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I have changed my mobile six times in ten years and I still have the same icons in the same place

Android has changed a lot since its inception, but looking back, what hasn’t changed much is the home screen of my mobile, which has the icons in the same places for a decade. It seems like an eccentricity of someone with too much free time, but everything makes sense. So so.

My first Android phone was a Sony Xperia Mini Pro, a miniature even for its time, with a 3-inch screen. It has little or nothing to do with the OnePlus 9R that I have now and its 6.55-inch screen, and yet the essence is basically the samebecause?

It all started with the Xperia Mini Pro

I came a bit late to the Android world, in 2012, with an Xperia Mini Pro with a QWERTY keyboard and from a Nokia XpressMusic 5800 that increasingly seemed less “smart“. The idea was to try to avoid as much as possible the virtual keyboard of the mobile (the Nokia had a stylus), and the mobile was simply adorable.

The Xperia Mini Pro brought a tremendously loaded customization layer, as was usual at the time, with all kinds of customizations, integrations with Facebook and a launcher with shortcuts in the four corners. Each corner, a folder in which to place shortcuts.


The Sony Xperia Mini Pro was tiny even for its time, with a layer that grouped icons in each of the corners

Considering that the Xperia Mini Pro had a tiny 3 inch screen, the use of folders was a clever way to have more shortcuts in the same place. Not that Sony invented folders, of course, but this first interface conditioned me to think of four groups of icons, each in a corner. And, if possible, that they follow some pattern, so as not to drive me crazy.

The Sony Xperia Mini Pro had a tiny screen and a launcher with four folders with shortcuts, one in each corner

After much trial and error, the four folders were taking shape: one for calls, one for messaging, one for photos and one for mobile settings. Little did I imagine then that, ten years later, those four folders would continue, in their own way, on my mobile.

The downside of the Xperia Mini Pro is that I barely had a memory (512 MB of RAM and 400 MB of storage) so it didn’t take long until I had to root it yes or yes, remove apps, make a hole and install various ROMs. Being able to open -and keep open- apps like WhatsApp and Facebook was quite an odyssey, and with the change of ROM, the Sony layer fell, replaced by a launcher more similar to the stock Android one.


My Xperia Mini Pro with a totally different ROM and the ancestral folders that would arrive on my current mobile ten years later

With this launcher the corners with folders are over: instead it came the dock of a lifetime, with five icons, although one of them was fixed, to open the application drawer. The transformation was simple: four holes for my usual four folders, but unifying the calling apps with messaging (after all, who calls by phone nowadays?).


So I was left with a folder for calls and chat, another for photos and music, a shortcut without a folder for an app that I open frequently (Facebook, for example) and a final folder with shortcuts to settings, Gmail and Google Play. Note that the Xperia Mini Pro has a physical button for cameraso that shortcut was optional to have as an icon.

Nova soon arrived to make my life easier

The Xperia Mini Pro is one of the phones I’ve enjoyed the most, but it didn’t take long for it to fall short and his QWERTY keyboard turned out to be his Achilles’ heel: Some of its keys were coming off without warning and I actually lost the letter N. If you found a letter N a few millimeters in size in Madrid in 2013, please, I’m still looking for it.

Already in 2013, mobile phones with a QWERTY keyboard were disappearing, but I was not yet ready for the virtual keyboard, so I got a Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G, a model for US operators: there, the mobile phones with a keyboard still had some pull. It was something like the Xperia Mini Pro, but big, if that adjective can be used when talking about a 4 inch screen.


My Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G (imported from the USA), already with Nova Launcher and the same current scheme

By then, Samsung phones had the infamous TouchWiz, with several added options that were not in stock, yes, but quite ugly, things as they are, and not as agile as we would like. The Touchwiz launcher never convinced me, so I ended up replacing it with Nova Launcher, which allowed me to leave everything exactly the same as it was configured on my previous mobile, and more.

I met Samsung’s TouchWiz launcher and it was hate at first sight. Instead, I installed Nova, something I’ve been doing on all my phones ever since.

My four dock folders and icons were reloading. The only change is that the apps to destroy your photos with 200 effects and frames like Pixlr-o-matic they weren’t so fashionable anymore, so the media folder became the camera icon -more accessible- and the gallery went to the calls and chat folder.

When the Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G started having problems charging, my next phones were a Samsung Galaxy A5 and a Samsung Galaxy A5 2017. They no longer had TouchWiz, but rather what was called Samsung Experience, the grandfather of One UI. It was a less ugly system, and its launcher was decent, but once you try Nova, everything else tastes like little.


Layers and mobiles change, icons stay in the same place

Using Nova, I was able replicate my configuration exactly in these three mobiles four years apart, effortlessly. The only change was that, with the advent of the swipe to open the app drawer, the old four shortcuts could be five. The magnificent five.

With Nova, in addition to having the same icons in the same place, everything is exactly the same when you change mobile. And with everything in one place, I don’t waste time looking for where an app is.

The advantage of repeating the template is that mobiles change, icons stay in the same place, so that every time I want to open a certain app, my finger knows exactly where to go: it’s been doing the same thing for years. Less time navigating up and down, left and right, searching for a button.

This makes changing mobile is much less traumatic, without the need to relearn where things are. From day one, everything is where it has always been. That’s how it tastes Also, if I ever need to use an old phone to test something, everything stays where it was. My mania, I admit it.

The widgets also come with me

After Samsung mobiles I decided to change sides and got a Huawei P30 Lite, in which it took me approximately zero seconds to replace its launcher with Nova and put my icons in the same place as always. With recent versions of Nova, it’s a snap export your configuration and upload it to the new mobile.


Huawei does not allow unlocking the bootloader, so without being able to install ROM to change its appearance as I was bored with it, I had fun creating custom widgets with KWGT, something that is not difficult, but that requires a lot of patience. These widgets have ended up becoming part of my mobile and my home screen, not so much for their decorative ability, but for their functionality (several of them include shortcuts to open this or that).


Widgets created with KWGT, on a Huawei P30 Lite

With increasingly elaborate own widgets, the inevitable happened: now, in addition to taking the icons with me from one mobile to another, my widgets come with me too. KWGT also allows you to export and import your layouts relatively easily, so it doesn’t cost much to reuse your widgets when you switch phones.

After becoming fond of creating widgets with KWGT, now I also take them with me when I change phones. They are from the family.

Thus we come to the present, to the OnePlus 9R, where there are the same widgets as in the previous mobile, in addition to the same icons in the dock, exactly the same configuration as in the previous mobile. And it will probably stay that way for a long time.


The OnePlus 9R with the same widgets and icons of my old Huawei P30 Lite

The shortcuts have evolved slightly, the local mobile music app has given way to Spotify, the shortcuts to settings that I had on the Xperia Mini Pro are no longer necessary (as most are accessed from the Quick Settings) and the Google Talk app is now WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE, Telegram and many others, but in essence, everything is the same. And it will continue like this for a long time. It’s probably not the best possible setup, but it’s mine.

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