One of the great things about having an Android device is the possibility to customize. Bored with an app, the way your homescreen looks, or what is displayed on your lockscreen? No problem, you can replace anything in seconds. This also goes for the core applications, you can even substitute your calendar, dialer, email client, and contact list easily. This list contains some of my favorites — all of them are free, with some offering in-app purchases.
The first one is Sunrise Calendar, which does a great job in delivering the basic calendar features, complete with a fresh look. It can do everything the default calendar does, with an uncomplicated, yet attractive user interface. The extras include a clean-looking widget, and integrations with Evernote, Songkick, Tripit, Github and Asana. Did I mention it’s also available in your browser?
Muzei, one of my favorites this year, is a live wallpaper, offering a lot more than what meets the eye. What it does is it sets a new image (usually a famous painting) as background every day, with a user-definable amount of blur and dim applied. Since the app was developed by Roman Nurik (a design advocate at Google), who also brought the DashClock Widget to the Play Store, it’s no surprise that Muzei is also huge on extensibility. You can choose from dozens of add-ons, offering different image sources like 500px, National Geographic, Reddit, and Instagram – you can even use the albumart of the currently played track as a wallpaper.
Then there’s Ready, a new contacts app (full disclosure – I work for Ready), which aims to replace the People and Dialer on your phone. Besides changing your usual contact list UI for something more exciting, Ready also aggregates the most recent interactions (emails, events, calls and texts) for each contact, showing a history feed when your phone is ringing. Ready is in beta until early fall, looking for people to try it out – you can get it here.
Next stop: texting. Although Hangouts does a great job at unifying SMS and Hangouts messages, the user interface could be a bit more imaginative. This is where EvolveSMS comes to play – simply put, the UI is gorgeous, blurred cover photos from Facebook or Google Plus, different themes and layout options account for appealing aesthetics. Besides looking great, the app also offers rich functionality, like scheduled texting, customizable notifications, and Android Wear support.
The calculator is an app most of us use quite often, so it should be as pleasing to the eye as possible. Although the new calculator in the Android L developer preview is pretty eye-catching, it’s not available to the masses. Calcu on the other hand is ready for most devices, with heavy focus on the looks – even the keyboard is customizable. The gesture-based controls and the calculation history are the icing on the cake.
And the list goes on – this was just a snippet of my favorites, there are more and more great apps in the Play Store. What are your picks?
Andras Kindler, the author of this post, is an Android developer at Ready.