Instant gratification is a wonderful thing. And with a custom launcher, you can change the entire look and feel of your phone quickly and simply. Keep in mind: a launcher is just another template over an intensely customizable platform. So, if you’re trying to find a compromise between expressing your personality and efficient time management, just any old launcher won’t do. It’s a curated service, so you’ll want to find one that’s tailored closest to your tastes.
Over the weekend, I let UR Launcher drive my Samsung Galaxy S4. UR Launcher is brought to us by SIEN, a virtual goods enterprise with offices in Paris, Bucharest and London. So, was UR Launcher my cup of tea? No. Not really. But, like I said earlier, customizing your device is about your personality and tastes–not mine.
Full disclosure: I’m kind of new to launchers and the customization of your device. (Unless you count changing my ringtone to different songs from Bob’s Burgers). I do stuff on my phone; I don’t stare at the homescreen.
Anyhow, I decided to stare at the homescreen for awhile this weekend. UR Launcher did a few things right. I liked the default colorful, rounded icons. I liked the sidebar navigation. But UR Launcher is not for people like me who want streamlined, minimalist design with a strong foundation in function. UR Launcher is for people who are all form.
The 3D wallpapers and suggested themes are graphic heavy, computer generated cartoon themes that allow you to customize each home screen with your name or other text, picture and even certain components of the theme itself (like whether you’d like to see a dolphin or a shark displayed).
I admitted it earlier: I’m a little new to this. So, in all fairness and for science, I downloaded the highest rated free launcher in the Play Store to see how the experiences compared.
UR Launcher was not as instructive as I had hoped it would be. It assumes the UI is self-explanatory, but I found myself wanting a little more explanation and assistance.
As eluded to before, the selection of wallpapers, themes and icon packs could benefit from a little more design variety. While there are many options to choose from, including 13 free 3D live themes, there’s not a lot of variation in the aesthetic. Most of them are in a singular style with different motifs including kittens, cats, puppies, dogs, flowers, nature, raindrops, beach, vacation, landscape, mountains, ocean, sea, cities, London, New York, old cars, coffee, berries, fruit and more. So, if that’s you’re bag, you might be interested. And hey–it’s all FREE, so I can’t complain too much.
Discrepancies in personal tastes aside, there were a few things about UR Launcher that really exacerbated my OCD. When UR Launcher is set as default, there is a constant icon in the notification bar that allows you to access the setting center. Apparently, it is possible to turn this off in the settings, but that did take me some time to figure out. When UR Launcher is installed but not set as default, there is an intrusive, obnoxious icon that will revert your experience back to UR Launcher. Plus, I couldn’t find an option to set my bloatware apps as “hidden.” That’s the number one thing I like about using a custom launcher. But that’s just me–I want a launcher that gives me less, not more.
UR Launcher is still in beta, so it’s not unexpected for it to feel unfinished. But it does feel unfinished. The suite of suggested apps are second tier and there’s not a lot of variety in the included wallpapers, 3D animations and icons. However, Sien is a young company and partnerships with new apps and additional functionality is to be expected as they grow. An update for the service is expected later this week, and integration with an UR Messenger, an SMS service, and UR Mood, an organization service customized around your daily routine, are in the works.
That said, the experience wasn’t bad, and it spurred me to investigate more launchers and find a customization that really suits my tastes. If your tastes are more in line with a fun, playful atmosphere than a polished aesthetic one, you might want to give UR Launcher a try.