Hate Touchwiz? Here’s how to get that Stock Android ICS look on your SGS II !
It’s been awhile now since the Galaxy S II got its ICS update, and as was expected it looked very similar to the Gingerbread look for the phone. This left many users very disappointed, mostly the power users who hoped Samsung would redesign its TouchWiz UI for the latest Android version. Alas they did some updating to include most of ICS’s features but also tried to maintain the look of the phone. The simplest reason for this is, not that they are lazy, in fact It probably took them more time to move back to the old look , but that having sold over 20 Million of these many users would be upset if their phones changed that dramatically from an update. After all they buy the phone to use as it is on purchase date.
So that leaves the rest of us slightly higher level users more than slightly sad. And with a few options:
1.Flash Cyanogen Mod 9/AOSP Rom
2.Flash a Modded Stock ROM that looks more like ICS
3.Try to get more of an ICS look and feel without flashing our phones.
The first option is one of the most popular for experienced users who really want the total AOSP (Android Open Source Project) Android experience, but comes with some downsides in that some functionality is not functional on CM9 like MHL HD video out, and of course any Samsung specific features are not included like their email app aswell as the different Hubs. There’s also the fact that in most countries your warranty will not be upheld if you have flashed this “Custom” Binary.
The Next Option is to Flash your phone with a Samsung ICS Rom that has been modded by developers to look more like stock ICS and use more of the AOSP apps. This is a popular option as its less risky than a full on custom rom, keeps most Samsung apps or gives you the option to reinstall them and all features of the phone stay functional as if the phone were stock. A good example of these types of ROMS is Pure ICS .
If you aren’t into flashing, or you’re scared of losing your warranty the last option is probably for you. This involves using apps to try to get you closer to stock. ( Note, specific reference is made to the SGS II in this post but these applications and procedures apply any ICS running phone , they will not all function on Gingerbread running devices.)
The first thing to do once you have a stock ICS rom on your SGS II is to install an ICS look launcher, the two most popular are Apex and Nova Launcher.
My favourite is Apex Launcher, Apex is available in the Play store but is still in active development which means that new features are always in the pipeline. Apex,like Nova, initially just gives you the stock ICS launcher look. Which in itself is quite nice, but then goes further and gives you more room to modify the launcher to better suit you. This includes options over the scrolling transitions on the home screen as well as the App-draw. If you’ve seen stock ICS you would have noticed the great looking card-stack effect that it uses in the App-Draw when scrolling. The good news is that Apex allows you to use that same transition on your home screen and it looks wonderful! The usual settings regarding the number of home screens, default home screen, grid sizes, as well as scrolling are also available for the home screen.
Next Up in Apex is the App-Draw which you can decide to set to work in a horizontal scroll or vertical. It also provides you with a tab named Downloaded, which as you would expect displays only the apps you have downloaded. There is also the Widgets tab, another ICS feature that many were impressed by,sadly,the news is not good here. In order to use the Widgets tab to add widgets from the Draw you need to be rooted. This is due to permissions needed by the launcher. I for one cannot understand why Google did not make this possible for third-party launchers without root. Luckily though, if you aren’t rooted Apex provides the option to hide the Widgets tab and use the normal long-press method to add widgets. When it comes to App-Draws sorting is key, and Apex wins here allowing you to sort your apps by Title, Install date and Most Used. Sadly though, there are still no folders in the App-Draw which is a feature I really loved in Go Launcher. Lastly a feature to take note of is the ability to hide apps in the draw, more on that later.
ICS also brought the ability to Resize widgets in the stock Launcher, Apex maintains that but also gives you the option to force a widget to resize even if the developer has not made the widget re-sizeable .When it comes to folders, ICS made it very easy to make them on your home screen by just shifting icons over each other. The process is the same in Apex, but as usual gives you more options regarding the look of the folders where you can change the shape as well as how it displays the icons within the folder.
A feature that many look for that I don’t use much is gesture support, and Apex supports it with custom actions for swiping up and down, double tapping and long pressing.
The best part of Apex? All of this is free. The Developers have announced plans for a Pro version, but the fact that you can get this for free as is shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So now we have an ICS look launcher, but our Icons are still TouchWiz? The best option here is to download an ICS theme like this which includes an Icon pack for ICS included ( For Free) . Apex doesn’t support themes yet, but you can take Icons on your home screens and edit their Icons by long pressing on them. You can then chose a ICS Icon to use. Hopefully in future Apex will add themes so this will be an easier process.
