I am going to be honest and a little bit lazy today. I am going to tell you right up front that there’s not much mobile news out there I’ve seen that I’m geared up to write about. The ever-present privacy concerns, the swath of Android tablets due soon, the ins and outs of LTE technology--it will all still be there come, say, Friday.
So let’s look inward--into our palms, actually. Let’s talk about how we organize our smartphone home screens.
I wrote some tips and thoughts on this for Fast Company a little while ago, but that was more of a one-way dialogue: “Here’s some smart setups, right?” Let’s open the doors to bragging, debate, show-and-tell, and all the other stuff that makes for a lot more fun than “Oracle's Google Android patent lawsuit cut down to size”.
I’ll admit to taking on two pieces of advice from researching that post: creating folders for batches of apps with verb-based names, and keeping the bottom row of your phone clear for a “free swipe space.” I carry around an HTC ThunderBolt running Android 2.3. I’ve tried at least a half-dozen ROMs on this phone, but almost all of them created some conflict with people being able to hear me at the beginning of phone calls. Believe me, I did some serious cost/benefit analysis regarding phone calls and rooted devices, but it’s a feature I need.
Still, even with a “stock” Android phone, you don’t really have to settle. I installed LauncherPro to replace the stock HTC Sense launcher, and giving me that minimal, customizable bottom “tray.” LauncherPro also lets you customize the number of home screens, hide apps from the drawer that you never use (i.e. most of the pre-installed “carrier exclusives”), and tweak every little way your home screens act and respond. I also grabbed the Beautiful Widgets and Simple Calendar Widget packages to get instant information on my home screen, in a shape I could easily fit.
Here goes a peek into my phone life. This is the center of my three screens:
You can see the Simple Calendar widget in the center (with a few names blacked out, because, well, birthdays are special). You also see a few standard apps, an icon in the upper right that unfolds a list of contact options for my wife, and Kik Messenger, which I consider a must-have app for any household split between Android and iOS (or just looking to keep SMS plans in check). At the top, you see three verb-based folders: Read, Listen, and Share. Those aren’t actual folders, though. They’re tiny shortcuts, created by Apps Organizer. The main benefit over Android’s standard folders is that these shortcuts automatically close their folder-like contents once you pick your app, as opposed to the Android keep-open practice that will slowly drive you insane. At the bottom is nothing, just how I like it.
The screen to the right contains my secondary apps and a standard Power Control widget:
Up in the upper-left is a widget to show when Alarm Clock Xtreme is set to go off and slowly fade in the theme to Legend of Zelda, and then force me to solve a mid-level math problem to turn it off. A flashlight app in the upper-right and a few security and utility apps and shortcuts make up the the third row down.
On my left-most screen are all the things I want to know at a glance: what’s the weather like today and this week, what’s on my to-do list, and what’s playing on Google Music, so I usually pause or skip it.
And that’s about it for my phone.
How about yours? How do you organize your apps, folders, and widgets? Is there a theme or mission, or did it evolve over use?
Share your screens, or at least your descriptions, and I’ll compile them for a best-of post later on in this same space. I promise this: it will be at least more fun to read than an update on the HTC-Apple European patent struggle.