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Putting the Galaxy to rights #6 – Today Screen Android-style

December 20, 2010

Vista busy cursor Windows Mobile is on its way out and few will mourn it, but to be fair it was not all bad. It was designed as a business tool and pretty well thought out from that perspective. One handy feature is the “Today Screen”. This is the WM “home page” which can be configured to display your next few appointments, recent call log, recent SMS messages, etc to get you oriented quickly.  WM phones do not have an automatic lock screen (although you can manually put them in lock mode), so your appointments are right there when you hit the “on” key to wake the phone from stand-by mode.

Android (and for that matter the iPhone) work differently. You always get a lock screen when you wake your phone up from stand-by, have to do a touch-swipe to get past that, then to access your appointments you need to open your calendar app. I wasn’t so worried about texts and the call log, because those are well enough handled by notifications, but on moving to Android I missed not having my upcoming appointments automatically on view.

Calendar widgets do help. I use the Gemini II Calendar which keeps my next three appointments on display via a widget on home screen #1. But it is still hidden by the confounded lock screen so they are not immediately “glanceable” (to use the Windows Phone 7 jargon).

I looked at apps that could put useful information such as appointments directly on the lock screen itself, for example Executive Assistant from Appventive. This does actually work but seemed to affect the overall performance of my phone to the point I ended up uninstalling it. There is a similar app called Flyscreen but I didn’t even bother to try it, having been put off the idea.

But Executive Assistant did get me thinking. I noticed it had the ability to override the use of a swipe action to dismiss the lock screen. For example, you could set it so that hitting the back key would do the same job. I looked for other apps that could override the standard lock screen functionality and found No Lock. The No Lock app lets you put a widget on your home screen that enables one touch disabling or re-enabling of the lock screen.  It makes locking an easy manual operation, much like with WM.

With the lock screen disabled, on hitting the home key from stand-by you go straight to whichever home screen you last had opened. Two presses of the home key are guaranteed to get you to screen #1, where appointments are displayed. In effect, I have recreated the features I liked in the WM Today Screen. That is, from stand-by usually one key press (occasionally two) gets me to a screen where my appointments are on display. And as a by-product, I get the option to activate a lock screen manually with one touch.

In practice, I rarely need to lock my screen. The idea of the lock screen is to stop my phone being activated by accident in my pocket, but the home button is recessed and the other physical buttons too well protected by the Krusell cover for this to be an issue.

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