Theme Thursday: Four Key for GO Locker

Theme Thursday: Four Key for GO Locker

Apr 12, 2012

Rarely on Android is the lock screen customized. Most people are not even aware that this is an option, even those who have custom launchers. I, for one, am not entirely sold on non-stock launchers simply because I have not found one that consistently works faster then HTC’s Sense locker. Sometimes there is a slight lag between unlocking and when the custom locker actually appears, giving a glimpse of the home screen before slyly taking it away. Nobody wants their software to be laggy, which is exactly why I have been regularly off and on with custom launchers.

Just a while ago I decided to give GO Locker a chance because I am already using GO Launcher and I had grown tired, yet again, of stock Sense UI. A big reason I chose to go back to this mistress again is because I have found that GO Locker, at least for me, is the most consistent and quickest locker that I have used. So this week we are switching it up and busting out a theme for GO Locker called Four Key. With the new version of HTC’s Sense UI they introduced a locker that allows opening of selected actions or apps directly from the lock screen. Seeing as my phone is deemed too old to receive this update I am stuck looking for alternatives.

This brought me to Four Key with its center button that is simply dragged to either the unlock position or to the other three corners to open any application of my choosing. Most likely these applications will be the dialer, a text messaging app of choice, and either a camera or media player, but the options are entirely up to the user aside from the unlock panel which is always on the bottom of the circle. These custom apps open up with a snap and there is nary a hint of lag. As a theme, Four Key looks great and there are certainly no complaints there. It would be nice to change the clock font, but everything else from the transparency to the cool blue tones are excellent. There are not many options to fiddle with but all the core ones are present, which is really all that is necessary.

I was impressed by this theme’s swiftness and its ability to get out of the way if all I wanted to do was simply and quickly unlock my phone. The biggest test of a good launcher is not so much the bells and whistles but if it can get out of the way the moment the user wants it to. Fortunately, Four Key and GO Locker deliver where so many locker apps fall short.

Google Wants to Kill the Menu Button on Android for Good

Google Wants to Kill the Menu Button on Android for Good

Jan 27, 2012

A venerable piece of Android UI is soon to be dead and buried if Google has their way, as the Android Developers website has released new developer guidelines that discourage the usage of the Menu button on Android phones. Now, apps will be expected to use the action bar, which is located somewhere in the app’s user interface, instead of being a hidden menu only called up by pressing the menu button.

This is a transition that could be seen not just with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus which lacked a menu button, but with Honeycomb tablets that also lacked the menu botton. The Menu button has typically been replaced with a software menu in tablet-optimized apps, usually denoted by the old Menu button itself. While Honeycomb and ICS devices have support for a software Menu button, which is now a software “action overflow” button that appears on the right side of the software keys, Google wants this to be phased out.

In fact, it will be possible for developers to continue to support the Menu button along with the action bar on devices that have the Menu button, and those that don’t. However, considering that apps’ user interface will need to support the action bar anyway, it may just make sense for developers to ignore that button’s functionality entirely for older phones.

However, as is key with Android, flexibility and functionality will still exist for developers. It just appears that the powers that be at Android want to develop user experiences that are more consistent across apps and devices. Essentially, the idea is that one app will work in a similar way to another app. This kind of unified UX is something that Apple has excelled at providing in its interface guidelines for developers, and Android appears to be taking similar steps to ensure this is the case on their OS as well.