Customise your smartphone to fit your needs

Owners of an Android smartphone do not have to be content with the user interface that the manufacturer has given the device. — Christin Klose/dpa

The user interfaces of Android smartphones usually differ slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, and can be confusing for users.

Fortunately, there are launcher apps to simplify things; these apps wrap the otherwise unchanged operating system in a new look.

Some, such as the popular Nova Launcher, also bring new features, while others are based on the design and services of specific manufacturers, such as the official Microsoft Launcher. Some, such as the Evie Launcher, offer minimalist user interfaces.

Replacing the standard launcher can even lead to a gain in performance – some smartphone manufacturers replace the basic Android interface with a rather sluggish user interface.

A lightweight replacement launcher can provide a speed boost, especially for less powerful smartphones.

You can install launcher apps from the Play Store. To return to the standard interface, simply delete the launcher.

There are some downsides to launchers, however.

"When setting up a smartphone with low accessibility, it is important that additional barriers are not built in," says digital coach Nicole Kirchhoff.

"A launcher changes the surface of a smartphone significantly. It can happen that certain functions no longer work as usual and error messages or unclear queries appear," she says.

It can also be hard to seek help if you have problems with a launcher that's little used. Help will be more readily available for the standard interface.

Besides launchers, Android smartphones come with plenty of aids that make them easier to use. For example, people who find it difficult to read on their smartphones can use the read-out feature, Kirchhoff says. Then you just tap on a text or object on the screen to have the smartphone read it aloud to you.

You can also use the talkback feature to operate the phone completely by voice control and gestures, which is ideal for the blind or visually impaired.

Kirchhoff recommends looking at the specific needs of each person when setting up a smartphone.

If you're visually impaired, you can enlarge the font and symbols or set specific colour corrections.

For users with hearing problems, the Google audio amplifier may be a good option, with which ambient noise can be picked up by the microphone and amplified through headphones.

The dictation function can also help when composing messages, or you can use the Google Assistant.

"Many everyday smartphone functions can be used without taking the smartphone in hand or looking at it," Kirchhoff says.

Setting the alarm, retrieving the weather report or making calls are just a few examples of what's possible, she says. – dpa

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