I realize there’s going to be a lot of people who already know what a Home Screen is. Even if you are coming from iOS then you likely already know what it is as well. You probably call it the same thing on iOS but I’m still going to talk about it to cover all of my bases.
For those who came from an iOS device, all you know is your Home Screen. For us Android owners not only do we have a Home Screen but most devices also come with an App Drawer as well. I’ll get into the differences between the Home Screen and the App Drawer in that article though.
Today, I merely want to focus on the Home Screen so new user are familiar with the term and what can be done on it.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 is an Android One device. You don’t need to know what Android One means right now (again, I’ll go into that later). Instead, I simply want you to focus on the layout of this Android Home Screen. Starting from the bottom we have what is known as the software navigation bar.
Right above it is where the Home Screen Dock used to be, but some devices have opted to put in the Google Search widget there. If your device looks like this then right above the Google Search widget you will find your Home Screen Dock. Lastly, above that you will find your Home Screen Pages.
In this situation, your software navigation bar, search widget, and dock will always be on the screen while you are viewing the Android Home Screen. Swiping to the left to scroll through your pages will go through just that, your pages. But everything below those pages will stay in place for quick and easy access.
Not all OEMs opt for this style though so your Home Screen may not look like this at all.
I will admit up front that Xiaomi’s phones have a feature that lets you replace the software navigation bar with gestures. That is why we don’t see the Back, Home, and Recent buttons that we normally would see in this particular screenshot (I prefer software gestures over a navigation bar).
However, by default, MIUI (which is what Xiaomi calls its Android software) does have a software navigation bar option. Although, since this is not running Android One software (again, it’s running MIUI), we don’t have the Google Search widget below the Home Screen Dock.
A lot of people prefer this style and wish other OEMs would let them remove the search widget from the bottom of their phone. I know this isn’t an option that is baked into the stock Home Screen for the Mi A2 (however there are still ways around this that I’ll discuss later in this article).
The rest is the same though with various pages on your Home Screen. Some, like MIUI, even give you an indicator as to what page you’re on with the dots.
As we move to another OEM you can start to see how each OEM adds their own flavor to their version of Android. This is the Home Screen from the OnePlus 5 and it is a bit of a mix between the Home Screen on MIUI and the Redmi Note 7. So again, we don’t have a software navigation bar due to the gestures feature being turned on.
However, they have opted to go for the Google Search widget at the bottom while putting the Home Screen Dock right above it. We have the pages above it and the dots that (again) show you which page you’re currently on. It is completely up to the OEM to choose how they want their stock Home Screen to look.
The last Home Screen I wanted to show you before going off on a little tangent is the one from my Pixel 2 XL. Now, there are few stock launchers that let you apply what is known as an Icon Pack. An icon pack is an application downloaded from the Play Store (or other sources) that let you customize the look of an app icon.
There are thousands of different styles, color combinations, and themes of icon packs that you can choose for your device. The only limitation here is that the Home Screen for your device has to support it. And sadly, this is where it can get bit confusing. For example, Samsung devices have Themes that will change the icons.
However, the number of icons that these themes can change is very limited (to Samsung’s stock apps) and this doesn’t allow for a very nice look in my opinion. However, icon pack applications that you download from the Play Store can support thousands and thousands of apps.
This means that when an icon pack is applied to the Home Screen then all supported icons will change to that style.
Android Home Screen is Also Known as the Launcher
This is the small tangent that I wanted to explain here because I will be dedicating an entire article specifically on Custom Launchers in the next Android 101 article. But first, I want to say that some stock Home Screens do support icon packs that have been downloaded from the Play Store.
In fact, it’s one of few good things that I can talk about when speaking of OxygenOS these days (this is the version of Android that OnePlus uses). Their stock Launcher (aka Home Screen) comes with a couple of icon packs to choose from but any additional ones installed from the Play Store will show up there as well.
So, unlike Samsung Themes and their limited support for custom icons, you will likely need to download what is referred to as a Custom Launcher in order to apply an icon pack to your Home Screen. I’ll include a screenshot of the first page of my App Drawer down below so you can see how app icons look when a lot of them are themed.
So it should give you an idea as to how great it is that we can customize our smartphones and tablets the way we want.
All we have to do is install a Custom Launcher with support for icon packs (which is virtually all of them). Then you can find an icon pack that fits your liking from the Play Store and apply it through the settings of the Custom Launcher. There are a number of Custom Launchers to choose from but my favorite is Nova Launcher.
As mentioned, I’ll go into further detail about Custom Launchers in the future. For now, I hope you are familiar with the term Home Screen and understand the various elements that make up said feature.