One thing we very much appreciated is that once you set up the Smart Remote app, a lock-screen widget can be added, but it replaces the clock instead of adding a second page. It's a good way to flick through channels without finding the remote or unlocking the device.
When it comes to a custom UI, we strongly recommend looking into third-party interface overlay applications which allow you to do whatever you like with your home screens. Our favourite is Action Launcher Pro coupled with the likes of Nox and DashClock, but there are a plethora of options available through Google Play.
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