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HTC 10 Freestyle Desktops: Explained, Setup Guide and Review

We explain and review the new Freestyle Desktops feature, found on the HTC 10, which transforms the look and feel of your entire phone. Here’s how to get started with Freestyle mode and our impressions after a few days of use.

The HTC 10 runs a fairly vanilla version of Android, after HTC’s close collaboration with Google during the phone’s production. But hidden away in the desktop settings is a nifty little feature called Freestyle, which completely changes the look and feel of the HTC 10 in a rather dramatic manner.

What is the HTC 10’s Freestyle Desktops feature?

Freestyle Desktops is an all-new kind of theme which changes the layout and design of your HTC 10’s menus, apps and desktops. The most unique feature is the ability to position app icons and widgets absolutely anywhere on your desktops, with no grid-style constraints.

You can download a selection of Freestyle themes from HTC’s online store, each based on a different theme – nature, space and so on. Each theme comes with its own personal icon avatars, sounds and fonts, which provide a consistent look and feel throughout the HTC 10.

How do I activate HTC’s Freestyle Desktops on the HTC 10?

Tap and hold your finger on any spare bit of desktop space and then tap ‘Change home screen layout’ on the menu which pops up. You’ll be given a choice of two options, ‘Classic layout’ and ‘Freestyle layout’. Tap Freestyle layout.

You’ll then be taken to HTC’s Themes app, which offers up a choice of Freestyle themes that you can download. At the time of writing there were eight themes on offer, all of which were free to download. Tap one you like the look of and hit ‘Download’ and then wait until it’s done. An ‘Apply’ button will pop up when it’s ready – give that a tap and your theme will be installed.

You’ll notice that your desktops are populated with lots of large icons, which act as shortcuts to your apps. You can drag these around anywhere by holding your finger on them until they ‘pop’ and then moving them to a new position and releasing. You can also change which app they open by dragging to the top of the screen over the ‘relink’ option.

Of course, you can also delete any icons you don’t want in the usual manner, and add new ones by heading to the apps tray and long-pressing your chosen apps.

HTC Freestyle Desktops review

When we first installed a Freestyle Desktops theme on our HTC 10, we took an instant dislike to those enormous app icons, most of which made no reference to the apps they represented – for instance, a star chart for the weather app or a grassy valley for the phone app. The sheer randomness of it all, coupled with the fact that we could only physically fit three or four of these massive icons onto any one desktop, made us wonder what the point was.

Then we begun to customise the desktops and suddenly the Freestyle mode started to make sense. You can ditch the large icons if you want to (although sadly there’s no way to resize, as far as we can tell) and then bring in shortcuts of a standard size, with a design that’s reminiscent of the original icons but still fitting the style of the theme.

The ability to drag around icons to any spot will drive OCD users nuts (best stick with standard dekstops in that case), but we loved the freedom and the messy outcome, which feels like a massive middle finger to the boring grid-style desktops on other phones. You kind of feel like you’ve dropped some acid every time you unlock the HTC 10, but it’ll definitely attract the attention of every nosy screen-gazer around you.

It’s a shame that there’s only eight HTC Freestyle themes available right now, but here’s hoping more are released soon. In the meantime, we recommend the rather mental ‘Graphite’ theme (see the screenies above), which even features pixellated boobage.

Check back soon for our full HTC 10 review and more HTC 10 features.

Read next: HTC 10 vs Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 vs HTC One M9

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