How to give any Android phone the Google Pixel Experience

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

Launcher

When you’re not using a Pixel, switching to a third-party launcher is the only way to get your device looking as close to one as possible.

Lawnchair 12’s Alpha Version is a fantastic way of replicating the Pixel launcher, or you can also use the notorious Nova Launcher. Both are very similar in terms of features and functionality. Each of them have a swipe-up app drawer with vertical scrolling, the Google search bar, search functionality within the widget panel (though Lawnchair 12’s version replicates the Pixel’s better), and the Google Discover panel on the left-most screen, though you ‘ll need to download their add-on apps; Nova’s is Nova Google Companion and Lawnchair’s is Lawnfeed 3.

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Lawnchair 12 is the better option for replicating the Pixel Launcher since it includes more Android 12-specific features, like:

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

To fully take advantage of these features feel free to watch the video below where I show what settings to enable to replicate the Pixel launcher.

Now that your launcher is installed, we can turn to the widgets, icon packs, and wallpapers that let you get really creative. If you search “Android 12 widgets” or “Android 12 wallpapers” on the Play Store, you’ll find plenty of options, most of which are pretty terrible. Luckily, I’ve already done the dirty work and gathered some of the best personalization apps to replicate those Material You goodies.

Starting with the widgets, most of the Google apps that you can download from the Play Store like Gmail, Clock, Google Drive, Google Keep, Maps, Photos, etc. already come with the updated Material You widgets. A lot of them are very mesmerizing and beautiful to look at.

The widgets for the clock, for example, have four different design options. I personally love the one titled “Scallop,” which looks like a flower and rotates the date around, acting like the seconds-hand. The photos app has an attractive clover-like framing to let you see highlights of your family and friends. And the Gmail app has a fantastic updated widget listing a majority of your emails from your inbox. There’s a lot more where that came from.

But there are still a few missing like the Weather widgets, conversations, and the new Google Search bar that includes the Google Lens icon.


To obtain these extra missing widgets, you’ll need to download a few extra apps. For the conversation’s widget, you can download “Notification Widget” and it’ll replicate those dynamically themed notification Pills. All it requires is your notification access to display notifications on the widgets, and the storage permissions to get the wallpaper colors. Then within the Notification Widget, you select the app from which you’d like the widget to display incoming notifications. You can even change the widget’s shape and colors.

To obtain the new Google Search bar, Nova Launcher and Lawnchair 12 already come with it, but unfortunately, they are not wallpaper-based themed. Still, you can install “Search Widget (Material You)” to obtain it. It just places the new search bar within your widget panel, and it works like a charm. Within the app, you can even change the Google Assistant and Google Lens icon to a different action like Music Search, the Play Store, Settings app, or the Clock App for your alarms.

Lastly, for the weather widgets the only option to turn to is by using a KWGT widget pack. For those unfamiliar, KWGT widgets are apps on the Play Store that are filled with custom widgets created by community-driven developers. It expands a whole new world for customization. You just need to make sure to also have KWGT Kustom Widget Maker & KWGT Kustom Widget Pro Key installed, which costs around $ 6

A KWGT widget pack called “Android 12 widgets for KWGT Pro” has the most accurate weather widgets that are shaped like giant pills (both angled and horizontal). It even opens up the weather forecast within the Google app. If you want that, a good alternative is Uzuri for KWGT Pro. It provides a weather pill that has dynamic wallpaper theming and adds the extra option of showing you different information when you tap on it like the time, date, and battery percentage. The only downside is that its design is not an exact replication of the original Google weather pill like the above option.

For the 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 only a few minor details that do not add up like some of the font and weather icons, but it’s still really well done. Plus, it does automatically follow the colors of your chosen background.

