How to Make Any Android Phone Look EXACTLY Like The Google Pixel 2 Using Launchers + More
Loved the Pixel 2 but don’t have the money to buy it? Fret not. The Pixel 2 (Or at least it’s UI) can be yours, for free! In this episode, we’ll see how Android Launchers can help you achieve any look you want for your homescreen, even the one from the Pixel 2.
When the Pixel 2 came out back in October, it made me seriously consider the possibility of changing to Android for the first time. It seemed to have it all. The best camera around, great screen to body ratio, free online photo storage, great UX and top of the line features. The UI especially kept calling my attention.
It seemed so clean and simple for an Android OS. I thought that was so difficult to manage for this OS before that the iPhone had a real advantage over it. Not anymore. One of the things that called my attention so much about it was its “At a glance” widget.
I fell in love with it. Super simple. Super useful. No nonsense. That’s exactly what I look for in an app. I just had to have it. The stock calendar widget looks so terrible. The weather widget takes so much useless space. This solved all of it!
This is the feature that made me go through all this process.
That’s when I came across Android launchers.
If you haven’t heard the news: there’s some new Android launcher versions that can now mimic the UI of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL on every phone that can manage Lollipop and up. Since that kind of customization goodness doesn’t even begin to exist for the iPhone, you can bet I was down to find out what Android launchers are about.
Quick intro: Basically speaking, launchers are apps that can modify your UI (mostly the home screen). They can give you an greater amount of tools to customize than your OS could. The best part is that most launchers are rootless apps. The hassle of customizing your phone is much less than the definitely bumpier road of rooting your phone, installing a ROM, and potentially bricking it.
There are many Android Launchers in the market like the Nova launcher, the seemingly soon to be defunct Google Now launcher, the Apex launcher, and many others that aren’t even on the Google Play Store and that you can download at your own risk.
In this particular case, The new version of the Action launcher, the Nova Launcher and an off-playstore, third party Pixel launcher created by Android developer Amir Zaidi have landed an almost exact feeling of what the Pixel 2 is all about. They come complete with many features like icon packs, wallpapers, the search bar, Google Clock showing real time, The calendar showing the actual date, fun color schemes, and more.
At the end of this article you’ll find all the resources necessary to download all the goodness, but let’s look more closely at what options you have in order to make your phone look and feel like the Pixel 2.
To be honest, you are going to need more than the launcher to have the closest experience to the Pixel 2. There are launchers that have missing features here and there so tuning it to perfection is going to be tricky and is going to need extra apps to work. That also means: you are going to need a decent phone in order to run everything and not make your user experience painful.
But first, let’s make a comparison between the launchers, and see which ones adapt better to our Pixelian needs.
First up is the Action Launcher.
This one is probably the most comprehensive choice out of the three options I found. That is, if you are willing to pay.
It starts by promising you the world: Google Now integration! Oreo notifications and shortcuts! Animated Clock Icon! Quick themes that change with your background color! Shutters! The Pixel Quickbar! Up to 5 scrollable dock pages! And that classic line:
“But wait, there’s more!”
That means you’re only getting a quarter of the options for free.
Soon you’ll discover that in order to have the whole experience, you’ll have to pay for it. Google Now? Paid. Notification Badges? Paid. Icon resizing? Paid. Changing colors? I think you know where this goes. Oh, and may I mention ads and annoying notifications nobody asked for?
So in the end, unless you fork out the supposed 4.75$, no Pixel UI for you, man!
On a side note, it imported automatically the settings from other launchers. Neat feature!
This one is a great option if you want to have a great looking and smooth UI, only if you are willing to sacrifice some features that should come with Oreo.
This was the furthest I got to the Pixel experience. The Nova Launcher has two main disadvantages: The Google Now widget is on a raunchy Beta stage where you need to install an APK in order for it to work (in the best case scenario), and a paid wall for notification badges and context menus. I couldn’t get the Quick Bar to be on the original position either. Everything else looks and works great and you have to barely customize it to get close to the Pixel 2. As well as the Action launcher, you can import your settings from other launchers.
AMIR’S GOOGLE PIXEL LAUNCHER
This one by far is the one that more closely nails the look of the pixel 2 including the original Google Now, the original placement of the quick bar, a perfect icon pack and a totally accurate “At a Glance” widget. And this isn’t by chance. Android developer Amir Zaidi reverse engineered the stock Google Pixel 2 Launcher APK by himself and uploaded the result for free on Github. He states it’s legal to download since the content is under Apache 2. the APK for this second-hand Pixel 2 Launcher is now running on it’s third version. This one is totally free!
In my experience, I only had two complaints. One: it needs you to give it access to your notifications (it has been featured on many blogs like 9to5 Google, so it should be safe though) and two: it is the most limited in customization of all other launchers since it’s a version of the original launcher. So of course, the customizing options are not so hot as the Action or the Nova options too.
You can also get it to display a dark theme. In order for this to happen, you only have to set a very dark wallpaper. Once you pass the threshold, all the color schemes will turn to black. I love dark color schemes!
You also gotta realize that this is a mod by one sole developer, so support is going to be scarce. The loader could work perfect for you like it did for me, but if you find any bugs (as there have been for some users, especially for those with a One Plus), it’s up to him if he decides to squash them for you or not. So far, it has worked great for me.
ADDING MISSING FEATURES AND DETAILS
In order to complete your Pixel 2 transformation, you are going to need the original wallpapers, of course. And as we like to say, “there’s an app for that”. First, download the official “Google Wallpaper” app, which is an awesome app full of mind blowing wallpapers for every taste. It has many of the Pixel 2 wallpapers, but not every one of them. If you want the exclusive ones, you’ll have to download a third party app like “Pixel 2 Wallpapers”. Or, if you fancy those live and interactive wallpapers, an APK like the one from known Indian developer Pranav Pandey is in order to get the closest to the original experience.
If you take a close look at the pixel 2 XL, you’ll see the edges of it’s display are rounded.
Normally, the displays of every other phone do not come like this, so you’ll need an app that can do that for you. You can use “Rounded Screen Corners Pro” which does a great job while being a free app. It’s RAM usage was the lightest of all I tried. If you want to go granular in detail, you’ll have to pay a small amount, though. The best results appear to be for AMOLED screens since they can get “true” black colors. The LCD screens will have a barely noticeable grayer tint. Also, if you are already on Oreo, the app won’t be able to show on the lock screen and over the notification shade. At least for the time being.
Pixel 2’s Default ringtones
If you want the icing on the cake, check out AndroidPolice’s rip of the Pixel 2 XL’s ringtones, UI, notifications and alarm sounds. Up for grabs!
FINAL RESULT COMPARISONS
This was the closest I could get with the three launchers. The three were a great experience, and for most of the time, they appeared to even consume less RAM than the Mi A1’s stock Android Launcher (Not the case for Amir’s, it cosumed around 150 to 180 mgbs against stocks steady 143. A prettu manageable difference, though). For sure, the best results right off the bat came with Amir’s APK. The second that pleased me the most in UI and UX was the Nova launcher. The smoothest of all launchers. And last, the Action launcher. Although, if you are willing to fork over the 5 dollars, your best bet to have an Pixel 2 experience is going with the Action Launcher’s premium option. It has a vast arrange of features that can give you the means to personalize your phone any way you’d like.
Have you tried any of these? Which would you choose? Or do you have another preferred launcher you use on your phone? I’ve heard some OEM launchers like the EMUI are popular. Let me know below!