Let me start off by saying this: I really rather like the default Android homescreen. It’s simple, it’s functional, and above all, it’s endlessly customizable. Thanks to Google’s “do anything” approach to handling app development, end users have countless tools to trick out their phones anyway they want. That, as anyone who’s ever used MySpace knows, is a double-edged sword: the end results are usually range from the rare and wonderful to the terribly tacky.
The guys over at Larva Labs have taken a different, almost Facebookian approach. Instead of allowing users to directly get their hands dirty, they completely stripped down the Android into a sparse, information-oriented design they call SlideScreen, which looks something like a mashup between WinMo 6.5 today screen and HTC’s minimalist TouchFLO style. I was given the chance to play with a nearly final build of the app, which is slated for general release within the next few days, and for you info junkies out there, this may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
What was immediately apparent was the level of work that went into it: the whole shebang runs very smoothly, and at times seemed more responsive than the normal homescreen ever was. Each category is color-coded, and dragging the status bar up and down allows you to cycle through new tweets, stock updates, unread Google Reader items, new text messages, emails, and calendar entries. A quick tap on the corresponding icon opens up the associated app, while a long press lets you create a new entry. Without the traditional homescreen, the menu key is now in charge of bringing up the app drawer, along with a shortcut bar along the top for quick access to the apps that were normally out front.
The text, while small, is totally readable, especially on a high resolution screen like the Droid’s. Full disclosure: I’ve been wearing glasses since the fourth grade, so you may want to take any vision-related judgments I make with a grain of salt, but SlideScreen was just as legible on the G1 and Cliq I tested it with. Granted, the experience wasn’t quite as smooth, but considering the underpowered hardware involved, I still came away impressed by the whole affair. SlideScreen also can be run as a separate application instead of a homescreen replacement, just in case people want a one-stop shop for their personal and public information without having to give up pretty wallpapers and such.
It goes without saying that SlideScreen isn’t going to be ideal for everyone. As much as I like its style and organization, it’s certainly more information in one place than some users will feel comfortable with. Still, for those tired of looking at a stock Android install whenever they fire up their phone, SlideScreen is a solid, stylish homescreen replacement that may do them some good.
UPDATE: SlideScreen has just hit the Android Market in two forms, an ad-supported free version and the unfettered Pro version going for $6.99.