Wallpaper

For the wallpapers, you could just do a quick Google search to find all the Google backgrounds, but it’ll take a while to find them all in great resolution, plus it’s not entirely safe to just start downloading stuff from random websites you may have never visited before. Luckily, a few months back we created a story featuring over 400 of those same Google Wallpaper backgrounds to download in batches for free. This includes wallpapers from the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, Community Lens, Arts & Culture, Curated Culture, and a lot more.



wallpapers

Some other great options that aren’t exact replications, but still follow that Material You theming include Team Pixel Wallpapers, Wallfever, and Pix Wallpapers. Team Pixel Wallpapers bring a whole new light to Google Pixel-inspired backgrounds. A lot of the walls are abstract and colorful with groovy shapes and flat elements. They bring a ton of excitement and fun to your homescreen and work well with any Google widgets that you use. Plus, with every Google Feature Drop, the developer creates some new walls that are inspired by that update. It’s honestly the perfect app for Pixel Fans out there.

Wallfever is versatile and has dozens of backgrounds to choose from. Each wallpaper is organic and mesmerizing to look at. They do not adhere too closely to that Google-y feel, but they still have elements of that Material You style. Created by the same developer of Team Pixel wallpapers, new backgrounds are added almost every week.

Pix Wallpapers is a free alternative that takes Pixel-inspired wallpapers and transforms them to look more eye-catching. It’s even got some holiday-themed options that still follow the Material You language. The only downside is that it does not get updated too often, but since it’s free it’s not a bad choice.


Doodle Live Wallpaper

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

Icon Pack

When it comes to the icons, Google has only really themed most of THEIR icons on the homescreen. Each one is flat, circled, and follows the Monet and system light / dark theme (though this is changing with Android 13). As I said before, Lawnchair 12 Alpha 5 lets you obtain these same themed icons on older devices. And when you install the Lawnicons Add-On you can theme many more third-party apps, all of which support Monet theming, and turn dark whenever you flip the system switch.

But if you’d rather 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 over 11,000 icons, this icon pack will not only theme the majority of your apps within your app drawer, it’ll even have them match the color of your background with support for a light and dark mode. It works like a charm, though you need to make sure to re-enable the icon pack whenever you swap backgrounds so that the colors change along with it. The only catch is that the Monet theming only works on devices running Android 12.

Pixel-Exclusive Features

Pixels also come packed with a number of exclusive features that no other competing phones have. From Call Screen to the Now Playing feature, they’re 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.

Screen Calling

To recreate the Pixel’s call screening feature, you can use “KONTXT Voice” from the Play Store, which offers similar functionality. Anytime you receive a call and decline it, Kontxt will ask the caller “why they’re calling,” and you can read the transcript to see what the person is saying and decide if you’d like to accept or decline the phone call. It’s compatible with most mobile carriers out there, and setting it up is very easy. You can even change the greeting to anything you’d like within the app’s settings.


Quick Tap

Pixel phones have a double-tap gesture called “Quick Tap” to let you launch certain tasks or applications by just double-tapping on the back of the phone. To get this feature on other Androids, you can download “Tap Tap” a useful tool that expands on Google’s own functionality. It, allows for triple taps, restrictions so that the gesture does not run when you’re doing certain tasks, and more.

Now Playing

To replicate Now Playing, Shazam has a similar function called “Auto Shazam”. Any time Shazam hears music, it’ll identify the song and notify you when it finds a match. Tapping on the notification will bring up the identified song, and I’ve found that it’s just as accurate at finding song names — it even works when the screen is off.

Google Camera

Google makes a camera app just for Pixels that contains the secret sauce for its phones’ unmatched results. But over the years, developers have adapted the app for other devices, known as GCam, making it available for a select number of devices. This XDA article provides a huge list of devices that support GCam which unfortunately does not include flagships like the US variants of the Galaxy S series. Some GCam apps work better than others since these are all created by the community, and each version is different, so test as many as you can before committing.

Rules

Finally, Pixels have a simple automation tool called “Rules” tucked into its settings app. It offers useful additions like custom ringer and Wi-Fi settings based on location. Let’s say I’d like my phone to automatically silence while I’m at the movies or have it switch to vibrate whenever I connect to my home Wi-Fi network, that’s possible. To recreate that workflow, you can use an app like MacroDroid, which makes it simple to create automated tasks.

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


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