Microsoft has done a great job with the interface of Windows Phone 7, but the operating system in its current state doesn’t have many basic features that you would be expecting from a smartphone. Windows Phone 7 is a struggling platform that represents less than 2% of the world smartphone market. The struggle can be traced back to lack of drive on the manufacturer side. Microsoft teamed with another struggling phone maker, Nokia, quite long back, and Nokia’s Lumia range of devices have been doing great until recently after Microsoft’s announcement which stated that Windows Phone 7.5 devices won’t be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, but instead will be upgraded to Windows Phone 7.8 where in which some features of Windows Phone 8 will be ported back to the older devices. Nokia is keen on pushing Windows Phone 7 to its customers, and they don’t really have an option as they’ve abandoned their development efforts on Maemo platform, and also they aren’t going to use Android as an operating system for their smartphone.
Android, on the other hand is quite advanced in terms of functionality, but lacks the cool looks of the Windows Phone 7 interface. Microsoft’s operating system has an elegant look with fluid motion which can be compared to Apple’s iOS. Android doesn’t have that kind of interface, but is good in its own way, and since Android is open source, it is highly customizable, so how about bringing the looks of Windows Phone 7 to Android? It would be a great mashup with best of both worlds, and its actually possible using a launcher called Launcher 7.
Like the Windows Phone 7 interface, Launcher 7 relies on live tiles to convey notifications. The notification bar is designed in a way to mimic the native WP7 design. When you fire up the launcher for the first time, you will be taken to an “Initial Configuration” screen where you can pick your favorite apps for the initial set of tiles, and more tiles can pinned on the home screen later. The Initial Configuration will ask you to assign your favorite applications for various tiles such as Phone tile, SMS/MMS tile, Browser, Market, Contact, Videos and Music. Tapping on each of them will take you to an application picker where you can choose the app that you would like to associate with the particular tile.
With Launcher 7, the home screen looks like Windows Phone 7, and of course that’s what it’s supposed to look like. The initial tiles that were set in the ‘Initial Configuration’ will be shown on the home screen. You can scroll up/down in order to access various tiles, just like the way you would do on a Windows Phone device.
Tapping on arrow on the top right of home screen takes you to the Application Dock. The Application Dock is significantly different when compared to Android’s interface which has apps showing in rows and columns. Like in Windows Phone, the application dock lists all the apps in an alphabetical order, for instance, messaging app will be listed under the letter M while phone app will be listed under letter P. You can quickly jump by tapping on any letter, which shows all the letters and tapping on any one of them will list all the applications under that particular alphabet.
This view can be tough if you have loads of applications installed on your phone, but this is taken care of using a filter option. Using “Filter Applications”, you can select the apps which you don’t want to be shown in the app drawer, and Launcher 7 will make sure that these apps remain hidden.
Launcher 7 allows the user to make various adjustments such as types of animations, overscrolling, and even the background. Background color can be either changed to Black, White or system wallpaper. In case of system wallpaper, the wallpaper will be used as the background, but I personally liked the white background. If you have an Android phone with AMOLED screen, I would suggest you choose black background as it will look cooler and consume less energy too, while users with LCD displays can choose White background in order to minimize the battery consumption.
You can change the system wallpaper from the launcher’s settings screen, which should make the process easier. Further customization is allowed by letting the user choose Tile colors. One can either choose from stock accents or custom colors. Stock accents will display all the standard colors that Windows Phone 7 ships with, including magenta, purple, red and many more. Choosing custom colors will open a color chooser using which you can choose a color or enter its hash code.
Windows Phone 7 is all about smooth animations. Launcher 7 allows you to modify several settings in the animation department, including the layout animation which lets you control the way in which the phone should respond when the user taps on a tile. You can choose between fly or fade animation, or can disable animations all together. Home key animation option will let you tweak the way phone responds when you tap the home button. Other visual settings include Animate while scrolling, follow orientation, bouncy scrolling and few more. Advanced settings allow you to enter animation run time in milliseconds, thus giving more flexibility.
Having Windows Phone 7 interface with Android status bar is definitely not a good idea if you are out there to fool someone, and Launcher 7 allows you to change that too. You can instruct the launcher to use WP7 style standard bar, however, you can still scroll it down and access all the stock features of Android status bar. Modification of drawer settings is also possible and you can choose to have Android launcher style drawer if you are having a tough time with WP7 style application drawer.
Performance options: Launcher 7 also comes with an inbuilt AppCache system which attempts to make the startup time faster by creating a small database of all the installed applications. This cache is a static database, and hence the user is required to update it manually every time a new app is installed, so that correct applications are displayed. This feature can be disabled.
Conclusion: It’s a great launcher app for those who envy the interface of Windows Phone, but would like to retain the power of Android with them. The animations are smooth and everything looks perfect. The developer has listed facebook integration in his ‘to-do’ list, and that would be an exciting feature to have. I used Launcher 7 for 2 days before I got bored and switched back to my good old Android interface. The launcher is available for free on the Android PlayStore, but this version is ad supported. Ads can be removed by purchasing the Donate version of Launcher 7, the Launcher 7 – Donate. Apart from stripping the ads off the launcher, some more features such as folders are added. I personally suggest you to get the free version first as you will eventually get bored of the interface. If you don’t get bored, support the developer by switching to the Donate version.
Did you try Launcher 7? If yes, how did it treat you? Let us know using the comment form below.