Mar 09 AT 6:53 PM Taylor Wimberly 23 Comments

Customize Your Android Home Screen With Widgets and Themes. aHome, dxTop, and Open Home.

Why did three new Android applications shoot to the top of the Market this week? They all included one key element: customization. Ask any user what excites them most about Android and they will tell you its the freedom allowed by the open platform. All three of these app are desktop replacements which allow you to change the default Android home screen. Included with these apps are sorely missed features such as widgets, themes, and expanded desktop space.

With three new applications all fighting for the same spot, the competition has already heated up. Which one deserves to be installed on your phone? What features set them apart? Do you even need to install a desktop replacement? Read along as we break down all the details.

Price Point

dxTop Home Screen

dxTop Home Screen

  • aHome: $2.99 (for a limited time – normally $4.99)
  • dxTop: $3.99
  • Open Home : TBA (expect paid version soon)

dxTop came to market first with the $3.99 price point.  They were soon undercut by aHome at $2.99.  Recently Open Home Lite has launched as free.  It is no surprise that Open Home has the most downloads with 5,000-10,000.  aHome and dxTop are currently tied with 1,000-5,000 downloads.  I expect the full version of Open Home will eventually be $2.99 like the other Better Android app Better Cut.

Winner:  Tie.  All 3 apps offer free demo or lite versions so this is a wash.  aHome is going up in price and we don’t know for sure what Open Home will cost.

Widget Support

  • aHome:  2 included. 3 paid widgets on market.
  • dxTop: 1 free, 6 paid widgets on market.
  • Open Home: Coming soon.

dxTop holds the lead with 7 total widgets so far.  I grabbed the memory monitor from the Market since it was free, but I’m not sure how useful it is.  My favorite widget of all is the weather widget included with aHome.  I will note that in aHome, it is much easier to add widgets.  In dxTop you have to search for a widget before it can be added(hope they fix that).

Winner: Tie.  Same developers are releasing their widgets for multiple apps.  Open Home has yet to implement any new widgets, but I would expect to see similar items.  Nothing stands out at this point.

Themes and Skins

Glossy Theme for Open Home

Glossy Theme for Open Home

  • aHome:  1 free on market. iPhone theme.
  • dxTop:  None.
  • Open Home:  6 free on market.  Many more ports coming from XDA forums.

Winner: Open Home. Since Open Home is porting skins from XDA, he has an endless supply.  It will be interesting to see if the other two follow his lead.  I expect we will soon see a marketplace for paid themes popping up soon.

Extra Features

  • aHome:  Dock bar. Multilple UI settings.  Up to 10 desktops.
  • dxTop:  4 desktop areas. Enhanced navigation
  • Open Home:  7 desktop ares.

All the apps provided extra space on the desktop which is nice.  dxTop also allows you to use all your existing bookmarks which is a huge plus.  I love the 1-swipe navigation of dxTop as well.  aHome offers a dock bar similar to iPhone which can be turned on and off.

Winner:  dxTop.  With the improved navigation, any app is only a swipe away.  Developer is soon adding the ability to organize apps into folders in the tray.

Updates and Support

aHome With Widgets and Dock

aHome With Widgets and Dock

Since all of these apps are in the early stage of development, they have been releasing new updates each day with bug fixes and added features.  I really like that dxTop includes an easy to find change log on the front page of their site.  With all the updates going on, it is nice to be able to see what is new or has been fixed.

Winner: dxTop.  Thank you for posting your change history.  I wish every developer would do this.

Summary

Each one of these desktop replacment applications ads new features not currently available on Android.  Customers will find different things they like with each one.  I consider myself a power user and I really like the navigation of dxTop.  All three of these apps are installed on my phone, but I have dxTop set as the default.  It performs the quickest and I have had the fewest problems with it.  I encourage you to download and use the free versions of each one of these applications and send your feedback to the developer.

If you have had a chance to play around with any of these, which is your favorite desktop replacement?  What other widgets or features would you like to see added?  Do you think the price point is right for a desktop replacement?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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