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Chameleon Launcher: First Impressions

Posted on 07 Aug 2012

Chameleon Launcher

Last night, I received my beta login for Chameleon App, which I purchased on KickStarter shortly after they launched. The basic premise of Chameleon is this: you have various homescreens covered in beautiful matching widgets. The homescreens are time and location aware, meaning that a different homescreen can be shown based on GPS, Wifi access point or time of day. This means you can have a screen for home, work, travel, morning, afternoon and/or evening. Whatever your heart desires.

As I had been anxiously awaiting the launch, I quickly downloaded it and gave it a go.

Activation

Since this app was "purchased" through the KickStarter campaign, the first thing the app does is reconcile your registered KickStarter email with your Google Play account email. This is somewhat annoying, but a necessary evil of launching via the Google Play Store, which is probably the best route to go for providing ease of download and updating.

The more annoying and worrisome part of the activation process is that it requests your Google password as some sort of double check process to try to ward off piracy. While Teknision promises they don't store or use your password for anything other than verification, it's still scary to give this information up, and may violate Google's terms of service.

Responsiveness

Whenever clicking the home icon, Chameleon seems to take up to 10 seconds to load and show anything. After that, the widgets themselves start loading content. When selecting a widget and trying to resize it, it seems to take a few extra seconds to load as well. Aside from these instances, the app seems pretty responsive: going in and out of the app drawer, as well as paginating the app drawer, seems snappy, scrolling up and down on the widgets and selecting a homescreen all are very responsive.

After running it for around 12 hours, my battery doesn't seem any worse off than it did on the stock home screen.

Widgets

This is the part of the launcher that is really going to make or break it: widgets. Right off the bat,  admittedly, the app is very light on widgets. The launch included: Weather, News (which sadly doesn't utilize your Google Reader account), Gmail, Twitter and Instagram. This is a pretty poor showing, but Teknision is already working on new widgets, and even had a few more in their mockups that didn't make the first cut.

I'd personally like to see other, non-Gmail email supported, Facebook, RSS (Google Reader), LinkedIn, and Mint.com represented.

What is also frustrating is that the widgets don't have any tie-in with the apps installed on the tablet. For instance, it would be nice if clicking on an email in the Gmail widget launched the Gmail app.

What would be especially nice would be a widget API that allows other developers to write widgets for their apps/services. I heard rumors that this is already in the works. It would be truly fantastic.

The Verdict

Chameleon launcher holds a lot of promise. It's sweet looking and offers great functionality. I love the ability to sit at my desk and glance over and see a bunch of information really quickly sitting on my tablet. There's a long way to go, though, and quite a bit more apps needed to really make this shine.

For now, I'm hooked, and can't wait to see what else Teknision has up their sleeves.

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