How to give any Android phone a Google Pixel experience

Android 12 is a nice update, but only recent Pixels have been able to take full advantage of Google’s new beautiful design language, known as Material You. Practically every Android phone maker has chosen to stick to their own design principles and sprinkle in just a few new Android 12 design features. Fortunately, Android is really customizable, and you can turn that boring old interface you’re tired of into something themed.

launcher

When you’re not using a Pixel, switching to a third-party carrier is the only way to make your device look as close to it as possible.

The Alpha version of Lawnchair 12 is a great way to replicate the Pixel launcher, or you can also use the infamous Nova Launcher. Both are very similar in terms of features and functionality. All of them have a swipe-up app drawer with vertical scrolling, a Google search bar, a search function within the widget panel (although Lawnchair 12 replicates the Pixel better), and a Google Discover panel on the far left, though you’ll need to download their additional applications; Nova is a Nova Google companion and Lawnchair’s is Lawnfeed 3.

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Lawnchair 12 is the best choice to replicate the Pixel Launcher because it includes more features specific to Android 12, such as:

  • Adaptive-themed icons follow your wallpaper color palette. Plus, with our newly released add-on called “Lawnicons” you can design all your apps now, not just Google apps. Just make sure you have the latest version of Lawnchair installed, Alpha 5.
  • At-a-Glance widget that you can also disable.
  • General search bar within the app drawer (if you have a rooted Pixel device running Android 12).
  • Dynamic themes based on the wallpaper.

To take full advantage of these features, feel free to watch the video below where I show the settings to enable Pixel launcher cloning.

Now that your launcher is installed, we can move on to widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers that let you get really creative. If you search for “Android 12 widgets” or “Android 12 wallpapers” on the Play Store, you will find plenty of options, most of which are pretty bad. Fortunately, I’ve already done the dirty work and compiled some of the best customization apps to replicate those goodies from Material You.

Starting with widgets, most of the Google apps that you can download from Play Store like Gmail, Clock, Google Drive, Google Keep, Maps, Photos, etc. already come with updated Material You tools. Many of them are very charming and beautiful in appearance.

Clock Widgets, for example, has four different design options. Personally, I like the scalloped ones, which look like a flower and rotate the date around, and act like a seconds hand. The photo app has an attractive clover-like frame to let you see the highlights of your family and friends. And the Gmail app has a great update tool that lists the majority of emails from your inbox. There is a lot where it came from.

But there are still a few missing items like weather widgets, chats, and the new Google search bar that includes the Google Lens icon.


To get these missing extra tools, you will need to download some extra apps. For the conversation widget, you can download the “Notification Widget” and it will repeat notification tweaks with dynamic themes. All it takes is notification access to display notifications on widgets, and storage permissions to get background colors. Then through the Notification Widget, you can select the application from which you would like the widget to display incoming notifications. You can even change the shape and colors of the widget.

For the new Google search bar, Nova Launcher and Lawnchair 12 already come with it, but unfortunately, they don’t rely on wallpaper. However, you can install “Search Widget (Material You)” to get it. It just puts the new search bar inside your widgets panel, and it works like a charm. Within the app, you can even change the Google Assistant icon and Google Lens icon to a different action like Music Search, Play Store, Settings app, or Clock app for your alerts.

Finally, for weather widgets, the only option you can fall back on is to use the KWGT widget pack. For those unfamiliar, KWGT Tools are Play Store apps filled with custom widgets created by community-based developers. It expands a whole new world of customization. You just need to make sure you have KWGT Kustom Widget Maker and KWGT Kustom Widget Pro Key installed, which costs around $6

KWGT widget pack “Android 12 widgets for KWGT Pro” contains the most accurate weather widgets in the form of giant dials (both diagonal and horizontal). It even opens the weather forecast within the Google app. If you want it, a good alternative is Uzuri for KWGT Pro. It offers a weather tweak that has dynamic wallpaper themes and adds an additional option to show you different information when you tap on it like time, date and battery percentage. The only downside is that its design is not an exact copy of Google’s original weather pills like the option above.

For Google weather widgets that look like a card, Snow Cone for KWGT Pro is the only good option out there. It looks very similar with some minor details that don’t add like some font and weather icons, but it still performs well. In addition, it automatically follows your chosen background colors.

Wall paper

For wallpapers, you can just do a quick Google search to find all the Google wallpapers, but it will take a while to find them all in great resolution, plus it’s not entirely safe to start downloading stuff from random websites that you may have not visited before. Fortunately, a few months ago, we created a story of over 400 of the same Google Wallpaper backgrounds for you to download in batches for free. This includes wallpapers from Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, Community Lens, Arts & Culture, Curated Culture, and much more.