The last thing to complete that ICS home screen look is rather simple. You’ve all seen the Phase Beam Live wallpaper from ICS – it’s a real beauty on the Super AMOLED+ of the Galaxy S II. Luckily its available on the Play Store for free from a third-party developer. I can also vouch that it isn’t a battery killer either. Download here .
Now lets move onto some other Apps that could help you feel more like you’re in ICS.
The part of TouchWiz I hate most is the gallery, the 3D gallery make look attractive to some, but for me it was clunky and annoying. The new stock ICS gallery on the other hand,is gorgeous! Luckily where there’s a will there’s a way and I found that someone had compiled the gallery into an APK that can be installed separately. You can download that from this post on XDA ( The file is named Gallery2). Once you have that loaded up, you can use the lovely looking ICS gallery ! Not only that, but it also installs the new scrollable gallery widget that looks brilliant. Now we all get annoyed with duplicate apps, which is why at this stage if you’ve decided that the Samsung Gallery is now useless you should go into your Apex Launcher App-Draw Settings and hide the old gallery. You could also disable it, but I would stay away from this option. Rather Hide it so you can use it when the OS wants but not have to see it in your way.
Next up, Camera. The Camera App from Samsung is great, it has TONS of functionality and the UI is pretty good. There are though some who are curious and want to try the ICS Camera interface. Once again Developers have come through for us by making an App called Camera ICS . The app aims to be an improved version of the stock ICS Camera app. It covers all the usual ICS Camera features but loses some that require some device specific tuning like the live-effects in video recording. Others like the Panorama shot and quick sharing picture preview are still present. They also added some features like the ability to use the volume button as a shutter key, something I really love. The bad side of Camera ICS? It’s ad-supported . This means that while taking a few shots if your data is enabled your view-finder is made slightly smaller by the presence of an advert. Luckily they have provided an ad-free version here . I would recommend trying the free version and making the purchase if you really like it. As with the Gallery, you can hide the original camera app from the App-draw to avoid clutter.
Moving on, you may also have seen the new ICS Keyboard. This has been available for a while now on the Play Store and while not all have been won over by it, I most certainly have and can-not move back to any other keyboard. The Main allure of the ICS keyboard is that it has the ability to recognise when you mean’t to type two words and made a mistake instead of pressing space. It’s absolutely brilliant and luckily you can download it here on the Play Store for free (Premium version with Added features also available).
When it comes to the dialler, suffice to say that the dialler in TouchWiz works well, but somehow feels out of place with all the ICS love we gave the rest of the phone. The solution for me comes in the form of exDialer and Contacts from the Play Store. This free dialler and contacts app replacement is well known even for its use on Gingerbread phones and theres a reason : It works just right. The start time of the apps is vastly faster than that of the stock TouchWiz apps , this combined with the customisation options it provides and the ICS theme make it a very capable and good looking alternative to the stock apps. This is not identical to the AOSP ICS Dialler, but instead themes exDialler in the Halo (ICS) clothing that is used in ICS to give you a more consistent look through your phone. A nice touch is that exactly like in the stock app, you can use the swiping shortcuts on any contact name to call them or send them a message (Horizontal Swipe over contact line ) .You Need to Download the Dialler and Contacts as well as the separate ICS theme . Once installed two icons for Dialler and Contacts will appear in your drawer, you can replace the stock apps in the dock with these two and follow the procedure above to change the icon to the ICS icon again. And once again, if you want to avoid a cluttered app draw you can hide the stock apps within the Apex Launcher settings.
Staying on contacts, there is a great Widget for ICS Contacts available on the Play Store which is re-sizeable and fits in really well with the Gallery and YouTube Widgets. You can download it for free here
The last app that can help us get close to stock ICS is one which you may prefer, or may not depending on your needs. The app is ICS Browser +, and it is in effect the stock ICS browser with a few added features by a third party developer. The reason I think this is a nice browser is the way which it swaps tabs, which is actually identical to the way ICS Multi-tasks with a list of apps that use thumbnails and scroll vertically . You can also close tabs like apps are closed by swiping them off the screen.
Those, together will give you a nice experience of ICS. Another part is looking for apps that use the New ICS look that aren’t from Google. We found a few already and will be posting reviews up as we get a better feel for the quality of the apps. If you’ve found any other tweaks or apps that help give the stock ICS look to your Galaxy S 2 let us know in the comments, also let us know if you’ve tried these on phones besides the Galaxy S II like the HTC Sensation that also received ICS skinned with Sense 3.6.
Disclaimer: We hold no responsibility for any damage caused by the installation of any of the apps, they are made available by community and developers. Side-loading Applications to your device can be dangerous and open your device to malware, Do so at your own risk.
Sources : My Broadband Forum( ICS Browser Tab View)