A simpler and smarter alternative for the Home screen.
Time and Location aware apps classification.
There are plenty of of Android launchers in the Play Store, but a very few stand out. One of my favorite is Aviate Launcher. It’s quite different from the AOSP like launchers commonly used. People who are into extreme customization please look away, this launcher caters to the general users.
Even before it was launched, the Alpha was praised by many tech sites and finally was snagged by Yahoo! while it was still in beta. Lets find out what is so special about it.
On first run, it presents a quick setup, however keep in mind that it requires an active internet connection. Then it asks for a permission to be set as the default launcher on your device. After launch, it tells you the basics and off you go!
The launcher itself is divided in five panes, the central one being the home screen. On the right is the smart categories or collections which has the relevant apps. Many more collections can be added. I did feel the lack of custom collections a negative, but it can easily be overlooked.
On further right is a vertical app drawer. It’s very convenient if you have lots of apps and greatly reduces the time to search for any app. There is also a search button and an option to add shortcuts. The left of the home screen is where it really shines. Further left is the smartest feature of the app. The contextually aware pane. The default options are Today, Moving, Listening, Work, Nearby and Settings.
When you first unlock your phone, you will be greeted by the default home screen. The majority of the screen is covered by an image which can be changed or widgets that can be added. The widgets however cannot overlap and have a separate box of their own, which is not desirable. For example, if you add the Search bar, it gets a separate box instead of displaying on top of the image, which clutters the screen. Even small widgets gets a separate box, which is annoying.
A swipe from down, opens the quick contacts. You have to set your 4 favorite contacts and you are ready to go. It’s a very handy feature and reduces the number of taps to call a number you frequently call.
The shortcut dock has space for 5 apps in a row, and many more can be added easily. Just hold any app from the drawer and drag it wherever you like. On swiping left, the smart categories pane presents itself. It displays 5 apps in each and everything is easily arranged. On tapping the top of the box, it opens to display more apps. There is a ‘Suggested apps’ icon in each category, which presents new apps for the relevant categories, which can be downloaded easily.
Lets talk about the modes:
There is a header with the day and the date displayed. It is accompanied by a picture, curated and added daily by the Aviate team, with the option to be set as the home screen image. Below it is the calendar view, which can be modified by a long press. Its followed by the Weather updates and News Snippets. Tapping the weather does a Google search for the location, while the news snippets open a play store listing of the Yahoo! News Digest app. Widgets and Collections can be separately added for each mode
If it detects movement, then this pane is shown. It has directions to home or work depending on the situation and accompanied by the ‘Transit’ collection which has all the navigation related apps installed on your phone.
A widget with music controls is present, with the ‘Music’ collection. On playing a song, the artist twitter feed is displayed and a short bio can also be reached
It has quick options for email, and setting a new event. Aviate does ask you to set your work location to be set. The ‘Productivity’ collection is present here.
This pane gets all the nearby locations of interest. If you are present at one of the locations suggested, it presents an option for Camera, Check in and Post to Google Plus. It also tries to get the best collection for the particular place, so you can see ‘Productivity’ collection in offices.
It has quick options for setting alarm and do not disturb while other collections can easily be added. The launcher does have Icon Pack support with unread counter support and Dark/Light theme option accessible from the Settings pane. There is a Power saver option, but I haven’t noticed it do anything. There however are few problems though.
- I have seen the Moving pane a few times, even while I was at Home.
- There is an option for a power toggles widget, but as it’s not present on my phone, I cannot use it.
- Quick Contacts is a bit annoying to set up if the contacts has more than 1 phone number.
- Not usable on tablets
If these issues are ironed out, we may be looking at a very strong contender in the Android Launcher Arena.
Unfortunately, the launcher is forced in portrait mode so it will not look good on a 7 inch+ device, unless you use your device in portrait mode all the time.
Smartly organizes apps
Provides relevant app according to location and time
Daily New Wallpaper
Widgets cannot be overlapped, causing a mess if using many.
Sometimes location doesn't work properly.
No Power toggle built in.
No Tablet UI.