One of the things that makes Android very different from iOS is the availability of home screen widgets. From what I’ve seen iOS is largely modal — that is, designed to keep you focused on one thing at any given time. Android widgets, on the other hand, allow you see data from multiple apps at once. It’s a lot like GNOME vs. KDE on desktop Linux.
Anyone? No? Fine…
Aviate Alpha for Android is a launcher that takes the idea of widgets to the next level, updating your home screen with relevant information depending on the time of day, your location and what it thinks you’re doing. It’s an ambitious idea; let’s see if it works…
Aviate has four screens; this is the main one. You can choose a light or dark theme, add a photo from your gallery — or, if you’d rather, a more traditional widget — and 10 shortcuts to your most often-used apps.
Swipe to the right and you’ll see some more of your apps, organized into collections. It’s important to note that this is already done for you when you first launch Aviate, and the categorization is impressively accurate.
Oh, and if you don’t like where something is you can easily move and/or delete it.
At the bottom of that screen is a button that will take you here, showing all of Aviate’s available collections. You can choose to show or hide any or all of them.
Swipe to the right once more and you’ll see all of your apps, organized from A-Z. That strip down the right side of the screen enables you to jump directly to apps that start with any particular letter of the alphabet. This in itself is really handy.
Now we get to the contextual stuff… When you swipe to the left from the main screen you’ll see something called “Spaces”.
Tap on any of the first four icons and the header of your main screen will change. The other two options are to help you ascertain your location. There’s some fairly deep integration with Foursquare and other location-based services here, but it could be better — I was indeed near a place called Manpuku when I grabbed this screen but closer, in fact, to other venues where I’ve checked in more often.
We’ll now cut back to earlier that morning to see what can happen to the header on Aviate’s main screen. It’s actually a drop-down menu that, in this case, shows an upcoming appointment along with even more shortcuts to apps I might want to use at this specific time of day.
Like any other shortcuts they can be edited and/or deleted as you see fit.
Aviate will even go so far as to suggest apps relevant to the “space” that you’re currently in. Clicking on the add button above will take you directly to the appropriate listing in the Google Play Store.
I’ve been using Aviate for a week now and it’s a keeper. The location-based features need a bit of work but are certainly usable in their current form. Even without them Aviate is a good-looking, intuitive launcher that doesn’t seem to affect battery life in any negligible way.
Though available on the Play Store Aviate is currently in a closed beta, so you’ll need to register here and wait for an activation code. It’s worth it.