Theme Thursday: Zeam Launcher

Theme Thursday: Zeam Launcher

Sep 13, 2012

A sad but inevitable aspect of life with a smartphone is the day that phone starts to lag behind and goes from a state of the art speed demon to a plodding grandfather. The use of custom launchers can really take their toll on older phones as they are constantly becoming more complex and adding features that use increasingly more and more memory. Sometimes in order to find a simple solution is to take a step back from the more familiar launchers and try a less-familar one that values being lightweight over being crammed full of features. After cruising around the Play store I stumbled across a highly rated but little known launcher named Zeam.

I will preface the rest of this review by saying that anyone looking for a launcher to be a straight replacement for popular, full-featured launcher like GO Launcher EX or ADWLauncher. Zeam Launcher is specifically designed for people who want a fast and efficient experience and not for those who want the frankly unnecessary bells and whistles that tend to bog down other launchers. Call it minimalistic or bare bones, but the bottom line is that Zeam Launcher is the fastest launcher that I have ever tested on my phone. Every touch is registered immediately and I might even say that Zeam is more responsive and snappier than HTC’s stock Sense UI.

That being said, the customization options are very, very thin. Even though I know Zeam is aiming to be that way, there are still very few options for even some of the most basic options. A bulk of the options are centered around the number of panels and the way they are oriented and interract. Beyond editing the number of rows and collums there are not many more options when it comes to how the icons look or behave; as there is no option to edit icons for applications.

Even with the negatives, Zeam Launcher is definitely something that anyone cursed with an aging smartphone should look into. There are just enough customization options here to make it worth the very conveinient increase in performance.

Theme Thursday: Regina 3D Launcher

Theme Thursday: Regina 3D Launcher

Jul 19, 2012

The easiest way to customize an Android phone is to install a custom launcher. I have my beliefs about custom launchers, most of which are a need for speed. Having an older phone, by tech standards at least, is kind of tough as most new-fangled launchers have increasing visual splendor that tax my aging processor. I must note that I have used a myriad of launchers for most of my time with my Droid and I never had major problems, but after having to hard reset my phone I was surprised at just how much quicker HTC’s stock SenseUI was in comparison to what I had been using. So seeing this I opted to take a Apple-like approach and stuck with an “outdated” UI in order to preserve a swift and quality experience.

With this in mind I ventured out into the jungle that is the Google Play store in search for a new, unique launcher. Something the world had not been exposed to and something that would probably be rough around the edges. What I found was Regina 3D Launcher, and, honestly, it is not so much rough around the edges as undeveloped. I actually prefer an app being underdeveloped as opposed to having a ton of features that are broken and buggy. It is easy to see that with the level of detail and quality in each feature of Regina 3D future expansion updates are inevitable. That is not to say that Regina 3D is a bare cupboard, but unfortunately most of these radiant features are offered as separate downloads instead of simply being included in the actual app. For example, just to have the local weather display on the clock widget there are two separate apps that need to be downloaded; both of which could easily be combined into a single app, or better yet, into the actual Regina 3D download.

Regina 3D obviously tries to bring further dimensions to that simple 2D home screen. Unfortuantely, while certain effects are executed wonderfully, there are simply not enough effects here to make this app something to write home about. The impression I got after scanning its Google Play store was that I’d be having 3D home screens where each widget is slightly at an angle above the wallpaper, giving a great orthographic three-dimensional view. Unfortunately, my experience using Regina 3D was ho-hum at best, and other than an interesting app drawer screen there was nothing here that I couldn’t pull out of another launcher, say GO Launcher. To set a launcher apart in this top-heavy app market there must be something revolutionary and amazing that will give people a bona-fide reason to switch. Unfortunately, Regina feels incomplete right now, and while the parts that are there are of very high quality, the lack of a multitude of true 3D effects is very disappointing.

Theme Thursday: Z Fish

Theme Thursday: Z Fish

Apr 26, 2012

It occurred to me that after doing so many of these Theme Thursday blogs that sometimes more attention is paid to more serious, usually darker themes. It is good to reach out and look at a great theme that is more likely to be found in a local coffee shop as opposed to a board room. This week is a beautiful Asian-inspired theme from Zero Designs called Z Fish. As the name implies, the main wallpaper is an authentic looking Japanese ink painting of a bright red fish leaping out of the water. The entire theme carries out the inky black on tan parchment color scheme and is sure to give an incredibly unique feel to any Android device. Unfortunately, for some reason the wallpaper has a ton of pixel noise that can be very distracting and really ruins the whole feel. And, like other themes that specifically dwell in the monochromatic realm – including apps that have icons that do not come with the theme – this is a problem. There is no option to simply turn the icons to grayscale, and even though they are encompassed in a inky black halo the bright colors seem very out of place against the muted, natural tones of the rest of the theme.

All the icons look great, and give a wonderful feeling of being truly handmade. Again, this feeling is tempered by the unsupported app icons but that is to be expected. The app does not come with an amazing number of icons but the necessary ones are included. In order to take this app to the next level, the developers need to take the time to really put out some quality icons for common apps like many other themes that I have reviewed in the past.

