Android users spend quite a bit of time customizing their smartphones and tablets; after all, customization is arguably the platform’s biggest draw, making Android the go-to operating system for tinkerers. But customization can be tedious, and there’s an overwhelming amount of launchers, themes and widgets available in the Android market.
So when we caught wind of Aviate, a new Android launcher that forms a custom, intuitive homescreen similar to the features of Google Now, we were instantly hooked.
After clamboring to get an invite to the still invite-only beta (check Twitter hashtag #Aviate for those giving away invite codes), it took just a few taps to switch from the stock HTC One operating system to Aviate’s clean and sophisticated interface. After a week of use, here’s our takeaway.
What we love
Aviate is beautifully designed and looks especially terrific on the HTC One screen (the phone is also the one used in their showcase video). We favor the dark interface–the high contrast makes the icon colors pop.
The launcher is driven by location, in the sense that content displayed changes based on GPS. For instance, set the “Work” space to activate when you arrive at your office by adding the address–only the apps and tools needed for that location are displayed. The same goes for “Home” and “Going somewhere,” meaning that apps will no longer clutter up your screen when you don’t need them at that particular moment. Time of day works similarly–there’s a “Morning routine” mode and a “Night time” mode. For instance, I browse my newsfeed while I’m drinking coffee in the morning, so my newsfeed apps are automatically displayed and ready for me. At night, the launcher reminds me to set my alarm for the following day.
Going off of that, Aviate automatically categorizes apps into themed collections, a helpful tool for those of us who are app hoarders. And Aviate syncs with some of our favorite apps, such as Foursquare, automatically providing suggestions for nearby places to check into, complete with Foursquare’s features–reviews, images, tips and more.
But perhaps Aviate’s best feature is its use of screen real estate–the amount of content included on one screen is incredibly clever, and reduces the need to have multiple screens just to house widgets. When apps and widgets aren’t in use, they aren’t displayed; a simple swipe down reveals content when needed. Swipes to the right also provide an A-Z library of apps, hidden away to be accessed only when needed.
What we need
Aviate has a beautiful interface, but doesn’t leave many options for incorporating a personal touch, such as a background image or custom icons. A prominent image widget is a focal point of the stock design, but it takes up valuable screen real estate. I love using my phone as a display for photographs, so I chose to keep this; if you’re not as visually inclined, it’s easily removable, but also takes away from using an image as a customization tool.
Also, there should be options to add or remove Spaces in the right sidebar. This could be a feature added in the future, but for now, having just “Home,” “Work” and “Going Somewhere” is simple but limiting. For example, those who work multiple jobs don’t have an option to have more than one “Work” space.
Widgets can be added and removed by pressing on an existing widget. However, the widgets are given standarized boxes in which to fit; this would be fine if all widgets were designed for this particular size and space. (A recent update improved this, but some widgets just don’t work well in this space.)
Android users who want a predictive launcher will thoroughly enjoy Aviate’s design and function; those who like to put in the hours needed to fully customize Android to the fullest extent will appreciate Aviate’s features, but may find it limiting.