The Aviate Android app launcher arrived a few months ago on Google Play in a very early, non-final and invite-only version. It promised to become the first time and location-aware launcher, adapting your Android home screen to the different time and place. A lot has happened since then. Aviate evolved to a beta, and - moreover - just a couple of days ago, Yahoo saw potential in Aviate and purchased developer ThumbsUp Labs for $80 million.
Now, Aviate is finally free for everyone to try on the Google Play store, and all it takes it to put in “YAHOO” when it asks you for a code. We took the launcher for a spin to see whether it delivers on its promises.
First, let us make a quick introduction to Android launchers for the absolute noobs. An Android launcher allows you to overhaul the look of your home screen and app drawer, essentially allowing you to see much less of that annoying custom skin your phone ships with. Installing a launcher is as simple as downloading the app from the Google Play store, and then tell Android to always use the new launcher instead of the one you previously used. The tricky part comes when you try to de-activate the once-activated launcher. In order to do that, you have to go into:
Aviate launcher light theme
The ‘Spaces’ home panel is what you see after you unlock your phone, and it changes with time and location. You have three main ‘Spaces’ - home, work and travel. In the morning, it’d show you your alarms and schedule for the day; at work, it’d put email and calendar on the forefront; when you travel, it’d automatically change to show you traffic and directions; finally, at night, it will conveniently show alarms. You can also swipe down on each Space to reveal neat but hidden apps, a gesture that seems a bit superficial, adding a bit more complexity than we like. Swiping to the right brings up settings and nearby places list. Tapping on one of those nearby places actually opens a fourth contextual ‘Space’ where you can check-in and learn more about that location. Nice!
Aviate launcher dark theme
One more swipe and you get to the full app drawer, third to the right. Instead of the ‘Collections’ screen that does not show you all your apps, here you can see all installed applications in alphabetical order.
While other app launchers are known to give you even more freedom in customization options, Aviate is completely different. Yes, you do have a light and a dark theme (the dark is better if you use your phone at night), plus you can change the quick-access apps and add up to five widgets to each space to change its appearance, but that’s as much customization as you get - no wallpapers, no option to place icons anywhere on the screen, no folders or other widgets. It is an artificially imposed limit that makes the whole experience feels claustrophobic, and the fact that even some of the built-in widgets are cumbersome does not help. For instance, the photo widget simply puts a static photo on your home space and is not able to even change it with time. Take it or leave it.
All in all, Aviate is about simplicity and getting rid of clutter. Minimalists will love it - it brings relevant information in a clean and modern interface. It is not perfect, though. We feel that the lack of proper customization options is a huge downside. We are still using Aviate after a few days and we cannot say it hinders the Android experience, but - sadly - we cannot fall in love with it, and we still feel the need to go back to the freedom of a less limiting skin or launcher.
- Changes automatically by the time of the day, a bit like Google Now
- Quick access to apps
- Clean and simple visuals
- Dark theme is nice for night use
- Very limited customization options - no wallpapers, only up to 5 widgets
- We wish it came with better widgets