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LauncherPro for Android hands-on: it works, but it won't wow you

The most popular home screen and 'app drawer' replacement app for Android is LauncherPro -- but I'm not sure why.

I mean, sure, it gives you a scrolling dock, and up to seven home screens -- big whoop. Maybe I'm just a bit jaded. I have recently reviewed two very good home screen apps, after all. The truth is, though, except for a nifty scrolling, customizable dock, there's simply no reason to use LauncherPro instead of ADW.Launcher -- and Zeam, which is lighter-weight and easier to use, also has a very nice scrolling dock.

In fact, the only unique feature in LauncherPro costs $3, and you can't even try it out before you buy.

LauncherPro, an alternate home screen/app drawer for Android


Features

LauncherPro advertises the following headline features: super-smooth scrolling, animated screen previews, up to 7 home screens, a funky app drawer, and a scrolling home screen dock.

It's true, it scrolls smoothly. Seven home screens is cool, but nothing to write home about (and by default there are no markers that show which screen you're on). The app drawer is actually quite nice -- there's an "experimental" 3D option which makes it look just like Gingerbread, and the app icons 'fly' into the screen, which is cool.

Then there's the scrolling home screen dock, which has the rather unfortunate title of "The Only Useful Feature in LauncherPro."

Scrolling dock

LauncherPro's scrolling dock really is quite nice. You can have up to three docks of five icons, and you can enable 'looping', so you can keep scrolling one direction to get to the shortcut you're looking for.

You can put anything on the dock, including LauncherPro Shortcuts -- which allow you to create completely customized actions. It uses a clever little website to make the shortcuts (check it out), which then download to your phone -- but to be honest, it's way above my level of Android knowledge.

For power users, you can add "Activities", which provide direct access to methods and screens inside applications. You can create a shortcut icon to the "Compose" screen inside the Gmail app, for example -- and admittedly, that's very, very cool.

Finally, LauncherPro includes special Messaging, Dialer, and Gmail shortcuts that display the number of unread messages for the respective app. Now I can see at a glance just how many hundreds of unread email I have!

LauncherPro Widgets

If you push-and-hold the home screen, you get the tantalizing option of adding a LauncherPro Widget. Excitedly, I scrolled through a list of cool-sounding widgets (People, Messaging, Twitter, Facebook!) and some widgets even had different styles to choose from! I picked a rather nice style and tentatively pushed "Select" -- and only then do you find out that LauncherPro Widgets cost money.

I'd love to tell you about how awesome LauncherPro Widgets are, but I can't. You see, you don't buy the widget-enabled version through the Android Market -- instead, you have to pay $3 via PayPal to receive an unlock code. With no chance of getting a refund, I wasn't going to pay up $3 for something that might potentially be awful.

The product page on AppBrain doesn't even mention the pay-for widgets. Why not just list a second version on the market?

Disappointing

After all the buzz, I expected a lot more from LauncherPro. At best, I can only recommend it to enthusiastic Android power users whose lives are only worth living if they have hundreds of customized buttons and widgets. For everyday use, Zeam would be a far better choice.

Tags: app drawer, AppDrawer, dock, hands-on, home screen, HomeScreen, launcherpro, widgets

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