For anyone who uses GO Launcher’s weather app, GO Weather there is a skin for the weather widget that is a skin available on the Play Store that makes the time and weather appear to be a classic Asian watercolor painting. I had used this theme before and it never worked with any other theme until I started using Z Fish. The Widget skin works beautifully with the Launcher theme and it would be a mistake not to install the two side by side.

Theme Thursday: C.Black

Theme Thursday: C.Black

Apr 19, 2012

There isn’t anyone out there who would claim that Android phones have exceptional battery life. This leads most users to look for little ways here and there to conserve small bits of power. A classic method of doing this is using a dark wallpaper because it takes more power for that giant 4.5″ screen to display a bright, white background then a simple black one. This is possible why Google gave Ice Cream Sandwich a simpler dark coat of paint. It is easy to see this trend on the Google Play Store as the number of themes that have dark wallpapers easily outnumbers their brighter counterparts. This Thursday we are going to look at a GO Launcher theme that minces no words when it comes to its purpose.

Our theme is named C.Black and fortunately it brings some subtle styling to go along with its utilitarian purpose. Harkening back to past days before color computer monitors, C.Black sticks with a classic green on black color scheme that adds a touch of hacker to any phone. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough custom application icons included to fully deliver on its promise. While the each app does get its own nifty green halo it might simply not be enough for most users. Other themes offer the option to make every app icon grayscale and it seems like a waste that there is no option in C.Black to convert all those unsupported icons into shades of green.

In terms of conserving battery life, C.Black will definitely do as advertised just do not expect something miraculous; converting to a darker background will only add, at most, an hour of battery life depending on how much the home screen is displayed. Even with its imperfections, those looking to give their phone a nice retro feel as well as a small bump in battery life should give C.Black a look.

Theme Thursday: Cry Cloud

Theme Thursday: Cry Cloud

Mar 29, 2012

I am going to start this Theme Thursday blog post by pointing out the obvious, Cry Cloud, a theme for GO Launcher, has an egregious mistake right in the most important aspect of any theme: the wallpaper. In some strange error in translation the wallpaper reads, in a cute hand-written font, “without you everything look so sorrow.” Obviously, I get the message that the developer was trying to convey, but how was this not caught initially or even fixed by now from the plethora of comments on the theme’s Google Play (formerly the Google Market) page.

However, after taking a step back, this mistake is honestly not as big of an issue as it probably should be. The text is small enough that it is not very noticeable and it’s not like the average user takes the time to read the text on his or her screen after every unlocking. The playful font of the text adds a quaint, minimalistic design to the theme and the white rain cloud above it is a great touch. The whole theme screams of cute romanticized heartbreak, which appeals to a specific demographic, and yet the pastel color scheme is surprisingly relaxing and uplifting. Cry Cloud’s icons are very well done and are the typical fare of pencil sketched circular icons. The supplied icon set is not as populated as other themes yet this is acceptable because Cry Cloud takes advantage of integrating existing, unsupported applications’ icons. As I have stated before in many a Theme Thursday: continuity is very important in making any theme truly immersive, and Cry Cloud does that handily.

So, for anyone looking for a lighthearted but still minimalistic theme for GO Launcher I would definitely recommend giving Cry Cloud a shot, assuming the head scratching grammar gaffe isn’t a deal breaker.

Theme Thursday: Color Box EX

Theme Thursday: Color Box EX

Mar 22, 2012

After a few weeks of ADW Launcher, I have finally switched back to a theme from, in my opinion, the superior GO Launcher named Color Box EX. The last few themes have revolved around darker themes that didn’t involve much color but Color Box EX, as its name implies, breaks that mold. As stated in previous posts, consistency and continuity are one of the biggest factors of a great theme.

The best themes are those that smoothly blend unsupported app icons in with the custom themed icons. Color Box EX does this better then any theme that I have reviewed so far. The colorful icons are a treat and fit nicely in with the chosen background. Color Box EX places existing and unsupported icons into randomly colored tiles that blend in perfectly with the default embossed ones. This turns the app drawer into a veritable bag of Skittles as opposed to the usual mindless crawl of mismatched icons. Going along with the colorful layout is the simple yet brilliant multi colored bar along the bottom of the screen below the dock. This neat accent plays perfectly off of the dark, textured background that comes default with the theme, and the candy colored icons really pop when placed against this great wallpaper.

Contrasting again to the bright, boxy containers are the app drawer and home screen icons. These wire-framed, glowing blue logos stick out and note the difference and importance of the command they represent. The 2 dollar price tag does not bother me at all because it is obvious looking at Color Box EX that a lot of personal care was put into this theme and I was really impressed with it from the moment it started running. The great play between the dark, textile background and the bold colorful icons combined with the perfect continuity throughout make this a theme that is well worth checking out for those with GO Launcher.

