06
Nov
bv

The Android lockscreen has been slowly evolving over the years, and it's got a respectable feature set these days. But sometimes rethinking a feature can provide a better overall experience. Cover is a new beta lockscreen alternative that tries to learn where you are and what you're most likely to need access to, then put it right there on the lockscreen. It's a compelling approach, but how is it?


How It Works

Cover has different modes for home, work, driving, and out. Each one comes with a set of apps arranged along the left side of the lockscreen, which is what you'll see when you turn on your device (situations can be manually switched). The wallpaper is also customized based on the situation. If you've ever used the Aviate launcher for Android, Cover is kind of the same idea on the lockscreen. If you're at home during the evening, maybe Cover shows you Netflix, YouTube, and Flipboard. During work it's Drive, LinkedIn, and Gmail.

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If you allow it, Cover can also change some of your settings automatically. It might toggle your ringer to silent at night, or change that embarrassing cartoon theme song ringtone to something more professional during the work day. It uses geolocation based on addresses you feed into it, as well as WiFi network learning to figure out when you're at work and at home. If that works well, you can probably trust Cover with this responsibility. Driving mode is detected by Bluetooth or simply your position and speed. 

The same contextual app selection is employed in a popup menu while the device is unlock too. If you swipe down from the top right corner of the screen, you get a little side panel with six suggested apps.

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Each situation has the main block of six apps, but you can also swipe downward to get more suggestions. Swiping left to right on the image will unlock the device, while swiping from one of the app icons will open that specific app. This is handy, but not entirely new functionality – many OEMs have the same capability on their stock lockscreens. What sets this part of the experience apart is Peek. When you grab an icon and start to slide to unlock, the app immediately loads in the background, so you can just pull the Cover panel back a little bit and see the app's UI behind it. This allows you to glance at an ongoing chat or see your email inbox without actually unlocking the phone.

But Does It Work

If you use another locking method on your device, you'll probably want to disable it to get the most out of Cover. Otherwise you won't get the Peek functionality, and you're going to be stuck doing two unlock gestures to get to your stuff. Yes, that means you're sacrificing a little security.

I've only had a chance to use Peek for a day now, so the app suggestions aren't perfect for me. For example, it's pretty sure I should use Instagram at home, but I almost never touch the app. Presumably Cover would learn that given enough time, but I can't speak to that yet. When it does have the right app, it is really fast to get to it. However, I would like a way to disable the app panel when the device is unlocked – I see no need for yet another way to jump between apps.

2013-11-06 01.30.18 2013-11-06 01.19.28 2013-11-06 01.23.25

Peek is a really cool idea, and I can see it being useful in a number of instances. Maybe you want to see what track is up next in a music player, or look at your missed calls. I can't think of any reason I would need to peek at Kindle or the Netflix app, though.

The main issue with Cover at this point is that it doesn't completely take over for your lockscreen. It sometimes takes a moment to load when the device is unlocked, and there is some weirdness with on-screen navigation buttons. Android's lockscreen widgets and controls are also inaccessible. That said, Cover is closer to getting it right than any other alternative lockscreen I've ever used. You can't just dismiss it like a regular app, for example. You need to swipe it to get it out of the way.

2013-11-06 14.25.17 2013-11-06 15.07.29 2013-11-06 01.22.51

The success or failure of this app will come as a result of the accuracy of its suggestions. If Cover can learn which apps people truly need, then it's going to be a very useful tool. However, I worry that the the security tradeoff will lead many people to give up on the app. If you want a PIN or pattern lock, much of Cover's allure vanishes.

If you get a chance to try Cover, you should. It's impressive in beta form, so perhaps some of these issues will be addressed before it becomes a real product.

You won't be able to access this app without beta access. Check the website.

[Cover (Beta)]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • makapav

    The reason why it is not perfect and will never be without root is because Google does not allow a 'true' replacement of the lock-screen like it does the Launcher.

    Personally, I think the lock-screen, notifications shade and deeper integrated administrator level apis for security software capabilities are key for Android to make the jump to the next level in this aspect.

