A deeper look

At the moment I’m trying to tolerate the stock launcher in Android 4.  Here’s a look at my new main home screen.  Kinda sparse, but that’s the best I can do with it.  I do like a lot of other things in it though, which is why I’m willing to tolerate the limitations of the home screens…for now, at least.  The full-page flipping of apps in the new app drawer is awesome–it’s always fast and very smooth, making it a breeze to find anything I want very quickly within all of my icons.  This, along with the same page functionality for all of the widgets, is really nice.

I also found some deeper “hidden” features in Android 4.  If you go into “Settings” >> “Developer Options” you’ll see a lot of new “User Inferface” settings that you can tweak to your liking, or experiment with.  These options are intended for developers to use when testing their apps.  Options such as “show touches” and “pointer location” will highlight exactly what the user does on the screen, but they’re also handy for making sure your screen is working properly.  You can test out your device’s “multi-touch” capabilities by turning on “show touches” and then pressing 5 or 10 fingertips on the screen at once and watch the fireflies!  “Show CPU usage” is good for monitoring your system when anything else is running–it sticks on the screen no matter where you are in the OS or in another application, constantly showing you your CPU usage and exactly what apps are using it.

The options for “Window animation scale” and “Transition animation scale” can even be adjusted to slow things down, making windows pop up and transition much more smoothly, which Kevin actually adjusted to 5x and likes it this way.  For me, I’m just the opposite.  It defaults to 1x for both of these settings, but I prefer to set the both to “off”.  They only delay whatever action you’re doing, so why not make it as fast and responsive as possible?  I love having the option though.  As I said before with the home screen pages, why didn’t they just give us all of the options like this for the homescreen grids and transitions??

I also now have second thoughts about the new panorama feature that’s built-in.  Yes, it’s nice to have it included, free of charge, but after some experimentation, the resulting images are pretty low-res.  I found an amazing alternative that does the same thing with much better results though–it’s called “Photaf THD”.  There’s a free version (with ads) and a paid version without the ads.  I’m not sure if there are any other limitations in the free version than there are in the paid version, but I’m always will to pay a few dollars to support the developer of a good app, and this is one of them.  It’s very simple to use, yet has some complex options inside for tweaking how to make your panoramas, and also includes some quality options.  Plus, this is a “THD” version, which means it’s “Tegra High Definition” optimized (Tegra 2 is the chip that drives a lot of Android tablets, including my Motorola Xoom), so it’s optimized to work with my device.

Lastly, there are also a lot more “hidden” features scattered throughout Android 4, even if you’re familiar with Android 3, which has many of the same features–a lot of the same Settings sections now include new options.  One of these, in particular, really shocked me today, and I love it: In “Settings” >> “Security” you can now select “NONE” for the screen lock!  This was never an option before–you always had to use either one of the security options, whether it was “slide”, a password, or a PIN.  With “NONE” selected, the lock screen is disabled!  I can now power on my tablet and I’m instantly on my home screen, or wherever I was when I last turned the screen off!

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