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Open Home - Full: An app best left to the days of the G1


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  1. mikolsic

    mikolsic New Member This Topic's Starter

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    Overview

    Open Home Full is a total Home replacement. For those who may not know what I mean by that, consider the custom UIs that some manufacturers are imposing on top of Android: HTC has Sense, Motorola has MOTOBLUR, Sony Ericsson has Rachel, and Samsung has Touchwiz. If you had a G1 and have recently upgraded to nearly any one of the new Android devices on the market, you will immediately know what I mean. Most Android devices are now running with the manufacturer's own interface branding. (The Motorola Droid is the only example I can think of that is actually running stock Android. The myTouch might as well, but I'm not sure.) Each of these custom UIs has the feel of Android, but they offer different looks, and sometimes even extra functionality. A simple example of this: my G1, running stock Android, had only three Home screens. My Motorola CLIQ, running Android with MOTOBLUR, came with 5 Home screens.

    Open Home is a hardware-free equivalent of these custom UIs. When downloaded and installed, the app will allow you to completely replace your device's Home, at least on the surface. (Open Home doesn't actually get rid of your device's Home, so, technically, when you are running Open Home, you are also running your device's Home in the background.) Why would you want to do this? Well, now that device Homes are not as simple and bland as the G1's Home was, that is a very good question. Here are some possible answers: some of the added functionality (I'll outline those in a bit), the ability to download and swap out Themes/Skins, or maybe because you simply hate Sense (or whichever custom UI your device is running). Is Open Home Full worth $3.99? That remains for you to decide, so you will probably want to read on to find out!

    Pros

    Open Home comes with a lot of options that your device's Home simply doesn't have. Want more Home screens? Want fewer screens? Open Home allows you to choose between 3, 5, and 7 screens. You can also apply labels (or not) to each screen, which appear in the bottom left corner of each screen. There is also the option to decide which screen will be your main Home screen--with Open Home, it does not have to be the middle screen.

    Unlike my CLIQ's Home, Open Home can auto-rotate with my device, if I choose to let it do so. I can also set the behavior of the Home button on my hardware. I can have the Home button do what it already does: go to the main Home screen; or, I can make it bring up little thumbnail previews of every screen, and when I touch one of the previews, Open Home will take me directly to that screen. (This is something, as I understand, that Sense has now.) The preview option is very handy when you have a lot of screens, as scrolling from screen one to screen seven can be enough of a task as to make the extra screens seem more of a hassle than a boon.

    Open Home also comes with a few of its own widgets. There is a Music widget, which is very similar to the stock Music widget, except that Skins apply to this one and it has a back button in addition to the standard forward button. Open Home also comes with a handy Settings widget, which gives you Home screen access to turn on/off WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Google Synchronization, and also gives you a screen brightness slider. The app comes with its very own Weather widget, which seems to work just as well as the CLIQ's standard Weather widget--though I don't know where Open Home gets its weather data. (If you don't want the full widget, Open Home also includes a Weather Forecast folder that you can pin to your screens.) Lastly, Open Home also has a Memory Optimization widget, which, when pressed, activates Open Home's optimization process. This is a quick task-killer, and it turns off processes that are idle but still running in the background, wasting memory.

    Open Home allows for an App Dock, which is a slide-out app drawer on the right-hand side of the screen, where any number of app shortcuts can be dropped for quick access. There is also the option to have a Search button on the left-hand side of the screen, a Call button on the bottom left, and a Browser button on the bottom right of the screen.

    Lastly, there are many Open Home Skins and Icon packs which can be downloaded from the Android Market (some are free, some are not). Skins always affect the appearance of the main application dock, and generally also affect the appearance of Open Home's app dock, widgets, and the default app icons (Browser, Calendar, Calculator, etc). Icon packs can be used independently of the Skins to affect the appearance of default app icons. (If you also have Better Cut, another paid app from the same developers, icons from an Icon pack can also be applied to Market apps.) For the pictures below, I downloaded and applied the HTC Hero Skin, so my Motorola CLIQ could pretend it was a much cooler phone.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Cons

    Open Home is, essentially, an app that is running all the time, on top of your device's Home. This means that it is inherently slower than the standard Home, a fact that made using Open Home a pain on the G1, but is merely a slight inconvenience on the CLIQ. I'm sure that more powerful devices, such as the HTC EVO, would be able to run Open Home without any apparent reduction in speed. Perhaps a bigger problem, however, is that--since Open Home is constantly running--it does put more strain on battery life than the standard Home does. I have found, since I started using Open Home again, that I generally have about 30-45 minutes less time on my battery than I do when I do not use the app. (Of course, that is simply my subjective experience, and I have not performed any objective testing to confirm my experience.)

    What I have found to be more irksome is that Open Home seems to Force Close at odd times. I thought I had the Force Close issue pinpointed to when my I would start typing in a widget's text field with my keyboard closed, then open it, but I just did that right now without a Force Close, so I'm not sure what the real issue is. More importantly, Open Home definitely Force Closes more often then the standard Home.

    A much smaller quibble of mine is that Open Home, believe it or not, may actually have too many options. Of course, this means that the app is highly customizable, but I'm really not sure that I want my user interface to be that custom. There is something to be said for just having one type of Home, that comes already set up and ready for you to use it.

    Should You Buy Open Home Full?

    Unless you have a G1 and you really need to spice up your Home, I personally wouldn't recommend the purchase of Open Home to anyone. It's not a terrible app by any means, and it certainly isn't that expensive, at $3.99, but the question is: do you really need it? Chances are, your device has more than three screens, it has its own weather widget, and its "Skin" looks a whole lot cleaner and more professional than many of the Open Home Skins available for download. If you want a cooler Music widget, you can get MixZing for free, and you can also find at least one task manager for free (in fact, ASTRO--an excellent and free file manager comes with its own task manager tool). Back when I had my G1 and I needed something with more screens, something with a little more personality, purchasing Open Home made sense. Now, with the improvements that have come to Android, and with a custom UI already on my phone, Open Home seems more like a novelty and less like a useful, satisfying Home.
     

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