    • NF

      Dynamic Notifications usually does well on my tablet at existing in a lock screen state.

      Notifications got an api in 4.3 so it's not out of the realm possibility. It might need to happen if Google wants to update lock screen security without carriers interfering. Like the Google Experience launcher but requiring entry.

  • shakerya

    You know you just wanted to show off Kit Kat :)

  • George Av

    still haven't got my invite -_- and i signed last month

    • Christopher Bement

      Just wait longer.

      • George Av

        i've been waiting for about a month now...

    • Asgard

      I know that feel bro.

    • ddpacino

      I just got my invite yesterday. I signed up on Day 1.

  • http://youtube.com/user/CurelessSyn CurelessSynergy

    This would work well hand in hand with Aviate.

    • Christopher Bement

      I feel like it would negate all of the best aspects Aviate has to offer.

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Apart from looking kind of similar, no. It'll contradict and clash with Aviate. Too many cooks etc etc.

  • http://www.maverickcreative.ca/ Joshua Richards

    Wanntttt

  • Eszol

    Why the hell do you install instagram if you did not touch it?

    • http://blog.tonysarju.com/ Tony Sarju

      Why?

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Its just.. there.. Y SO MAD?

    • RyanWhitwam

      Because once in a blue moon, I need it to test something.

  • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

    I have been using it for a day. It's location detection has not been accurate for me, at least not as good as Aviate. Otherwise I see lot of potential here. Peek feature does work amazingly well when the app is already loaded and updated. I don't know if they can keep the 6 suggested apps active and updated in background, but that would kill the battery.

    I'm really hopeful for Cover. They've got the concept right, now they need to get the implementation right.

  • ProvoAggie

    I really don't care about the location detection but I like having the lockscreen with the icons going up the side that you can swipe over to peek at and unlock to an app. Are there any lockscreen replacements that allow that functionality and also allow you to choose which apps are there?

    • Christopher Bement

      Pretty sure Widgetlocker handles that to an extent.

      • ProvoAggie

        I actually looked really closely at Widget Locker. I just wish that it looked as good as this app does. It's hard to put a Lock Screen that looks like Android 2.1 on a brand new Nexus 5.

        • Christopher Bement

          I would say you didn't look really closely at all. WidgetLocker comes with GB, HoneyComb, ICS and JB/KitKat as well as Sense lockscreens by default and has thousands of skins on XDA as well.

          • Sokudoningyou

            Not to mention you can put your own lock on it as well; I simply use a picture of my own and a "hotspot," essentially, for a tap and unlock scenario. I don't use any of the lockscreens that come with WL at all.

          • ProvoAggie

            Interesting. I had it installed for a little while and then got a refund because I couldn't really figure out how to set any of that stuff up. I've since purchased it again and it's a bit complicated to get setup but it does seem to have some cool features.

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  • tekfr33kn

    This looks like it would be awesome to try but for those of us that get corporate email, no lock screen replacement will be useful. yes, you can install it but you have to go through everything twice to get through the password stuff.

  • Ray Hoth

    Eventually the lock-screen is going to look like the home-screen, then what would be the point of the lock-screen...

    • Asgard

      You can have multiple lockscreens, I used to have on a good day 4 lockscreens

  • coolbreeze0688

    Apk here: https://db.tt/9NYwvge7

    Hope that link works thank me later!

    • Tyler Racutt

      This real?

      • AkhilSood

        You can try and let us know.

      • Fadakar

        It's real!

      • Asgard

        I'm trying it right now, no Malware according to malwarebytes, and I'm testing it at the moment.

        • AkhilSood

          Same

          • Asgard

            I cancelled it and then went back and worked quickly, but I can't change the wallpaper to any custom one and it keeps considering that I'm "out" even though I set that I'm at work

          • AkhilSood

            Did the same here myself, and it worked like a charm. Not sure about the location settings, calling it a night.

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        Can confirm its working alright. But why are the app icons on the side sized for ants?

        • Pengwn

          What is this?? A lockscreen for ants? Those icons need to be at least.. three times as big!

