Image via WikipediaIt has been just over a month since my original post and review of Launcher Pro, and it has easily been one of my most viewed posts. So, I thought I'd revisit the application to see what's new, and why there's been considerable buzz regarding the home screen launcher. I'll also dive into Launcher Pro Plus, and giving you the lowdown on all of the native widgets that your $2.99 upgrade includes.
To be honest, I had actually reverted back to the stock launcher not long after posting my original review. I experienced a bit of a lag with both LP and ADW, and I never got accustomed to this. However, after reinstalling LP during this go around, not only did I not experience the lag, but I gained a whole new appreciation for the slick launcher.
Smooth as Silk
Launcher Pro reinvents the look of the phone, in my case, a Motorola Droid X. We'll get into the Plus widgets in a little bit, but the free application does a great job of adding functionality to your stock launcher experience. I discussed many of these features in the first Launcher Pro review, but I gained a new appreciation for the dock this time around, as I moved all of my frequently used shortcuts to the dock. This keeps my home screens clear from clutter and allows me to just keep those well designed widgets there. I also discovered the "Swipe gesture action" feature which allows users to assign shortcuts or commands to the icons in the dock. An example from my experience: I hid the notification area (that white bar really stood out against my dark wallpaper), so I assigned a swipe gesture to my middle icon in the dock to open notifications, thus keeping the functionality and improving the look.
Launcher Pro Plus
One of shortcomings of the free Launcher Pro application is the inability to resize widgets. For $2.99, you can upgrade to Launcher Pro Plus, and this functionality comes standard with the premium. So, I decided to test the upgrade, and to my delight, found that the resizing was just the beginning as the included Launcher Pro widgets proved to be main attractions.
Widget by Widget
On each of my 7 home screens, there's some widget action. My center screen contains Beautiful Weather and another screen holds the ESPN Sports widget, still my favorite of the Android options. Each of the remaining five holds a Launcher Pro Plus widget.
1) Agenda - A nice calendar display that contains all of your synced Google calendars, color coded and interactive with touch. Scrollable, you can view all future events, but no past ones, unless you go through the monthly calendar icon. Very smooth and easy on the eyes.
2) Messaging - All of you text messages on a scrollable widget. You can click to respond to a message and enter the current thread. Also available is a checkbox to mark as read, though I wasn't quite sure what to do with this feature.
3) People - Links to all of your contacts or specific groups shown as photo icons. A quick tip for those that have pictures linked to Facebook: Use the free app "Syncmypix" to download Facebook photos to your contacts, and you'll no longer see the generic silhouette. I would also like one-touch calling added in the future, but otherwise, this widget is pretty slick.
4) Bookmarks - Visual thumbnails for your websites sorted in numerous ways such as alpha, most visited, and last visited. Very well designed and great eye candy. Speedy as well.
5) Twitter - Enter your login credentials and get your Twitter feed updated as a widget. Mentions and Direct Messages are available as is a new Tweet option.
9/11 UPDATE: Facebook widget released. Similar to the Twitter widget, after confirming your FB login credentials, your wall or news feed is nicely displayed on the widget. A compose option is also incldued. Can't wait for the combo FB/Twitter widget, and Federico promised something really cool coming soon...
Also released was a Friends widget which combines your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Very useful if you want to keep the number of screens to a minimum.
4/5/11 UPDATE: Last week, developer Federico made a return after several weeks of inactivity to produce a Gmail widget and some minor fixes. I'm still having trouble with my Twitter widget, but Facebook works better than before. His blog post reveals that the massive recoding project is still undergoing, so I'll post a separate entry once this is released.
So, these are the available widgets as of this post. A great selection, and each takes up the 4x4 size of the entire screen. Add an included black carbon fiber wallpaper, and you've got a great looking revamped Android phone interface. I'd say that it now rivals HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz, and certainly bests the Motorola stock. Once again, I give high marks to Launcher Pro. With Plus, you've got an A+ product.
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