I’ve never understood the bizarre fascination with lock screens. On Android and iPhone, people love to customize their lock screen with widgets, feeds, and all sorts of flibberty gibbert that honestly baffles me. Why would you want something on your lock screen when you can just… unlock your phone? Are not lock screens merely a tool to prevent us from pocket dialing (more often)? I did not understand custom lock screen apps or why anyone would possibly want one.
That’s why I embarked upon an epic quest to the Android Market. I resolved to try out some of the most popular lock screen apps and see if they were really worth it. I would understand why people like customizing their lock screen, even if it killed me (it didn’t). The results surprised me. A custom lock screen is actually quite helpful. After using some custom unlockers, I get why people buy them- they’re darn cool. Here are a few apps that will provide that extra bit of convenience.
This was the first app I tried. LockBot doesn’t specialize in doing anything new, but rather in offering you the lock screens of other famous mobile devices. Android users with lock screen envy of the iPhone or fond memories of Eclair and Froyo’s lock screens can change to those effortlessly.
That was quite a common thread I found in my research. There are a lot of lock screen apps that don’t do anything other than turning your Android device into an iPhone with the “Slide to Unlock” slider and all. Some of these apps even had the audacity to charge for this service. Avoid them at all costs.
But back to LockBot. It’s not the most creative app in the world, but it does have one particularly cool feature. You can set up playlists of lock screens so that every time you turn your phone back on it greets you with a new unlocker. No other app had that feature, and the creativity is appreciated.
Lock screen playlists aren’t exactly game changing, but I really liked them. If nothing else, the variety is nice. You can get a couple lock screens for free, but if you want a deep playlist then you’ll have to shell out for the paid version.
This one was the best I tested. WidgetLocker is exactly what it sounds like: a lock screen customization tool that allows for a whole lot of options for apps and widgets. With all the stuff you can do, WidgetLocker basically turns your lock screen into another page of apps.
If that’s not what you want, don’t worry. It’s not mandatory. However, it is pretty nice to have a news widget scrolling text across your lock screen. I definitely liked being able to turn on my phone quickly and check if there was any news.
Then there are the sliders. You can assign different actions to each slider like unlocking your phone (real shocker there), launching apps, or even muting the ringer volume. The sliders can be resized, dragged around the screen, and graphically customized to your heart’s content. If you’re good in Adobe Illustrator, you can even import your own icons.
I spent the most time with WidgetLocker because it was easily my favorite. The customization worked, the sliders were functional, and the interface nice and polished for easy use. After I had finished researching these apps, WidgetLocker was the only one I kept for everyday use. Highly recommended.
GOTO was a bit of fresh air. Where even good apps are content to labor under mediocre graphics (*cough cough* WidgetLocker), this app had all the shiny colors I could ever want. Nice graphics go a long way, and GOTO had visuals locked down.
The unlocking method is a bit odd, but it works. You swipe the slider in an arc. Along the way, you can stop and launch specific apps from the lock screen.
It’s a decent system, but a bit limited. Where apps like WidgetLocker shine is in their endless customization. The possibilities with WL are endless because it lets you have fun with apps, sliders, shortcuts, and widgets. GOTO limits you to three shortcuts, and only to apps.
The arcing swipe is still a bit weird, but no serious complaints here. GOTO is designed with an elegance that you don’t see enough. The thoughtful design and polished graphics are well done.
LockMenu was good, but it did have some issues integrating itself into my home system. But if you’re willing to use it as your home launcher, it’s a nice free alternative to WidgetLocker supported by advertising. Some people will dislike seeing ads on their lock screen, but hey, that’s the price of free apps.
Definitely be sure to integrate LockMenu as your home launcher. When I didn’t, it was disastrous. Thankfully the app is fully functional once it’s the home. I’ll cut off my review here because we’ve already done a longer review of LockMenu before. If this app sounds interesting, be sure to check it out here.
That’s it for us. What do you have on your lock screen?