So, we decided to take a look at a bunch of home replacement apps available in the market. We have chosen to take a look at Panda Home, Open Home, dxTop, aHome, and GDE. We have enjoyed playing with the various apps and thought we would bring our thoughts to you.
Although it seems to be one of the least popular out there, Panda Home is a very user friendly and customizable home replacement. There are only about ten dedicated Panda Home themes, compared to the mass amounts for Open Home or aHome. At first glance this seems to be the downfall of Panda Home, however, Panda Home has the ability to open up all themes that are compatible with Open Home and aHome. Panda Home also lets you extend the number of home screens from 3 to 11.
Panda Home also lets you mix and match themes. Say you find a theme with icons you like, but the background is ugly and the menu is boring. By selecting theme modules from the extremely colorful Panda Home menu, you can mix the icons of one theme with the background, search widget, clock, menu handle, and menu icons of another. This pretty much means it’s the most customizable.
Open Home supports multiple screens to place icons for apps or widgets and features its own new touch screen virtual keyboard. It allows an auto rotate and theme chooser, which will allow you to choose from the vast amounts of themes in the market as Open Home is one of the more popular home replacement applications. One of the most prominent features of Open Home is the addition of “Live Folders” which can display any source of data on the Home screen without forcing the the launch of an application. A Live Folder can be used to display all your contacts, your bookmarks, your email, your play-lists, an RSS feed, etc.
The dock of dxTop is excellent! Basically, you swipe your finger across the tabs at the bottom of the screen. It’s great to have the extra option to slide through the menu at the bottom for those who would like to keep their home screens relatively clean and widget/icon free. As for the home screens, you get 4 instead of 3, and instead of swiping left and right, you can swipe up/down/left right, which can be slightly disorienting but useful nonetheless. However, there’s a handy diamond key between the two tabs that helps orient you. Hitting home always gets you back to the top screen on the diamond no matter where you are.
Another feature not seen in the other applications is the addition of a task manager drawer tab. It is helpful to remember what is still running and what was shut down to free up memory, or just to have a quick reference to recently used apps. There’s a color code system: red for currently running, yellow for a background service, white for recently used. Pressing an icon gives you the option to do nothing, look at application information, find it in the marketplace or stop it from running.
aHome Android app features a console that allows you to launch the app, go to the Theme Downloader, or read the FAQs. aHome is cool because it allows you to easily download premade themes from the market, free and paid. aHome comes with a few widgets like a gps updated weather and digital clock that enhances your phone by bringing the information to you. The free version offers most everything as the paid except auto-rotate.
I have found that the aHome app is more cool than useful. It more just allows you to show off that your Android device can mimic the look of your friend’s iPhone or Windows Mobile based device. The market is flooded with themes that can edit your theme to look like any OS or even your favorite sports team.
GDE replaces the drawer with a new menu which is my favorite UI for changing the settings. Your apps can be separated into various folders which can help to organize your vast collections of Android apps. GDE also has customizable shortcuts to either side of the drawer, similar to the HTC Sense drawer, which adds a nice clean look.
GDE has several new transitions that to enhance the original sliding between screens. You can rotate around a cube or fade between desktops. It comes with a “dock” widget for the desktop to store your favorite apps and can configure 1-7 screens and fast swipe across the screens will send you flying across multiple screens.
There are several home replacement applications out there for you to try, these are a few of the main ones that we have played with. Several have had multiple updates to give the app other features that were originally not available. For example, the cube transition has made its way around to more then just the initial GDE app. Although they all seem to significantly slow the speed of your device, some of the perks you can get from the apps out way the cons. Personally, I like the customization of the Panda Home but love the drawer of GDE and the potential to add shortcut buttons to it.
What are your thoughts? Which do you prefer?