Theme Thursday: Typo

Theme Thursday: Typo

Feb 23, 2012

Another week, another theme, and we have one last GO Launcher theme for a while; this week we’ve dug up a nice little theme called Typo White. While nothing crazy or outlandish, for those looking to give their phone a cool retro-pop-art look, this might do the trick. Typo replaces the stock system apps with amazing text-based icons that do a great job to incorporate the app they are representing. It is very easy to tell that the developer here went the extra mile to put that elusive polish onto a app that could have easily just been passed off as another tired theme. The major issue, however, is the lack of these icons, for a theme a big goal is to make everything uniform and a major way is by making as many theme icons as possible. While gorgeous, the selection of only stock Android apps does disappoint as it still makes non-standard apps look slightly out of place.

But looking past this, when everything is as planned, this theme is kind of curiously striking. I enjoy the almost retro look of the wallpaper and the total loss of 3-D effect is something novel and a great change of pace. The tiny text icons and the included wallpaper gives a nice retro look, although the bright, flat white background will take a toll on battery life. Fortunately, Typo also comes in a bold dark theme that plays just the same as the white but presumably is less of a burden on our already overtaxed batteries.

As in my last review for the GO Launcher theme Touch, Typo really benefits from a nice text widget to display the date and time due to its flat, 2-D nature. For the regret-free price of free, those sporting GO Launcher should at least take a cursory look into Typo White or Typo Black.

Theme Thursday: Touch for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Touch for GO Launcher

Feb 16, 2012

I’ve always been a sucker for clean, minimalist user interfaces. For me, a phone home screen should be something that can be shown off even if that might mean a subtle loss of convenience. For a while now my main home tile has been completely devoid of the usual assortment of widgets, containing instead purely aesthetic widgets that add a small layer of class onto an otherwise pragmatic piece of tech. In this week’s Theme Thursday I’m going to look at not just a basic theme, but two more additional widgets that can bestow incredible power in making a launcher its own small piece of art.

First and foremost is the GO Launcher theme called “Touch.” This is probably the weakest part of my home page right now as the custom icons are not spectacular and the great background could probably just be found on Google Images. Small touches are nice, such as a simple, white app drawer, but I would not declare this two dollar theme a great value. Touch puts a white border around every app on the home screen which does go a way to delivering some great continuity, but it would be nice to at least have the option to disable this feature. For those using GO Locker there is also a free locker theme that works well and goes a long way to tie everything together.

Two great widgets that really break the mold from the classic HTC Sense UI-style of plastic looking 3-D widgets are Minimalistic Text and BobClockD3. BobClockD3 is a clock app that displays the time vertically with flat san-serifed text. While the customization options are thin, there is ample room for creativity. For those looking for a simple way to give their phone a facelift I would highly recommend checking out BobClockD3, and it being free removes pretty much any argument against it.

In total contrast is Minimalistic Text, playing a legitimate “Linux” to BobClockD3’s “Windows” this app gives total control over text display on the home screen. There is a myriad of display options here, ranging from time as text, to battery percentage, and even RAM usage. After some practice of the initially confusing workspace it becomes easy and fun to add text to the home screen and give it the truly modern look that it has been lacking.

So give it a shot, regain aesthetic control of the cellular domain and create a modern minimalist masterpiece that will turn heads and draw compliments.

Theme Thursday: Honeycomb for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Honeycomb for GO Launcher

Feb 9, 2012

Most of the themes looked at in this Theme Thursday blog have been for ADWLaucher, but in keeping with last week’s idea, today we’ll be looking at a Honeycomb theme for GO Launcher. For those not familiar with GO Laucher, it’s not much different than its competitors, ADW and Launcher Pro, but it’s worth taking a look for those who support it. For those of us stuck with Gingerbread for the time being, the lust for those running the radically different Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich is palpable. In the mean time the next best thing is to at least put your phone in its own slim, black dress.

The theme comes with a fairly decent set of great looking that are perfect copies of Honeycomb’s own. While there is no skin for the solid GO Widgets, a simple dark theme works just a well. As mentioned above, the included icon set is large enough and does give flexibility by including multiple icons for similar applications. A glaring omission is the lack of a Facebook icon in the free version even though a Twitter and YouTube one are included. The background is, unfortunately, a major disappointment as it was pixelated and stretched on my EVO 4G, and while easily fixed, it does not reflect well. The differences between the paid and free versions of this app are just the addition of more really great looking icons and extra backgrounds which can easily found for free within five minutes on Google Images.

This theme is at its best when it is used as primarily a modern, sleek icon set and application tray. The limitations are noticeable when too much is asked of it, but part of these are simply a reflection on GO Launcher itself and not so much the theme. For those already running GO Launcher I highly recommend checking this out, but seeing that there are similar themes on nearly every other launcher it is not going to make someone jump ship. All that said, I do love the style and as long as it is paired with the right colors and layouts this Honeycomb clone can really give an aging phone a small but sexy makeover.

Free Version Download Link
Pro Version Download Link