For the past several years, TechRepublic's site analytics have shown that the most common Android phones accessing our site have all been Nexus devices. So, we know that a lot of professionals are into that pure, unmodified experience of Google's version of Android.
However, even if you don't have a Nexus, you don't have to rush out and drop $400 on an unlocked Google device to get the Nexus experience. If you're running a Samsung, Huawei, HTC, LG, or virtually any other brand of Android phone with its own UI bolted on top of Android, you can download a few apps and give your device a similar uninhibited user experience to a Nexus.
1. Install the Google Now Launcher
The first and most important step is to download and install the Google Now Launcher. This will replace the basic UI on your phone with the same one that runs on Google Nexus devices.
In other words, it gives the boot to Samsung's Touchwiz, Huawei's Emotion UI, HTC's Sense UI, and others. Your home screen becomes uncluttered, gets a slim Google search bar at the top, and gives you quick access to Google Now with a swipe right.
2. Install the Google Keyboard
The second most important thing to making your Android device feel like a Nexus is to replace your vendor's keyboard with the Google Keyboard. Not only does this make your device look and feel more like a Nexus, but you get access to swiping gestures, Google's auto-complete powered by machine learning, and one of the most effective software keyboards you can use.
3. Install Google native apps and change your defaults
Your non-Nexus phone also defaults to a lot of vendor specific apps for key functions. Replace these with the Google versions and make them the default. For example, replace your text messaging app with Google Messages. Replace your calendar app with Google Calendar. Go to the Google Inc. page in the Play Store to see all of the native Android apps that Google offers.
In addition to Google's native Android apps already mentioned, here are some others that are worth a look:
- Google Duo
- Google Photos
- Google Hangouts
- Android Pay
- Google Translate
- Google Handwriting Input
- Google Clock
- Google Street View
- Google Earth
- Google Analytics
- Google Keep
- Google Cardboard
- Google Fit
- Google Wallet
- Hands Free
- One Today
Alright, that's it. You just turned your Android phone into a Nexus for free. Okay, you don't get the quick updates to the latest version of Android like you do with a Nexus, but these steps will give you the next best thing—that pure Google experience on Android.
- Google Nexus: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Could Google's new mystery OS 'Fuchsia' replace Chrome and Android? (TechRepublic)
- Google Duo simplifies video calls, and impresses with a clutter-free UI (TechRepublic)
- Google building a smartphone to compete with the iPhone, claims report (ZDNet)
- Google launches custom cases for Nexus phones (ZDNet)
- Huawei may launch a Nexus smartphone along with HTC (ZDNet)
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.