One of the good things about Android, is that you can make it look very different with homescreens. I’ve always been on Unix/Linux on my desktops and laptops so Android just came naturally, as did the urge to fiddle with it. The OS itself when possible, but at the very least every screen and setting got poked around, experimented with. Even Cyanogenmod warnings about the huge risks of playing with performance parameters were no deterrent at all.
I totally loved how you could completely change how the phone looked at felt within a few minutes!
Given this, it is very very surprising that Aviate got not only installed on my phone, but has managed to be my homescreen app for over 3 weeks now!
The official website has a very terse description – “The intelligent homescreen that simplifies your phone.” And then runs you through it’s highlights:
- Automatically organize your apps, and get to information faster than ever.
- Aviate intelligently surfaces information at the moment it’s useful.
And I’d personally add the following to it based on my usage thus far:
- Aviate seriously simplifies your Android phone
Only What You Need Now, or Here
Android by default gives you multiple screens to organize your app – usually 5. Aviate takes a context-based approach to accessing apps – the (fair) assumption being that you need different sets at work, at home, in the morning, on the move and so on.You can customize each of these as a collection of apps you think you’ll need in that context and some of these contexts are by default related to the screens that are auto-selected as the home screen changes with time of day and location in an attempt to show the most appropriate context. You also get to add widgets into a space – so your “Work” space will have the default tabs for the apps, events and you could add the Gmail widget to it as well.
The home screen has space for up-to 10 commonly used tabs.
Aviate then guesses what your current context is and brings up the appropriate space as you swipe down the home screen – a small icon on the top left lets you know what the context it picked is. This isn’t perfect yet, and I often need to swipe to the leftmost screen to pick the right context, but it’s fairly easy to switch.
“Nearby” actually works well – the app does pick up and add to the spaces you can pick a lot of businesses and landmarks from your vicinity, sometimes setting one of those as you current context – this lets you run through reviews or even add one, and do a Foursquare check-in quickly. Nifty, though I’m personally not a very check-in kind of user. But I can see how such easy and automated access to the vicinity might be very useful – especially since the barrier to bringing an app up is gone.
All the usage contexts – Home, Work, Going Somewhere, Social, Games, Music, etc – are also listed visually on a screen immediately to the right of the home screen. This makes access to apps much easier and quicker than the Android default apps menu. You can reorder the list, as well as the apps within a particular context space, so you practically never need to swipe down for most of the apps you use during the day. This is what I’ve used and liked the most!
To the extreme right is an alphabetical directory of all the apps on the phone in case you need to access the rarely used ones, or add a new one to any of the spaces you use. This has gotten used very very rarely, and I’m impressed they got it’s position just right.
Nothing. Yep, that is all there is to it. It’s amazing how tuned we’ve become to ‘capabilities’ – even now I keep poking around looking for power user settings especially after each update – but that’s truly all there is to it! Sure, I can change the pic on the homescreen, but really, this has replaced the launcher only as a means to simply, quickly and intuitively get to all the things on the phone that I need during the day. The heuristics that attempt to help me with automatically guessing what I need right now aren’t always correct, but I can imagine they will improve over time.
For now, I’m very happy and more comfortable with a far simpler phone than I ever thought I would be.