Love customization? Wean yourself off custom ROMS with the following apps.
Love the stability of stock, but need some tweaks? I understand. I've gone through the same, only flashing acustom ROM because of some notification bar tweak, or some quick shortcuts that made my life way easier thanstock.
These tweaks however often came at a price. The ROM was either unstable, the tweak caused lag, the ROM meant your updates didn't come from Google, but a nice third party programmer or some other thing you do not particularly enjoy dealing with.
I know this too and over the year after switching from a Nexus S to a galaxy Nexus and in a day the Nexus 4, I have gotten myself a collection of apps that let me enjoy some tweaks with a bone stock ROM, or in the case of a few, only root access.
* Gestures: I can swipe anywhere on my homescreen for many customizable options. I personally use a swipe up to acess my app drawer and a swipe down to pull down my notifications without having to reach to the top of an admittedly long phone.
* Custom icons: With an icon pack as robust as Kovdev's Tersus, I can add some uniformity to my homescreen a la iPhone. Originally I liked that all app icons were different as it showed a nice flurry of diversity, but the uniform icons just make the OS look so much more cohesive.
* App drawer tabs: You can customize your app drawer tabs in as many categories as you like. I simply have 3, all, folders and widgets. I like things simple. :)
* Folders in the app drawer: We all know how annoying it can be to search your app drawer for an app. Thankfully, You can organize it into folders. It is a huge pain to set up, and it has some annoying quirks but it is well worth it to me in the end.
That about does it for my custom launcher, moving on...
2. Display Brightness: Another life saver. Given how erratic auto brightness is sometimes and the annoying menus one has to jump through to manually control brightness on stock Android, this app is amazing. It lets you put a slider that is only visible when you toggle it in all apps and all situations. So when the glare from your phone is too much, or you're trying to read a text in sunlight, satisfaction is only a swipe away. Be sure to get the icon pack downloader as well, the default ones are a bit "ick" if you ask me.
3. Notification toggle: The Android market is filled with lovely gems of apps like this, but they're so hard to find! This is what finally made it possible for me to ditch CM10. It lets you put toggles in your notification bar (as many or as few as you want. If too much, you can make it scrollable instead of jumping to a new line). Helps me a lot when I want to toggle my the phone's LED as a flashlight, or turn off GPS when not in use so Facebook has no precise idea of where I am because I like it that way. Sure they have access to coarse location through telecom triangulation, but hey it's only accurate to a few hundred meters. You can also put apps in place of a toggle too!
4. Smart Status bar: One of the few things Apple did right with the notification bar that Google overlooked. When in a full screen app, for example, a game (Angry Birds) and you get an email or text, you have to go to the homescreen to check it out. The notification bar area is inactive in full screen. A glaring and annoying oversight, but is fixable with this simple app! Simply configure it and you're good to go!
I'll update this list as soon as I find more and do please post your own miracle apps? I've found out that often enough, if you think there's something your Android phone should do, someone has done it already and made an app, for it and that truly fosters innovation. So sound off below! Let me know yours!
Also some formatting help would be appreciated. The current photo list thing makes the post seem longer than it is.