A long time ago in Android land, a new launcher appeared in the Play Store. Called Aviate, it promised features that were, at that point in time, unique and relatively unheard of. The gist was that the launcher would predict what apps you would need, based on the time of day and later your location and other factors. It was supposed to make life easier by doing the homescreen customization for you, but my experience with it proved that it was merely a disappointment and a frustration.
Aviate started out as a launcher that stood out as very different. It was purchased by Yahoo a few years back, and has since then been tied into several of Yahoo's other products like News Digest. The new v3.0 update is the most significant update yet, and it will probably upset most long-time Aviate users. Spaces have been replaced by a feature called Smart Stream and the whole UI looks much more like a regular launcher.
Aviate was one of the most interesting alternative home screens when it came out last year as an invite-only beta, then Yahoo bought it and we all worried Aviate would be swallowed up by the machine. However, today is Aviate's big coming out party. The app has been updated with a number of new features, a tweaked UI, and you no longer need an invite to try it.
The Aviate launcher has been in alpha/beta for so long, it feels like a Google project. After all, the software runs solidly and has garnered millions of installs. Yet as an app in active development, the new features continue to roll in. Today's update adds badge counts for a handful of apps, including missed phone calls, text messages, Gmail messages, and apps that support notification badges in TouchWiz.
For Aviate users, 2014 has made for an uncertain year thus far. Yahoo announced its acquisition of the home screen replacement at this year's CES, and we haven't heard a peep since. Well, today the launcher has just received its first major update of the year, and this one includes a new space that activates whenever you plug in a pair of earphones.
The Play Store is brimming with alternative home screens, but Aviate was far and away one of the most impressive we saw last year. This beautifully designed launcher takes a completely different approach to organizing your apps and data. Apparently Yahoo was just as impressed as we were because the company just announced at CES that it has acquired Aviate.
In case you missed it, Aviate tracks your usage patterns and groups apps into categories that are presented to you based on the time of day and your location. For example, in the morning it might show you your calendar appointments and news apps in the morning "space." If you're near a restaurant, it shows you reviews and surfaces dining apps.
The popular invite-only contextual launcher Aviate upgraded today from Alpha to Beta. It's still invite-only, but it's definitely worth looking at, as one of the most powerful alpha products I've ever used just got even better. (Did I mention we have an invite code good for 500 invites later in the post?)
The team behind Aviate promises that, besides new features, the beta launch means that the full wait list of users will be brought on board, with all users getting five invite codes to dole out to friends.
So, what exactly is new in the beta? Several touches that add a nice helping of functionality to the already stellar contextual launcher, but which avoid cluttering the interface, and help Aviate stay true to its clean, restrained design language.
Aviate Launcher, if you haven't heard of it, is a new home screen replacement that looks to offer you information right when you need it and which is, at the time of writing, in the middle of an invite-only alpha period.
After receiving my invitation recently, I was anxious to take the launcher for a spin. I have no doubt it will improve as it progresses toward a broad launch, and there are a few drawbacks, but it is already one of the best alpha products I've ever used. It's a thoughtful, well-made, unique home screen replacement that I actually want to use.