How SmartShift Lockscreen came close to replacing my WidgetLocker, but didn’t

Back in my WidgetLocker for Android review I mentioned how WidgetLocker works with some third party apps like Unlock with WiFi and Tasker, but only to activate/deactive it, and that it would really be awesome if it had different profiles for different situations. Then today an article on Droid-life let me know about SmartShift, an app that judging by the description actually combines Tasker and WidgetLocker into a single app that actually has these profiles. Naturally I was excited and bought the app immediately. Read on to find out why I hit "refund" well within the 15 minute window. 

SmartShift is a brilliant app in theory. WidgetLocker is great, but with its many customization features also comes the desire to have different lock screens for different situations. For instance I would like to have an errand list on there when I'm not at home, and my emails there when I'm at home. Owner info when I'm out, no such thing when I'm in. I'd also like to have a simple lock screen with a music player widget when that app is open, instead of using my music player's built in lock screen replacement – which I'm not a big fan of. All of these are things I thought I could do with SmartShift. 

The problem I have with SmartShift is that it's part WidgetLocker, part Tasker, without really being either of them to the full extent. You can choose what triggers the profiles, but you can't do advanced things like you can in Tasker. For instance, it can activate based on location – but only based on cell towers. Not by GPS, and not by connected WiFi hotspots. That means that for me who use a Tasker profile that activates when it loses connection to certain WiFi hotspots, it really is no help at all.

Another example is the one that triggers when a headset is inserted. Meant to be used for media apps, it works great if you do the same thing every time headphones are inserted, but not so much if you don't. I honestly thought this would have to be Tasker enabled already, so I figured I'd make separate lock screens (with playback control widgets) for when I'm listening to audio books with Audible and when I'm listening to music with PowerAMP, and not do anything if I'm using it as a headset, for video, etc. If SmartShift had been Tasker compatible, I would simply have made two profiles, one each that triggers when Audible/PowerAMP is open. Then I would have linked those profiles to a SmartShift profile, and the phone would have changed my lockscreen to fit the media player app I was using. With SmartShift as it is now, this is not possible. 

These are just two examples from my own usage scenarios where SmartShift's built-in stripped-down "Tasker" was completley useless, and at the same time an app that could have done it was running on the same device, with its plug-in friendly policy just screaming to help. In a way I understand why a $1.5 doesn't want to be dependant on a $6.50 one, but it doesn't have to be dependant to be compatible. This constant need to re-invent the wheel for each new app is hurting Android, and I wish that the kind of app cooperation that I'm running with Astrid and Tasker was more the norm. 

It wasn't just the automation part of the app that was disappointing however, but also the customization. You have only two types of unlock sliders, and they form the basis for the entire lock screen rather than just be another widget like on WidgetLocker. The ICS style slider I use on WidgetLocker was nowhere to be found, and I didn't really like the two that were available. There's a skin option in the app that allows you to buy more skins, which may or may not include more unlockers, but that part of the app outright didn't work. I got a message to wait for slow loading images when I entered that part of the app, but two minutes later the screen was still blank. I'm on a 100/100mbit connection, so I'll be blunt: if you cannot push a couple of image files to me in two minutes, I'm not going to stick around. Either way, having a few skins available to buy is a far cry from WidgetLocker having a link to an XDA developers thread with hundreds of them for free. Bottom line I couldn't duplicate WidgetLocker's look in SmartShit, which was the second strike for this app. 

SmartShift is relatively new, so hopefully it will get better in what I consider obvious areas over time. While I did hit refund after getting pissed at it for these flaws, I ended up re-purchasing it later on just to deactivate it and get notified of any updates. Right now I have WidgetLocker, which connects with Tasker and does what I need in terms of customization, but doesn't have profiles, and I have SmartShift, which does the exact opposite. Hopefully one of these two developers will expand to be the lock screen replacement app I need, and I don't really care which of them it is, but for now I'm definitely sticking with WidgetLocker. 

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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