Coming in right before Google I/O 2014 kicked off, search-engine giant Yahoo! got into the Android launcher game by releasing its app – Aviate Launcher – out of beta and into the Play Store – no special invitation needed. In the past, launchers focused on widgets, wallpapers, and making icons for your apps look good, with slick transitions between homescreens. Recently, however, that seems to be shifting.
We just saw Nokia’s new launcher (which is in a very limited pre-beta and won’t run on rooted phones). It promises to learn how you use your device and show you the apps that are relevant to you. Yahoo! one-upped that by making Aviate Launcher location-aware, time-aware, and activity-aware.
Yahoo! automatically groups apps into “collections” such as Home, Social, Productivity, Entertainment, and more. You can change what appears in these collections, move them around, and quickly add more thanks to a “Suggested Apps” icon in each collection. If you don’t like the pre-configured collections, you can add your own. If you’d like to find all your apps, sans grouping, they’re just one panel away in an alphabetized list.
The home page features a nice picture (which you can customize) and a space for a widget. Unfortunately, Beautiful Widgets and Aviate don’t seem to get along. The widget doesn’t update like it does in other launchers, so the time was typically off by ten minutes. At the bottom of the home screen is your favorites tray. Tugging up on it reveals your “favorites” and “recents” lists. Convenient!
To the left is where all the excitement happens. That’s where the context-awareness shines. If you’re at work, it will show you your calendar, apps, and other information relevant to that particular location. The same goes for your home, when you’re “moving”, and what’s around you. It’s really an impressive concept – but radically different from what you’re used to.
Go ahead and click play to see what we mean!