Add Apps and Tweak Software to Customize Your Android Phone or Tablet

Android Surgery

Tyson Mangelsdorf

Android phones have surpassed iPhones as the market's fastest-growing handheld devices. Users have found that phones and tablets with google's software are powerful, easy to operate and to a far greater degree than other mobile platforms—highly customizable. Here are a few tricks and hacks to make your Android phone or tablet look, act, and perform exactly the way you want it to.

Improve The Look

Replace The Home Screen

Head to the Android Market and install SlideScreen (free to try; $7 for the Pro version), which arranges the features on your phone or tablet's home screen into beautifully color-coded, expandable rows rather than Android's typical grid of static icons and mismatched widgets. For a more traditional but still customizable home-screen alternative, try LauncherPro (free for Basic; $3 for Plus).

Kill The Ads

On smaller tablet and phone screens, advertisements in websites or apps can dominate your view, slow everything down, and generally worsen the user experience. With an app called AdFree (rooting required), you can stop them before they even load.

Improve The Features

Stream Your Media

Android devices are great at playing music and videos, but they fall short when it comes to sharing files. With the free Twonky app, you can stream videos, photos or music stored on your Android tablet or phone over Wi-Fi to any device (such as an Xbox) that's compatible with DLNA streaming, the most common standard for sharing media between home electronic devices.

Share Your Connection

Using your phone or tablet's Internet connection to get your laptop online, a process called tethering, just requires downloading a free app, either Wifi Tether for Root Users (rooting required) or PdaNet. Watch out, though—cell phone carriers discourage tethering and may levy extra data charges.

Improve The Performance

Save Power

With their processors, cellular radios and Wi-Fi connections, Android devices can be major battery-killers. With the free JuiceDefender and its $5 add-on, UltimateJuice, you can take control of all those power-hogging parts of your phone or tablet, adding hours to its battery life by setting schedules for such functions as data syncing and screen brightness.

Boost Speed

Increasingly complex apps, 3-D games and multitasking can be a strain on even the newest processors. SetCPU ($2; rooting required) can ramp up your device's processor speed when needed, giving it a boost to avoid choppiness and slowdown. Alternately, it can slow processor speed down to preserve your battery.