Android is very customizable–many of its features are just defaults, and can be swapped out for third-party alternatives without any rooting required. When it comes to iOS, well…not so much.

Here are five ways you can customize the heck out of Android, that still aren’t available on iOS. Some of these things are possible on jailbroken devices, while some are flat-out impossible.

Tweak Every Corner of Your Home Screen with a New Launcher

RELATED: How to Install Nova Launcher for a More Powerful, Customizable Android Home Screen

Android’s home screen is just another app that can be swapped out for something better. If you’re looking for something with a completely different look or more options, you can install a third-party launcher from the Play Store. There’s a thriving ecosystem of third-party launchers out there, with Nova Launcher being our favorite for customization.

With it, you can change and customize home screen icons, set a custom action for the home button, hide apps from the app drawer, and so much more. It also brings the newest Android features to the table as soon as they’re available (sometimes even beforehand!). For example, Nova already has an option to use the new Pixel Launcher’s style of app drawer. Check out all the best launchers here.

Add New Features to Your Lock Screen

You can change your lock screen, too. And while this isn’t as popular as it once was, there are still a handful of excellent lock screen replacements out there that offer different themes and additional functionality. One of the most interesting (and popular) choices is Microsoft’s Next Lock Screen: it’s a clean-yet-full-featured lock screen replacement that blends in exceptionally well with Android’s overall look.

Set Your Default Browser

RELATED: How to Set Default Apps on Android

Shockingly, iOS still doesn’t let you change your default browser away from Safari. Android, on the other hand, allows you to install third-party browsers and set them as your default, so all links open in the browser you want–and you can ignore the built-in browser entirely if you want. When you tap a link after installing a new browser app on Android, you’ll be prompted to select your default browser. Otherwise, you can change this setting in Applications > Default.

Since Google doesn’t place the same restrictions on developers Apple and Microsoft do, these third-party browsers are proper browsers that use their own rendering engines, too. For example, Firefox for Android uses the same rendering engine that Firefox on your desktop does. On iOS, these browsers must be “shells” around Safari. In fact, although Chrome for iPhone is forced to be a shell around the built-in Safari browser, Chrome for iPhone isn’t even as fast as Safari because Chrome isn’t allowed to access Safari’s optimized JavaScript library and can’t include its own.

Although you can switch browsers on a jailbroken iOS device, iOS browsers like Chrome and Firefox will remain shells over Safari with inferior performance.

Use a Different Messaging App for SMS

Unlike iOS, you can also install a different messaging client and set it as the default app to handle all of your text messages. There are many SMS clients out there, with different features across the board. Google’s Messenger app is among the most popular, as its simplistic, clean, and fast nature make it a great choice all around.

RELATED: How to Send Text Messages From Your PC With Your Android Phone

What’s more, there are apps that allow users to also send SMS from their computer or tablet by syncing messages with their Google account. Pushbullet and MightyText are the most popular of such services, but it’s worth mentioning that these generally place some sort of limitation on the free service and require a free (oftentimes a monthly subscription) to unlock the full potential.

Customize Android from the Ground Up with a New ROM (or Xposed)

Android is open source, so the community can build on its source code and create modified versions of Android with additional features. These are known as “custom ROMs”, and installing one is the coolest way to get the most out of your device.

The most popular custom ROM is CyanogenMod, a custom ROM that can replace the included Android OS on a wide variety of devices. CyanogenMod is made possible by Android’s open-source nature–it isn’t just a series of hacks on top of a closed-source operating system build; the CyanogenMod developers start with Android’s source code and build on it to create their own community-developed version.

Alternatively, you can use the very cool Xposed Framework to add custom features to Android yourself–almost like creating your own custom ROM.

While the other things on this list can be done on essentially any Android device, installing a custom ROM and using the Xposed Framework require unlocking your bootloader, installing a custom recovery environment, and rooting your device–things that aren’t necessarily possible on every Android device out there, and aren’t for the faint of heart. But if you truly want to customize, these will give you more options than iOS users–even those with jailbroken phones–can even dream of.

RELATED: How to Flash a New ROM to Your Android Phone

Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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Profile Photo for Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is ex-Editor-in-Chief of Review Geek and served as an Editorial Advisor for How-To Geek and LifeSavvy. He covered technology for a decade and wrote over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
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