Four Ways To Customize Your Windows Phone

Christian Cawley 05-03-2014

If you’re getting tired of the same old lock screen, ringtone or Windows Phones’ limited tile colours, it’s time to take action and customize your phone.


Do You Need To Customise Your Windows Phone?

The Windows Phone user interface has been an opinion-splitter since it was first unveiled back in 2010. Some people like the minimalist blocks; others don’t, finding it basic and childish (a similar criticism later levelled at Windows 8).

Although the structure of the user interface is quite rigid, it isn’t completely inflexible. You can change the appearance of your Windows Phone in various ways, from using native tools for changing the tile and accent colours, to employing third party apps that will customize your tiles. Your lock screen can also be reconfigured.

For complete customization, you might even change the ringtone and audible alerts.

Changing Tile and Accent Colours

Although there is little difference between the tile and accent colours in Windows Phone Official Methods To Refresh Your Windows Phone’s Appearance I’ve been using Windows Phone since its first week of release in the UK, back in October 2010. Since then I’ve enjoyed the tiles, the slick UI, the smug satisfaction of owning a phone that... Read More 7 and its successor Windows Phone 8, it is worth briefly revisiting this topic.



In Windows Phone 8, you can alter your phone’s theme in Settings > Theme. Here, the Background can be set to dark or light, while the Accent colour – the colour used for tiles and linkable text – can also be altered.

Where this differs is in the number of colours available – there should be upwards of 20 colours here, rather than the eight found in Windows Phone 7. With some imagination and a few moments of time, the effect you can get by swapping the background and accent colours can be quite striking.

Coming in mid-2014, Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to add Start screen backgrounds.

Pinning The Right Apps

Once you’re happy with your phone’s background and accent, it’s time to look at which apps you’re going to pin to the Start screen Start Screen Shortcuts - Connection Tiles For Windows Phone 8 Windows Phone has one or two frustrating omissions. One of these is an easy toggle button to enable and display wireless networking, mobile Internet, Bluetooth pretty much anything concerning communication. Rather than a simple on/off... Read More .


You can pin various native apps and features to the Start screen:

  • Contacts, groups and rooms
  • Email accounts, folders, linked inboxes
  • Map locations
  • Existing OneNote notes, the option to create new ones
  • Photo albums
  • Music playlists, genres, songs and artists
  • Website URLs
  • Games


You’ll also find that any new apps you install can be pinned to your Start screen. Don’t forget, of course, that tiles can be resized (4×2, 2×2 and 1×1 size tiles) on Windows Phone 8 and on some larger devices (such as the Nokia Lumia 1520 and later) there is an extra column that can be used for tiles.

Further tile customization comes in the shape of third party apps, such as WizTiles (free from the Windows Phone Store) and Skinery ($1.49), which can be used to create customized tile designs. This might be to set a colour not available on Windows Phone, or to cut up a photo into tiles and set these as your Start screen shortcuts.


If you choose to use a tile generation app, be aware that native apps such as phone, messaging, email, settings, etc. will not be customized. Also, apps with live tiles will display live data rather than the customized tile art. Despite this, some astonishing effects can be achieved, particularly with Skinery.

Interestingly, Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to introduce a native tool to skin your Start screen tiles.

Customize Your Lock Screen

The Windows Phone lock screen is one of the more configurable options of the platform. Here, you can change the background image and use native and third party tools to add information, such as emails you’ve received, or display weather or news feeds.



We previously covered ways to create custom lock screens for Windows Phone 8 Windows Phone 8 Lock Screen Options: Calendar, Email and Weather It might not look like much, but your Windows Phone lock screen can provide all manner of interesting and important information to you – and it can do this natively, without third party apps. Read More , however it is worth expanding on this by suggesting the feature-packed Awesome Lock ($1.49).

Set Custom Ringtones

In Windows Phone 7, adding a custom ringtone was a bit tricky, but this has been streamlined in Windows Phone 8.

As long as the track you want to use is under 30 MB, isn’t protected by DRM and can be played on your device, then it can be set as a ringtone for phone calls or custom alerts sounds.

There are three ways to add a ringtone to your phone:

  • Syncing a tune from your computer to the Windows Phone Ringtones folder.
  • Saving an audio file sent as a text message (no email support for this)
  • Using a ringtone that has been added to your phone in one of the many ringtones apps in the Windows Phone Store.


When the audio file is added/saved to your phone, open Settings > Ringtones+sounds > Ringtone, where you should find the new ringtone listed under Custom. Tap to select.

Full details of what you can and cannot do with custom ringtones on Windows Phone can be found in Everything You Need to Know About Adding Ringtones on Windows Phone 8. Everything You Need to Know About Adding Ringtones on Windows Phone 8 Over the 15 or so years of owning a mobile phone, I've always been interested in pushing the device as far as it can possibly go. In the early days, this would often involve finding... Read More


We all agree that customization options in Windows Phone 8 are limited, and have developed only slightly since Windows Phone 7 back in 2010.

However, the future looks bright and even now with third party tools you can reskin your Start tile colours, enabling creativity beyond the limited accent colours provided by Microsoft and your phone’s manufacturer.

If you have any customization tips for Windows Phone 8, share them below.

Image Credits: K?rlis Dambr?ns Via Flickr

Related topics: Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8.

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