Backgrounds

Some other great options that aren’t an exact repetition, but still keep track of the stuff you’re customizing, include Team Pixel, Wallfever, and Pix Wallpapers. Team Pixel Wallpapers brings a whole new light to Google Pixel inspired wallpapers. Lots of walls are abstract and colorful with cool shapes and flat elements. It brings a lot of excitement and fun to your home screen and works well with any Google tools you use. Plus, with every Google Feature Drop, the developer is creating some new walls inspired by this update. It is honestly the perfect app for Pixel Fans.

Wallfever is very versatile and has dozens of wallpapers to choose from. Every wallpaper is organic and amazing to look at. They don’t adhere very strongly to that Google-y feel, but they still have elements of the Material You style. Created by the same developer of Team Pixel wallpapers, new wallpapers are added almost every week.

Pix Wallpapers is a free alternative that takes Pixel-inspired wallpapers and makes them look more attractive. It even has some holiday-themed options that still follow the language of Material You. The only downside is that it isn’t updated often, but since it’s free it’s not a bad choice.


Doodle Live Wallpaper

Finally, if you want some Pixel live wallpapers, I’ll go with Doodle: Live Wallpapers. It contains the entire Doodle Collection from the Pixel 4, some inspired by the Pixel 6. Each item includes items that move whenever you unlock the screen, open an app, or just switch to the next page. In addition, they all turn black when you enable the system’s dark theme. Within Doodle, you can further customize the walls such as increasing the zoom density of all shapes, changing the shape’s size, enabling the tilt effect where the walls follow the movement of your hand, and much more. The best part is that it is completely free with no ads or in-app purchases.

icon pack

When it comes to icons, Google has just designed the theme of most of its icons on the home screen. Each one is flat and circled and follows the Monet theme and system light/dark (although this changes with Android 13). Like I said before, Lawnchair 12 Alpha 5 allows you to get these codes with the same themes on older devices. And when you install the Lawnicons add-on, you can design several third-party apps, all of which support the Monet themes, and turn dark every time you flip the system switch.

But if you prefer to stick with Nova Launcher, you can instead use a third-party icon pack from the Play Store called Dynamic Material You icon pack. With support for more than 11,000 icons, this icon pack will not only customize the majority of your apps within your app drawer, but also make them match your background color with light and dark mode support. It works like a charm, although you need to make sure you re-enable the icon pack whenever you switch backgrounds so that the colors change with them. The only catch is that the Monet feature only works on devices running Android 12.

Pixel-exclusive features

The Pixels also come packed with a number of exclusive features that other competing phones don’t have. From the call screen to the Now Playing feature, it’s among the reasons people buy Pixels in the first place. Reproducing them on other phones is not easy, but there are some apps that get you close.

call screen

To recreate the Pixel’s call screening feature, you can use “KONTXT Voice” from the Play Store, which offers similar functionality. Anytime you receive and decline a call, Kontxt will ask the caller “Why is he calling”, and you can read the text to see what the person is saying and decide whether you want to accept or decline the phone call. It is compatible with most of the carriers out there, and setting it up is very easy. You can even change the salutation to anything you wish within the app’s settings.


quick press

Pixel phones have a double-tap gesture called “Quick Tap” to allow you to launch certain tasks or apps by simply tapping twice on the back of the phone. To get this feature on other Android devices, you can download “Tap Tap” which is a useful tool that extends Google’s own functionality. It enables triple taps, constraints so that the gesture doesn’t work when you’re doing certain tasks, and more.

play now

To repeat play now, Shazam has a similar function called “Auto Shazam”. Anytime Shazam hears music, it will recognize the song and notify you when a match is found. Tapping the notification will bring up the selected song, and I found it to be just as accurate at finding song names – it even works when the screen is off.

google camera

Google is making a pixel-only camera app that contains the secret sauce for its unparalleled phone results. But over the years, developers have adapted the app to other devices, known as GCam, making it available to a select number of devices. This XDA article provides a huge list of GCam-enabled devices that unfortunately do not include major software like the US variants of the Galaxy S series. Some GCam apps work better than others because they are all built by the community, and each version is different, so test as many as you can before committing.

Rules

Finally, Pixels has a simple automation tool called Rules built into its Settings app. It offers useful extras like custom contest settings and location-based Wi-Fi. Let’s say I want my phone to automatically silence while I’m in the cinema or have it go to vibrate whenever I connect to my home Wi-Fi, that’s possible. To recreate this workflow, you can use an app like MacroDroid, which makes it easy to create automated tasks.

This is how you can give your Android device the Pixel experience without rooting your phone. There are plenty of other customization apps out there that claim to replicate the Pixel Experience, but the ones discussed are some of the best options out there. However, with apps being released right and left these days, it’s not likely that a new personalization app will appear claiming to be better than some of the options discussed above. So if you know of any other apps that would Pixelfy any Android, please let us know in the comments.


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