How to Customize Your Android Device’s Home Screen

By Dan Gookin

The typical Android Home screen sports anywhere from three to nine pages and a specific background, or wallpaper, preset by the device’s manufacturer or cellular provider. You are not stuck with this choice — the Home screen is yours to change at your whim.

Accessing Home screen actions

To start your Home screen decoration project, long-press a blank part of the Home screen. Don’t long-press an icon or a widget. Upon success, you see Home screen management icons, as shown.

android-home-menu
The Home screen menu.

The icons or options presented for Home screen management include some or all of the following:

Wallpaper: Change the background image on the Home screen.

Widgets: Add widgets to the Home screen.

Settings: Open the Settings app.

Folder: Create a Home screen folder.

Page: Add, remove, or manage Home screen pages.

These items might appear as icons, or you may see a menu of options presented as a list. The most common items are the first three, illustrated in the preceding figure.

Hanging new wallpaper

The Home screen background can be draped with two types of wallpaper: traditional and live. Traditional wallpaper can be any image, such as a picture you’ve taken or an image provided by the device’s manufacturer. Live wallpaper is animated or interactive.

To set a new wallpaper for the Home screen, obey these steps:

  1. Long-press the Home screen.
  2. Choose Wallpapers.
    The item might be titled Set Wallpapers.
  3. Tap a wallpaper to see a preview.
    Swipe the list left or right to peruse your options. You see the previous wallpaper images plus those provided by the manufacturer. On the far right, you’ll find the live wallpapers.
    To choose your own images, tap the MY PHOTOS button.
    Some Androids may first prompt you to select a category: Wallpapers, Life Wallpapers, My Photos, and so on.
  4. Tap the SET WALLPAPER button to confirm your choice.
  5. Choose to set the wallpaper for the Home screen, lock screen, or both.
    The new wallpaper takes over.

On some Androids, you might be given the opportunity to crop the image before setting the wallpaper. Unlike cropping a photo, you may see two rectangles for cropping in both landscape and portrait orientations.

  • Live wallpapers can be obtained from Google Play.
  • Some live wallpapers may interfere with certain features. If so, you see a warning, which lets you choose between using the live wallpaper or the specific feature.
  • Yes, some wallpapers come with advertising. You’re not required to use them.
  • The Zedge app is an über-repository of wallpaper images, collected from Android users all over the world. Zedge is a free app.
  • Google also offers a wallpapers app, called Google Wallpapers.
  • Another way to set wallpaper is to view an image in the Photos app. Select the image and tap Action Overflow. Choose the Use As action and then Wallpaper.

Managing Home screen pages

The number of pages on the Home screen isn’t fixed. You can add pages. You can remove pages. You can even rearrange pages. This feature might not be available to all Androids and, sadly, it isn’t implemented in exactly the same way.

The stock Android method of adding a Home screen page is to drag an icon left or right, just as though you were positioning that icon on another Home screen page. When a page to the left or right doesn’t exist, a new page is added automatically.

Some Androids may be more specific in how pages are added. For example, you can choose a Page command from the Home screen menu.

Samsung devices present a Home page overview, as shown here. To edit Home screen pages, pinch the Home screen: Touch the screen with two fingers and drag them together. You can then manage Home screen pages as illustrated in the figure.

android-home-pages
Manipulating Home screen pages.

To move a page, long-press and drag it to a new spot. When you’re done, tap the Back or Home navigation icon.

  • The maximum number of Home screen pages may be three, five, seven, or nine, depending on your device. The minimum is one.
  • On some Androids, the far left Home screen page is the Google Assistant app.
  • Samsung places its Bixby assistant on the far left Home screen page.
  • Some devices let you reset the primary Home screen page, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the center Home screen page. I’ve seen different ways to accomplish this task. The most common one is to tap the Home icon in a thumbnail’s preview, which is illustrated here.

Adding lock screen launchers

Most Androids feature a Camera launcher in the lower right corner of the lock screen. Swipe that icon to run the Camera app without fully unlocking the device. It’s a quick way to take a picture.

To see whether your Android lets you customize or add lock screen launchers, heed these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Choose Lock Screen or Lock Screen and Security.
    If you can’t find a Lock Screen item, your Android lacks the capability to modify lock screen launchers.
  3. Choose Apps Shortcuts.
    This item might be titled Info and Apps Shortcuts. If so, choose Apps Shortcuts on the next screen.
  4. Select the apps to place on the lock screen.

You may see one or more app screen shortcuts for launchers along with the Camera app. I’ve seen devices that let you line up five launchers at the bottom of the lock screen. Because this feature isn’t a part of stock Android, it can vary.

  • When you use a lock screen launcher (shortcut) to start an app, the device isn’t fully unlocked. To access other features, you must work the screen lock.

  • The lock screen shortcuts might not be available if you’ve not set a screen lock for your Android.