Tap That App Tuesday: Aviate Launcher Will Transform Your Android Smartphone

By Robert Schoon | Jul 09, 2014 02:50 AM EDT

When was the last time Yahoo released a product on par with Apple and Google? When was the last time you wanted to replace your Android home screen with a third-party application? Remarkable things happen sometimes, and with Yahoo's recent release of the incredibly smart Android launcher Aviate, it just did.

Aviate is a home screen replacement (a.k.a. launcher, UI, or UX) made by Yahoo that might just change your stance on both the concept of using a third-party launcher and on the company that created it. Simply put, it's one of the most useful, original, and easy-to-use Android home screen replacements available. And it's free on Google Play.

Instant Organization

The first thing you'll notice about Aviate after running through the introductory setup is that it organizes your apps in a clear, cogent way. If you're anything like me, your office or desk has books, papers, and random clutter scattered across almost every surface. And your smartphone's home screens are even worse; it just takes too much time to sit down and organize your apps into a sensible system. And as soon as you add a new app, which many phones pin to any available space on your home screen, any semblance of a "system" breaks down.

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Aviate is like a professional organizer for your smartphone. During the initial setup, it will ask you for your top five to 10 most-used apps and place them in an instant-launch drawer at the bottom of your screen. Then it will ask you what your most common smartphone activities are - among options like productivity, music, social, transit, news, etc.

That's mostly it for setup. Swipe to the right on your Aviate screen and you'll find your apps organized by category, with your most often-used activities toward the top. You can always customize which apps and categories are easiest to reach, and one more swipe to the right gives you a standard alphabetized "all apps" screen.

This isn't exactly revolutionary, but already, Aviate is proving itself a hassle-free way to clean up your device.

Quick Navigation

Aviate also takes the overly complex "swipe-touch-swipe-swipe-touch-touch" daily Android navigation and simplifies it for other common tasks. Most notably, Aviate will ask you for your top contacts and puts them - along with the four most recent contacts you've called - in a quick drawer that takes one swipe from the bottom to access.

Aviate bypasses the standard Android "call" app and will put you on the phone with your contact as soon as you press "call." Aviate also includes a quick-launch messaging option, but it's only for standard text messages, so we're hoping you'll be able to customize that for preferred messaging apps for each contact in the future.

Clutter Free 

Aviate uses only three main screens, along with a fourth "all apps" screen on the far right and a "spaces" drawer on the far left. It's center home screen is actually rather restrictive, but for a reason.

(Photo : Google Play: Aviate)

Long-press on the center screen, and you'll only have the option to add/remove widgets or photos - sorry, no apps. There's a relatively low maximum number of widgets you can put on the main screen, depending on how large they are - but Aviate seems to offer more widgets and widget options than Samsung's TouchWiz UI, at least.

I decided to forgo a home picture in favor of three widgets I practically can't live without: weather, the Google search bar, and Flipboard.

(Photo : Google Play: Aviate)

The Contextual Home Screen

For those starting to worry about being too restricted by Aviate's seemingly compulsive organization scheme, don't. The center home screen isn't the most important part of Aviate, by far.

Swipe to the left, and you've met the real star of Aviate: the contextual home screen.

The left-of-center screen on Aviate is a little like Google Now, a little like HTC's BlinkFeed, and a lot like nothing you've ever used before. That's because Aviate aggregates lots of information you might need based on your context - your location, the time of day, and other clues, like if you have headphones plugged in - and puts it front and center on the contextual home screen, which features an ever-rotating carousel of unique, customizable "spaces" that change depending on Aviate's smart recognition of your context.

(Photo : Google Play: Aviate)

Have headphones plugged in? The left pane will switch to your "Listening" space, which features a lockscreen-style universal play control at the top (auto-loaded to any podcast or music app you might have recently been listening to) along with your "Music" collection of apps. Each contextual screen is customizable with more collections and widgets, so you can add your "News" or "Sports" collection to the Listening space if you most often listen to those apps.

The same type of useful features goes for "Moving," the transit space, which comes with quick-assess directions to work and home and is customizable with your favorite commute widgets. "Work" features productivity apps, a smart calendar that connects to lots of work-type applications straight from the Aviate Work space, and quick buttons for "send email" and "new event."

And you can search for locations nearby and add them as their own spaces - thanks to Aviate's Foursquare integration. So if you set a space for your favorite bar, for example, you can setup social media and location-based sharing widgets and apps, if you want custom options, but Aviate will already have quick buttons at the top for your camera, posting to Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, and a Foursquare check-in button.

(Photo : Google Play: Aviate)

Aviate also suggests apps you might find useful in various contexts and based on your activity. Speaking of "suggestions," I'm happy to report Aviate is seemingly entirely devoid of any spammy Yahoo marketing tricks, notifications, and/or biased app suggestions.

Just the Beginning / Tap That App

Since this is the first release post-beta (the invite-only beta which started in October became quite popular) one can imagine all sorts of useful widgets, integrations, and customizations that might come down the line in the future.

I'd like to see more Aviate-style quick options, widgets, and buttons for more activities, and more options for things like the Work and Transit space. An easy-to-access "space" for your previously used Android home screen/launcher would be nice as well, for those times when you know what app you need to use (and where it used to be located in your old mess of pinned apps) but can't for the life of you figure out what it was called to find it in Aviate's "all apps" drawer.

But even in its first incarnation, Aviate has proven it does Android quite differently than other launchers - and, many will agree, better. For any Android user, no matter how good you think your system is, Aviate by Yahoo is definitely worth a try. Check it out here, and tap that app!

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