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How to change your Android OS launcher: Get a Nexus-style experience on any phone

Not happy with the look and feel of your Android phone’s home page and desktops? Want to swap your LG, Huawei, Samsung, Sony or HTC launcher for a Nexus-style Android skin instead, to make things nice and tidy? Here’s how to make any Android phone look like a Nexus handset with stock Android, or install something like Nova Launcher to give your mobile a fresh new look and feel (as well as better customisation).

As much as we like the HTC 10, LG G5 and other 2016 flagship Androids, sometimes the manufacturers’ custom skins can be a bit much. The likes of Huawei, LG and Samsung heavily tinker with Android, adding their own icons, features, wallpapers and more on top and completely transforming the homepage and desktop design.

If you want to remove those overlays and install a new launcher on your Android phone, to give it a vanilla Android feel like the Nexus phones, just follow this handy step-by-step guide. And we’ll explain some of the key terms too for total noobs, who are new to the wonderful world of Android skins and launchers.

What is an Android phone launcher?

Google’s own Nexus phones come with a stock, vanilla version of Android OS installed on them. This is always the most recent version; right now that’s Android Marshmallow, but it’s about to be succeeded by Android Nougat. Want to know more about Android and its various versions? Check out our complete guide to Android.

However, almost every other Android phone comes with its own launcher on top of stock Android. This changes the look and feel of the phone’s home screen and desktops, so a manufacturer such as Huawei, LG or Samsung can tweak the software and add their own touches. That’s why most Android mobiles look different, with their own distinctive icons, screen transitions, bonus features and so on.

How to change the Android launcher on your phone

Thankfully, if you don’t like the launcher on your Android mobile, it’s simple to change to a different one. All you need to do is download a new launcher from the Google Play store. When your chosen launcher is downloaded, tap ‘open’ and select the app which just downloaded from the list that pops up. Tick the box that says ‘use as default app’ and your new launcher will be used full-time.

Check out our pick of the best Android launchers for 2016, to see what you can replace your phone’s standard launcher with. If you want a Nexus-style experience, you should go for the Google Now Launcher.

Final steps for a Nexus-style or alternative Android setup

Changing your phone launcher alone won’t completely convert your phone’s software to vanilla Android, however.

For a start, you’ll need to download and install a new keyboard. For a vanilla Nexus-style Android experience, search for the Google Keyboard on Google Play and download it. When done, tap ‘open’ and you’ll be led through the installation process (which involves switching to the Google Keyboard in Android’s Language & keyboard settings menu).

You can also install the Google Camera app found on the Nexus phones, but you’ll need to download it from APKMirror rather than the Google Play store as it’s annoyingly not available there. When the APK file is downloaded, just tap the file in your notifications bar to install. You may need to allow the installation of apps from third-party sources in your phone’s Security settings before this can happen.

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