A smartphone is a very personal piece of kit — so why should your phone look just like mine? We are different people, after all. And yet, when you first pull out your brand new Xperia Z or Galaxy S4 Mini out of its box, it looks just like every other Xperia Z or Galaxy S4 Mini out there… And most people never bother customizing it beyond changing a few basic things or perhaps slapping on their own wallpaper. Well, if that’s not enough for you, and if you’re always on the lookout for great ways to make your phone truly your own, you should take a moment to look at Themer, a new app from MyColorScreen, one of our favorite services for sharing and discovering beautiful homescreens.
While the MyColorScreen website serves as a source of inspiration, letting you browse through beautiful themes and homescreens to see what can be done with enough time and talent, Themer takes things much farther: It is an app launcher that you can transform with a single tap. Check out this intro video for a quick overview:
If this reminds you of Buzz Launcher, well, it should. The core concept is very similar: A launcher with an online theme repository, that you can just browse and apply with a single tap. That said, there are some differences, and my own experience with Themer was better than with Buzz Launcher.
Getting Started and Picking a Theme
For someone who has never customized their phone before, the thought of changing the launcher theme may seem a bit daunting. I mean, not only do you change the launcher itself (suddenly, no more Samsung homescreen!), but you get to completely transform the way it looks? Scary! And yet, Themer manages to make this process not only simple, but quite fun — something I can see my non-techie relatives playing with. The side menu is large and inviting, and you can log in to save your favorite themes:
You can browse themes according to Most Popular, Staff Picks, or Newest. The catalog screen is uncluttered and simple, fitting four themes at a time on my phone:
When a theme catches your eye, tap it to take a closer look. You can swipe back and forth through all of its screens (three, in my case), and a single tap on Apply downloads it and transforms the launcher:
That’s all it takes; there are no prompts, and nothing to set. Just tap Apply, and once the progress bar completes, your launcher will be transformed.
Picking Shortcuts and Using The Theme
Having your entire launcher change its shape can be a jarring experience. The fidelity is very high: My homescreen now looked just like the static screenshots I was staring at a moment ago, only it was alive and active.
Note the absence of the top status bar (where the clock usually resides) — Themer auto-hides it by default, although you can control this.
The theme comes complete with icons, wallpapers, widgets, shortcuts, and even folders of apps. Note that some of the folders contain apps you may not have – the Dining folder above (bottom row, middle icon) had icons for Zagat and some other apps I didn’t have installed. When you tap those, you’re taken directly to their Google Play page to install them. That’s one of my few gripes with Themer — I wish it marked missing apps somehow, or even allowed me not to show icons for any apps I don’t have installed. This is important because if you’re not a very knowledgeable user, trying to start an app only to be taken to Google Play can be a bit of a surprise.
Some of the actions in this particular theme had to make use of default apps. I was happy to see Themer let me specify my own defaults when I first tapped the widgets:
I assume Cut the Rope Time Travel found itself amongst the listed clock apps because it has the word “Time” in the name. Still funny, though.
Customizing Your Theme
After exploring my theme, rummaging through folders, and setting some defaults, I decided to see how easy it would be to customize. In other words, are themes locked off to further tweaks, or can you use them as raw material for your own ideas?
I started by swapping the beautiful included wallpaper with a haphazard snapshot I took the other day, resulting in a wonderfully ugly homescreen:
Note that you can set a separate wallpaper to each individual homescreen, something the theme I applied used to good effect.
Okay, so setting the wallpaper was easy enough. I next turned my attention to those big white shortcuts — what can I do with those?
The Everything Widget
That’s when I discovered The Everything Widget — an excellent name, by the way. Here’s what it looks like:
To the left, you can see me customizing the widget. This is an incredibly powerful widget that allows you to compose scenes of multiple elements, change their sizes and layering, and even copy and format text. The bottom half of the screen you see above is made up of just a single Everything Widget, carefully configured. I was able to enlarge the top-right tile quite easily.
I then decided to see if I can do something a bit more ambitious and replace the “unread messages” tile (bottom-right) with the current battery percentage:
As you can see, I was able to do this. The Everything Widget has some advanced text tools, such as the ability to copy formatting from an existing element (I didn’t have to hunt for the font and font size — just copied them from the weather tile). My biggest challenge was properly aligning things, because the alignment tool looks like this:
I could nudge the current element with the arrow keys, and align it relative to the widget using the bottom row of buttons (L, R, T, and so on) — but I was unable to align it with another object in the widget.
Still, I was very pleasantly surprised by how powerful the Everything Widget is — you could say it’s the very core of Themer’s customization powers. Here is a video that shows the process of creating themes, aimed at designers:
Other Built-In Widgets
As powerful as the Everything Widget is, it is not the only one that ships with Themes:
Above you can see all six bundled widgets, each of which has its own configuration options (you can see those for the Analog Clock widget).
Phone Customization: The Next Generation
I hope this review gave you a taste of what Themer feels like. Most users would probably be happy to stick with just its first half — picking a theme, applying it, and specifying your shortcuts. Still, if you decide to take things to the next level and substantially alter the theme you’ve applied, it’s nice to know you can do that right on your phone.
Will you be giving Themer a try? And which launcher do you like better — Themer or Buzz? Let me know below… and don’t forget to share your favorite themes, too!