressing your device's Home button or pressing the Back key a couple of times). Then, one by one, touch and hold each item that's there -- including all shortcuts and the Google search bar at the top -- and remove all of the items by dragging them one at a time up to the "x" at the top of the screen. You want a completely blank canvas to start.

7. Once everything's gone, tap and hold in a blank space on your home screen, then select "Widgets" and scroll down until you see the line for Zooper Widget Pro. Scroll horizontally on that line to the very end, then tap and hold the item labeled "Zooper Widget 7x1" and drop it on your home screen's bottom-most line.

8. You should now see a placeholder box on your home screen instructing you to tap to start. Tap that box, then select "Europa" from the list that appears and scroll down until you find the widget labeled "Europa_027." Tap that widget to select it -- or, if you want your bottom-of-screen status bar to show your unread email or text message count, select "Europa_029" (for email) or "Europa_030" (for text messages) instead.

9. Once you've selected your widget, you'll be taken to a screen that'll let you configure it. Tap "Layout," then scroll to the bottom of the list. Tap the option labeled "Bitmap Icon Set: Material Wifi Signal," then find and tap the option labeled "Module OnTap." Swipe over twice until you're under the "Shortcuts" header, then find and tap "Settings shortcut" and select "Wi-Fi" from the list that appears.

10. Tap your device's Back button once, then repeat the same exact step -- only with the option labeled "Bitmap Icon Set: Material Battery," and this time, select "Battery" instead of "Wi-Fi" at the end.

11. Tap your device's Back button once, then tap the option labeled "Text" (with the current time beneath it). Find and tap the option labeled "Module OnTap," then swipe over once until you're under the "App List" header and select "Clock" from the list that appears.

12. If you don't want the clock to put a zero in front of single-digit times (i.e. you want it to show "9:00" instead of "09:00"), scroll down and find the option labeled "Text Content." Tap "Time," then select "AM/PM short clock."

13. Tap your device's Back button once, then tap the very last option in the list -- the one simply labeled "Bitmap." Then scroll down and find the option labeled "Bitmap" (yes, again), and find and select an image that you like. This image will be used as the profile picture in the bottom-of-screen status bar. (Note that if you're using the status bar that shows your unread email or text message count, this element won't be displayed -- so you really don't need to bother setting it.)

14. Tap your device's Back button a few times to get back to your home screen. Ta-da: Your app/status bar widget should now be in place and functioning! If you want to add any docked shortcuts between the Apps icon and the status bar, tap the Apps button and then simply drag whatever icons you want onto the proper places on your home screen.

15. All that's left now is to add the top-of-screen clock widget. To get the one our pal Wall Breaker uses, tap and hold in any blank space on your home screen, then select "Widgets" and scroll down until you see the line for Zooper Widget Pro. Scroll horizontally on that line to the very end, then tap and hold the item labeled "Zooper Widget 7x2" and drop it toward the top of your home screen.

Tap the widget's placeholder box, then select "Fox For Zooper" from the list that appears and scroll down until you find the widget labeled "fox_widget17." Tap that widget to select it.

If that particular design isn't your cup of tea, there are plenty of other interesting top-of-screen widget options you can find within the Zooper Europa and Zooper Fox packages. I like this minimal one, which is listed as "fox_widget26" under the Fox section:

Awesome Android Home Screens: The Chrome Phone (4)

Or, of course, you can use any other widget you like -- or no widget in that area at all.

The result

That's it! Your Chrome OS-like Android home screen should now be fully configured and functional.

Two platforms overlapping in sweet, geeky harmony. Ain't life grand?!

Check out more Android expert profiles below or in the official Google+ collection -- and send your own creative home screen submissions to AwesomeHomeScreens@gmail.com!

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