    • niraj

      it works...thnx

    • Fadakar

      Been running it since this post, as of now 3 hours ago. Kept my phone awake for 99% of the time. Be wary of battery loss with this, guys.

    • Clarence Miller

      Apk works great.... thanks..

  • Hamza Javed

    Everyone is trying to make same thing with different touch.
    http://softtechinformed.blogspot.com

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      F**k off with your spam!

      • Hamza Javed

        First of all you can't challenge someone's opinion and secondly don't show who you really are, to the world.

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          What's that spammy link got to do with your opinion moron? A few more flags and your "opinion" would be dog fart.

          • Hamza Javed

            Hey do you even know what is spamming?

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Yes. Precisely what you're doing.

            Could someone put this prick out of his misery already?

          • Hamza Javed

            Can you plz shut up and mind your own business.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            So you edited your comment and removed the spam link and now trying to act smart? Too bad, your comment history gives it away! Spamming douchebag!

            Dear AP, seriously?

          • Hamza Javed

            I removed it because of too much traffic from same site that is not good for some reasons. So don't act smart as you know everything. And talking about my history it tells more than just spa

          • Hamza Javed

            And stop commenting useless before the site bans us.

    • Abhishek Sisodia

      SPAM!

  • Tyler Balanowski

    I want one of these custom lock screen or launchers that support live wallpaper

    • Ray Hoth

      Galaxy Locker does.

  • Chris

    "Yes, that means you're sacrificing a little security."

    Yeah, I guess we don't keep much info on our phones these days. No lock screen, nbd.

    • Dave Kratter

      I found that totally understated comment pretty amusing too.

      Anyone who doesn't have security set up on their mobile device is an idiot just begging to be hacked.

  • Magneira

    I will for sure try this when it is out of beta, but not to start a war here, I think the moto x active notifications are the best "lock screen" out there, it changed the way I use my phone, specialy on the table at work.

    • Asgard

      Actually I was using dynamic notifications to emulate that, and now I realized that it conflicts with cover so I need to decided between one or the other

      • Magneira

        I`ve used that on my nexus 4 and nexus 7 but that destroys the battery since they dont have the extra cores and the amoled screen.

        • Asgard

          I use it on a GNex, so it's AMOLED, but you don't need the extra cores unless you are using something like utter! or open mic, for the always on, if that's the case I agree, that drains battery down the toilet

          • Magneira

            Yeah I had a GNex, great phone, but the extra cores help when I take the phone out of my pocket or grab it from the table or even when I just bounce it on the tabelt it autmaticaly turn on the screen without a hit on the battery though. No more hiting the power button every five seconds ;)

  • NF

    I'm kind of interesting in seeing how this goes. I'd like authentication before using my device, so hopefully peak can get around that, but the idea is great and I'm using Aviate right now.

  • Tony

    I wonder how they're tracking app usage. There isn't really a good API for this. A lot of the current apps on the Play store that track usage use hack solutions...

  • Jorge

    Anyone knows which is the information widget partially shown in the third picture? I'm looking for a replacement of System Info Widget and this looks great!

  • Cat Astrophy

    So if you're checking exchange email which from most companies enforces a passcode for unlocking this app will require two unlocks? One swipe and one exchange enforced passcode?

  • Mado

    "embarrassing cartoon theme song ringtone"

    Hey! The 1990's X-Men the Animated Series theme song is NOT embarassing! It's the SHIT!

  • Carl

    Sadly, won't work for me with corporate email pin. I found using LockerPro works for putting a few widgets for quick view above the pin lock screen. If these could be widgets instead of apps it may work but might get messy.

  • Aniket Patni

    I quite liked the idea. Have been using it with Aviate for a day, and it works well. Only issue, which I guess is because I have a Galaxy S3 with 1GB RAM, is that it kills aviate and causes it to redraw really often. This is probably because of the peek feature. Will be uninstalling cover soon because Aviate is far more important to me, but will definitely get it back once I upgrade to a more accommodative phone (read Nexus 5)

  • Kartik

    Can I switch off haptic feedback for cover?

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