Aviate organizes the Android apps you want, when you want (hands-on)

/ Updated: June 23, 2014 3:30 PM PDT

James Martin/CNET

Editor's note, June 23, 2014: Aviate has left beta and is now available for anyone to download.

Aviate is a free Android launcher that transforms your home screen to show you apps it thinks might be useful, depending on where you are and the time of day. It does that by grouping your apps into themed collections, such as Home, Morning routine, Photography, and Going somewhere, and then will pull those collections onto your home screen when the time or location is right.

Since Yahoo announced it was acquiring Aviate at CES 2014, I've been using it on my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which is running Android 4.3. In that time, Aviate has impressed me with how it well it gives me helpful information and apps throughout the day, especially considering it's still in beta. I am also a huge fan of the app's design.

Smart home screen
When you first set up Aviate, the app will automatically create popular app collections, including Social, Home, Work, Music, and News. It groups together apps already on your phone into those categories, so social would include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while work might have your calendar, email, and a calculator. At any time, you can edit those collections to include the apps that are important to you, but you cannot create a new collection from scratch.

Those collections will show up on your home screen throughout the day, along with extra features when available. The app's status bar (which sits right below your phone's notification bar) automatically changes color to match the collection it thinks its relevant; blue for Work, yellow for Home, and so on. You can then swipe down to reveal the collection and other widgets and swipe up to hide that information if you want.

For instance, when you're at your house, Aviate will show the Home collection in that space, with the apps you've selected for that collection, plus options to set an alarm or put your phone in do-not-disturb mode. You can choose to set your home and work locations in the app, and if you do, Aviate automatically detects when you're at home or at work so that it can show those collections when you arrive. Even if you don't set those locations, the app will still show the two time-sensitive collections, Morning routine or Night time, when appropriate. Morning routine usually shows up around 6 a.m. for me, and Night time won't pop up until 9:30 or 10 p.m. There's no way to adjust those times.

Aviate shows relevant apps at the top of your home screen throughout the day. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Aviate's home screen also has two rows of favorite applications at the bottom, which Aviate populates with the apps you've used the most. Again, you can add or remove apps from that list to fit your needs. Above those two rows is a photo in a frame, which takes the place of your phone's wallpaper. Aviate has a black or white design that serves as a background throughout the launcher, which you can change in Settings.

Your collections also live in a few other places in Aviate. There's an entire page of popular collections just to the right of the main screen, and you can edit it to add new collections or hide those you don't want to use. Some of the collections you can add are Grocery shopping, Entertainment, Games, Studying, and Outdoors, but keep in mind you cannot create your own custom collection. One the left of the main screen, you'll see all of the collections that can show up on your home screen automatically, which includes Work, Home, Going somewhere, and the newly-added Listening, which shows music and audio apps when you plug in your headphones.

When you need to find a specific app, you can view everything that's installed on your phone, organized alphabetically, by swiping all the way to the right.

Outlook
In the last few years, launchers have exploded in popularity on Android because they let you tweak the built-in design and features of your phone without rooting and installing a new ROM -- an often tedious -- and occasionally risky -- process. Launchers like Nova and Apex let you completely overhaul the look of your phone, making it look nothing like Android, if that's what you want.

While I like the freedom those launchers give me to tweak my phone, I love that Aviate tackles the design changes for me, and leaves me with a simple interface that shows me what I am looking for, when I need it. What's more, my phone doesn't feel cluttered, and apps I don't need right now conveniently disappear until I do need them, which I greatly appreciate.

Aviate still a few has bugs, which is expected, given that it's still in beta. For instance, occasionally if I change the photo on the home screen, it will switch back to an old photo a few minutes later. Also, once all of my favorite apps at the bottom of my home screen mysteriously disappeared. Despite those glitches, I think Aviate is close to being ready for prime time, and I can't wait for the official release.

For now, if you want to play around with Aviate, download the app from Google Play and request a beta invite inside the app. You should gain access in a few days.

Don't Miss

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy

Aviate Beta (Android)

Part Number: com.tul.aviate

Free

Quick Specifications See All

  • Category Desktop enhancements
  • Compatibility Android