When comparing mobile operating systems, while none are really all that different from its counterparts (save for maybe looks or interface design), each have their own, unique benefits. Apple's iOS, for instance, is quick, very stable and has the widest selection of applications of them all. Windows Phone offers the same performance over a range of specifications and different hardware and vows to save you from your phone. (To some, that translates to the software being boring. To others, it helps them keep their phones in their pockets more, allowing them to enjoy what's in front of them like, say, family or friends.) BlackBerry, though perceived as pretty ancient now, offers a one-of-a-kind messaging experience and still has a place in the business world.
Android, on the other hand, is praised for a lot of different things. (Granted, it also catches more flak than just about any other platform.) People choose Android for the vast amount of choices in software, hardware, manufacturers, carriers, etc. Some choose Android for its deep third-party development support (AKA hacks and mods). And a lot of people choose the little green guy for the seemingly endless customization options.
Unlike other operating systems, the Android interface can be entirely changed at the discretion of manufacturers or even the users themselves. This, obviously, is a perk of being open-sourced. On iOS, the most you can do to customize the interface – without voiding your warranty, of course – is rearrange icons, create folders and change the wallpapers. By jailbreaking, you can apply various interface alterations through mods and other patches via Cydia, an unofficial digital store for iOS. With Windows Phone, the most you can do to alter the interface is changed the accent color, background color and rearrange, resize or remove tiles.
For what it's worth, I used to customize my BlackBerry seven ways 'til Sunday. I would create my own themes (using a theme builder distributed by Research In Motion) and apply them to my own device. I would also upload my themes for other people to use. It was definitely fun while it lasted, but it was a lot more trouble than it was worth. And oh, was it time-consuming. I remember spending an entire Saturday trying to get one of my themes just right on more than one occasion.
With Android, customizing the interface is as simple as downloading an application through the Play Store and a few icon packs and wallpapers to top it off. You can download an aftermarket launcher (or home replacement app), and from there, the customizations are endless. You can make your home screen look (almost) exactly like the iOS interface. You can also mimic Metro UI, the Windows Phone interface. Or, you can go one further and create something totally new and unique.
All of this can be done without ever rooting the phone. But by rooting, you can go even deeper with your customizations through custom ROMs. One of the most customizable and unique Android ROM distributions out there is MIUI, which is built off the more recognizable CyanogenMod project. While most ROMs come with some theming abilities, MIUI comes with a theme catalog where you can pick and choose the individual aspects of each theme that you want. For instance, you can download the wallpapers of one theme, notification shade of another and the icons of a different one. Possibilities are quite literally endless.
What I'm interested to learn, though, is how far you guys and gals will go to customize your Android phones.
Some time ago, I would spend hours each week dedicating time to customizing my phone's interface. I would flash framework after framework trying to get the perfect setup. Rearrange my icons, try a different wallpaper, install a new theme, rearrange the icons some more, try a new ROM, download new icon packs, and so on and so forth. I could never quite get the interface exactly how I wanted it and it was just too much work to never be satisfied with it.
Eventually, I just stopped ... altogether. The most I will do to customize my phone is move around icons (in a very precise and structured manner) and change the wallpaper. Sometimes I don't even change the wallpaper. Just last week, actually, one of my friends made fun of me for not having even changed the HTC One X default wallpaper yet. (You can see in the picture above that when I reviewed the One X, I was using one of the default wallpapers, and I have yet to change it.) Even after nearly two months with the phone, the only thing I have done to the interface is setup the icons in my own way.
Our own Sydney Myers, however, has recently become infatuated with Android's customization options. And she's not alone. Take a look at mycolorscreen.com and you will see there are thousands of people who spend hour after hour working on their smartphone's interface, nitpicking every last detail and making it absolutely perfect and unique.
How far do you go to customize your Android device, guys? Gals? Do you go all out? Or, like me, do you keep it mostly stock?