Spark Home-Screen App Makes Your Android Phone Friendlier
Love your Android phone, but wish your home screen was a bit easier to navigate? Try the Spark home-screen app from HipLogic. Spark is an at-a-glance home-screen skin that brings RSS feeds and social network feeds directly to your home screen so that you don't have to dig around menus and open separate apps. If you love customizing your phone, this app probably isn't for you. If you're new to the Android platform, however, Spark is a great app to help you get a handle on your phone.
At the top of your home screen, you'll see the weather feed, powered by WeatherBug. You can easily add cities to the feed by pressing your phone's menu key. The feed shows you the forecast for the week, plus humidity, wind speed, and more, and it displays a nice-looking 3D visualization of the weather.
Below the weather is a row of shortcuts to your most-used apps. You can swipe left and right on the row to view the apps. To "pin" your favorite apps to the row, you simply click a small icon to the left of the row and then check off the apps you want to add.
Next is an AP news feed. If you wish to text somebody an interesting news story, you can easily do so by clicking the headline and then pressing the SMS icon. You can also click on a link to read the full article. Below the AP feed is the Groupon feed, which is really cool if you're a Groupon addict like me. You can tailor the feed to show deals for whatever city you might be in. The best feature is that you can buy deals directly from the feed, which is quite handy.
You can also access your Facebook and Twitter feeds--and post updates to both--directly from the home screen. I find this feature convenient, as I don't always want to go into my menu and open the apps. A few other Android skins such as Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense have a similar function, but Spark's version is a lot cleaner and easier to use.
Right now, the feeds seem a bit limited. Sports fans might want to add a feed from ESPN, while entertainment-news addicts may want updates from the E Network. Fortunately, HipLogic confirms that it will be adding more feeds to Spark in the future. I do wish, however, that I could add my own feeds and manage which ones appeared where on the screen.
It is also kind of disappointing that you can't customize your home screen with your own wallpaper or RSS feeds. The provided wallpaper is lovely, but I'd really like to be able to add a picture of my cat or my favorite beach. Good news, though: HipLogic says that it will be updating the app so that users can add their own wallpaper.
The app works really well, and it never crashed during my tests. It also didn't slow down other apps during use. My only gripe concerns how limited it is; but again, HipLogic will be continuously adding content partnerships. I recommend the Spark app to any person new to Android, though more-advanced users will probably want a deeper level of customization.
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