New wallpapers, new themes, don’t waste time.
About a year ago, when rumours of a new UI overhaul for Android started to flourish, I had to lower my expectations. After all, it took the Android team five years to bring us the system-wide dark theme we deserve, which is far more radical than simply letting you toggle between light and dark. But Material You came with Android 12, and with it, the Android home screen experience got five years of demand.
Widgets actually need the most kick: When iOS 14 puts widgets on the home screen and gives them a cohesive look, Android widgets become absolutely awkward. Material You finally updated the design guidelines for widgets and A way to make them better match any wallpaper you use.
The biggest achievement of Android 12 stars in the Pixel 6 ad: Set a great wallpaper and your phone is instantly themed around it. Samsung’s Material You in One UI 4.0 release may not be as colorful as Google’s, but whether you’re on a Pixel, OnePlus, Galaxy, or any other great Android phone running Android 12, here’s why – and how – you should Finally try the theme.
Simple Topic of the Month: My Test of Material You’s Flexibility
It’s easy to talk about big games when it comes to the subject, so let me show you my New Year’s resolution after the CES madness finally subsided. My goal is to make a new theme for my phone every day, no matter how busy I am.
New day, new theme, no exceptions.
Material You’s dynamic colors mean that most of my widgets change color with the wallpaper – even according to their color Location on the home screen. Both the Pixel Launcher and the One UI Home launcher go a step further by coloring some apps based on the same color palette. In theory, this should mean that no matter what wallpaper I set, the last thing I should do is move the widget.
Dynamic Color Matrix still had some issues with live wallpapers, so my previous theming system had to move from Kustom Live Wallpaper (KLWP) to Kustom Widgets (KWGT, which was more flexible in general. However, even without Kustom, you can build one from Surprisingly flexible themes for widgets for Google apps and adaptive icons – whether it’s a system theme from a manufacturer or a third-party app.
Once you have a good base, it will still look great no matter what wallpaper you throw at it.
Build your own generic theme
While most themes usually start with wallpapers, for “universal” Material You themes we actually need to start with icons.Google and Samsung only use dynamic colors Some Apps; Samsung does this only for Samsung and system apps, Google does it for Google apps and system apps. This means that if you want dynamically colored app icons, you will need to use a third-party launcher and a third-party icon system.
The easiest option is our favorite Android launcher, Smart Launcher 6, as it’s tied directly to Icon Pack Studio, which automatically recolors app icons based on your wallpaper. It only takes 60 seconds to materialize your icon pack with Icon Pack Studio, and if you use it with the Smart Launcher, it will convert to matching new wallpapers in seconds. If the dynamic color misses the shade you want, you can manually set it to your own color extracted from the wallpaper.
If you’re using another third-party launcher, a notification to re-export icons will appear after changing the wallpaper. Click Install Update Pack and it should update on your homepage. For the three styles of Niagara Launcher below, you’ll have to reapply the icon pack in the Niagara settings, but it’s worth it. Niagara Launcher’s minimal layout means you can choose a wallpaper and icon, or add a, maybe two custom widgets to the top of your feed. If you want more widgets, you need to put them in a widgets folder, which is hidden in a floating action button in the bottom right corner.
Another reason to use a third-party launcher is to get a denser, more precise grid of your home screen and install more widgets on it at once. Most of the Material You widgets Google added last fall were at least 2×2, this time only letting you place one or two widgets on the screen. Almost all third-party launchers allow you to have a more precise grid, allowing you to display more widgets on the screen at once.
The Material You widgets in Google Calendar, Clock, Drive, Gmail, Search, Keep, Photos, and Maps are all reliable, so the only instances where you might need to turn to third-party app widgets are finance, sports, and music. YouTube Music’s turntable widget is okay, but you can only click pause/play and like songs. Thankfully, there are plenty of Material You widget packs for KWGT that you can use to get the widgets you need.
I’ve been mostly using widgets from TVeloper’s Kombine Widgets package. In addition to dozens of widget styles and sizes to choose from, Kombine lets you choose between two colors drawn from the wallpaper, or set any custom color you want. They’re also incredibly scalable, and many of the widgets are interactive, resizing or popping up different items depending on what you want to see.
Whether you’re sticking with the default options in One UI Home or Pixel Launcher, customizing with widgets, or just experimenting with some adaptively colored icons, Material You makes it easy to try new things. So please, Give metry something new on your home screen this week!
In other news, the Galaxy S22 is arriving this week, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be a worthy upgrade from the S22 — even if the current $500 Galaxy S21 FE is sure to (rightly) appeal to the budget-conscious crowd. I love my Galaxy S21, so the bar will be higher for this year’s model, especially after the Pixel 6 hits the market and stuns us at $600.
This will also be my last week at Android Central, and then I’ll continue to look for new opportunities in the space; if you know me, you probably know where I’m going. Android Central is the only site I’ve written professionally for, and I’m proud of the voice and reputation I’ve built here since Phil invited me to freelance in 2014. I’m excited to have the opportunity to spread my love for Chromebooks, cases and themes.Thanks for your support (and your harsh love) over the past few years, don’t worry, you’ll still find me bouncing around at Walt Disney World and Twitter @AraWagco.
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