How to Get (Nearly) Stock Android on Any Phone, No Rooting Required
Recently, Google fans finally got what they've wanted since the HTC Hero first came out:
stock Android versions
There are a number of reasons why you might not be able to get a stock
Obviously, the nuclear option is to
root your phone
Get a New Home Screen
Your home screen is like your...well, like your home. Technically, the app that contains your home screen is called the
, and it also includes your app drawer and widget selector. Manufacturers skin this pretty heavily (for example, HTC's new BlinkFeed
Apps like Nova and Apex Launcher are custom launchers that are very similar to the Google-y default. They do add some new features like changing icons (which we'll get to in a bit), but they're largely similar, if you want them to be. They'll have their own dedicated set of preferences to tweak things like animations or number of home screens. It's actually better than stock-it gets you the stock look with a bunch of other features so you can tweak things to your liking.
Replace the Keyboard
This one's a slam dunk, since Google recently released their keyboard on the Play Store. You can replace the keyboard on your device with any number of alternatives, but if you want the stock version it's available right here .
The bad news is that this will require Android 4.0+
is only for English-speaking countries at first. If you happen to be stuck on an older device or in a region that isn't supported, you can
download the APK separately
. Of course, this will not come with updates and may not work perfectly. You're on your own if you go down this road, but it is available. Of course, they aren't stock, but you can't go wrong with
Download All the Google Apps
For the most part, you're probably already using some regular Google apps. Gmail , Hangouts , and Maps , for example, typically come pre-installed on every phone, or are at least the best available option. However, you're probably using some skinned versions of basic apps like the calendar. If you want to get as close to stock as possible, you'll need to add a couple things.
is now the default browser on new devices.
is also available to replace the skinned versions your manufacturer included. Unfortunately, the Google-y Messaging app isn't available. However,
a modified APK
that's designed to work with
Unfortunately, without rooting, you're still left with a few gaps. Namely: The dialer, People, Camera, and Gallery apps are still siloed within official Google builds, but alternatives exist for nearly all of them (for example,
Tweak the Icons and Wallpapers
It's just not stock Android without the right icons and wallpapers. The latter is super easy to find, as your backgrounds were always meant to be customizable, so it's just a matter of downloading the right image files. Typically, XDA will have the new ones available pretty quickly.
Live wallpapers get a bit trickier as they're not necessarily universally compatible. You can find helpful posts where selfless internet citizens have gone to the trouble of ripping APKs of stock live wallpapers. These might be more of a crapshoot in terms of compatibility, but search around for your specific device and LWP you're looking for and you may get lucky.
Icons are similarly complicated, though mainly due to the launcher. Icon packs are often designed to work with Nova, Apex, GO Launcher, ADW, or any number of alternative launchers. If you downloaded the stock Google apps in the last section, then you're probably mostly set, but the sticklers can typically find the last few remnants on the Play Store or in the XDA forums. Just download the icon pack to your device, install it (if it's an APK), thenhead into your launcher's settings and change your icon pack to the one you downloaded.
Don't Forget the Kitchen Sink
You may not be aware of it-and to a certain extent you don't need to be, as much of this happens behind the scenes-but Google has been working to bring the stock experience more out in the open. The biggest piece of that puzzle is Google Play services . You may or may not recognize it, but this is a crucial piece of the Google ecosystem that can be updated independently of a whole OS update.
This became especially clear at Google I/O this year when Google introduced
a host of new features
You don't really have to do much of anything to keep this part updated. However, if you want the purest Google experience you can get, this is where the magic is probably going to happen from here on out. It will update behind the scenes and developers will tap into, sometimes without you ever seeing it happen. Don't be worried or freak out over any permissions it requests. This is just the new delivery system for key Android components.
Google is attempting to separate Android from its services. The slow operating system updates cause breaks in the platform that have led to a somewhat chaotic ecosystem. With Google Play Services, combined with the unbundling of key apps like Calendar or the keyboard (which actually began with