SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

switchapps   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For AndroidThe Android app landscape sometimes feels more like a landfill: There are so many random apps, it’s a virtual anarchy. Many of them aren’t very good, but every once in a while, this sort of almost uncontrolled marketplace breeds third-party apps more creative and interesting than those you’d see on (ahem) other mobile app ecosystems.

Today’s app, SwitchApps, is a good example. It lets you switch between running apps and launch your favorite apps – two things Android already allows for – but does it with its own special kind of flair. The basic version is free, but I’ve decided to spring for the $1 Pro version, which I’ll be reviewing below.

In a Nutshell

In one sentence: SwitchApps is a tiny button overlaid on your screen at all times, which you can interact with using multi-touch gestures. For a concise description and a single screenshot, check out the SwitchApps Directory post. And here’s a video for a sense of what it looks like in use:

In Use

My own quick-launcher of choice is SwipePad, which I reviewed back in May 2011 and use to this day. But one of SwipePad’s few disadvantages is that it requires swiping from the very edge of the screen – a gesture which can be difficult to produce  if you use a case that has a protruding bezel. SwitchApps shows an on-screen target instead of expecting you to swipe from the edge, which is another sort of trade-off: You don’t have to swipe, but a faint icon is always visible somewhere on your screen, no matter what app you’re currently using. When browsing MakeUseOf, it looks like this:

switchapps   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

Since I’ve set it to be very faint, I pointed it out in the screenshot above. You can drag it anywhere on the screen, and even flick it away quickly if you just want to get it out of the way. Fully visible, the touch target looks like this:

switchapps fullyvisible   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

It’s in the same spot, only opaque now, and more visible thanks to my low-key Nova Launcher wallpaper and theme. You can interact with the button by tapping, long-pressing, double-tapping, and by multi-touch gestures. So, it’s not just a button: You do sacrifice a bit of screen real-estate, but you gain seven different actions (there are four multi-touch gestures). Besides, reclaiming that screen space is easy: Just tap and hold the button, and then tap and hold anywhere else on the screen. Wait for a moment, and the button will disappear (you can retrieve it later from the pull-down notification menu).

Favorite Apps and Settings

A single-tap on the icon takes you to Android’s built-in task switcher, just like long-pressing the home button on most devices:

switchapps switcher   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

Nothing exotic, but still useful. But double-tap, and you get into an iOS-esque favorite-app launcher:

bottompanel   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

The brushed-metal aesthetic is an acquired taste, but the icons are nice and big. Swipe up on the launcher panel, and you get to a quick settings interface:

switchapps3   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

You can easily change  the apps that appear in the quick-launch panel, but the settings appear fixed, with no easy way to pick which ones to use. This quick-settings menu is only useful if you don’t have toggle icons in your notification panel, a feature many Android devices do have.

Tweaking and Adjusting

SwitchApps is anything if not flexible. Its settings screen lets you change anything, from the touch target’s default size and opacity, to what different sorts of taps and multi-touch gestures do. It’s nested, so the  “outer” screen, available in both free and paid versions, looks like this:

switchapps settings1   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

Some preferences bear a bit of explanation: “Adjust Position” actually controls whether or not you’re able to flick the button away. With this setting enabled, you can grab hold of the icon and just toss it somewhere with a quick motion, and it’ll come to rest against one of the edges of the screen. With the option disabled, you can only drag the icon, and flicking would only nudge it a short distance away so it lies awkwardly somewhere in the middle of the screen.

Also, “Enable Soft Buttons” is such a vague setting, I couldn’t figure it out despite trying my best (enlighten me in the comments?). Even though its description claims multi-touch gestures don’t work when it’s enabled, they worked just fine for me even when it was enabled. In other words, it appeared to have no effect.

Under “Advance Settings” (sic) you’ll find a pair of sliders for adjusting the button’s opacity and size (you can make it fairly tiny if you wish), and a menu item reserved for paying customers, labeled “Pro Settings”. Since I’m a paying customer, I went ahead and tapped it:

switchapps settings pro   SwitchApps: A Creative Take On Switching And Launching Apps For Android

This is where the really juicy stuff is: You can decide what each interaction with the button does. Multi-touch gestures work by holding the button with one finger and swiping in the indicated direction with another finger. They’re surprisingly easy to make, and quite effective: Flicking back and forth between applications almost feels like Alt-Tabbing in a computer.

Verdict: Innovative, But Not Essential

I enjoyed playing around with SwitchApps, and it definitely showcases some interesting interface concepts. I could see myself using it on a regular basis if my phone’s hardware Home button started malfunctioning, but as it is, I think I’ll stick with the defaults Android offers, and my own favorite launchers. What about you? Will you be giving it a try, or is SwitchApps just a novelty item?

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10 Comments -

Anonymous

easytocuh is another app, that allow us to find control our power and home button, also it make easier to open 10 of your fav applications everywhere you are in your phone and control de settings such as wifi, volume, etc.

Ron Lister

cool, so whats the difference between the free and the pro version besides the dollar.

Erez Zukerman

Did you read the post? :)

Ron Lister

I always love to get a question as an answer. Yeah, I did. Do you frequently get people commenting on your articles without reading them? So, the pro settings must be the only difference. Just wanted to know if there was anything more than the ability to change the gestures in the dollar “Pro” version thanks for that I’ll go look it up myself. At least you responded you get a point for that. Probably not going to read your reviews anymore. that came off a little rude.

Erez Zukerman

Ron,

First of all, I do apologize — I certainly did not mean to offend you.

Second, as a matter of fact, yes — I very often get comments from people who did not bother reading the article. Your second reply was more complete, and showed you did read the bit about the gestures, so thank you.

Other than that part, both versions appear to be identical. If you find out otherwise, I’d be happy to hear.

Caitlin Cahill

Caitlin Cahill

Looks useful, but the floating icon would quickly annoy me.

Schvenn Meister

I have seen these apps and just don’t get it. They are absolutely useless. Please, someone enlighten me. Every single one of these features is easily accessible in the Android JellyBean, anyway. Why waste valuable resources giving you another method to do what you can already do with the device, as it is? I seriously just don’t get it, at all.

Erez Zukerman

Let me guess: You use a Nexus, or some other device with no hardware buttons. Right?

If you’re using a Samsung, or anything else with a clicky home button, these apps make more sense. You save wear and tear on your button, and it’s quieter, too (when using the phone at night when your SO is sleeping next to you, that incessant clicking can really become grating).

Schvenn Meister

Okay, now it makes sense. I wondered why there were so many of these apps in existence. Yes, I have an Acer Iconia a110 which is pretty much a Nexxus 7, but better.