Kickstarter spotlight: Chameleon launcher

Seeing Android software on Kickstarter is nice, especially when it’s something that actually looks good. Chameleon is an Android launcher designed specifically for tablets, and the developer is now looking for funding through our favorite crowd funding site. Chameleon is trying to bring a new type of launcher to market by targeting high resolution (1280 x 800+) tablets where a single page of a home screen is treated as a separate home screen, with the other pages sort of working like separate home screens. The idea is that you then switch between these home screens based on what you’re doing, e.g. work, media, etc. This is similar to hub style launcher setups that are common among people who really get into home screen customization, but with greater focus on the independence of each home screen, and with the ability to automate which home screen is default by location, time, etc.

There are however quite a few problems with this launcher the way I see it. First of all, limiting it to 1280 x 800 makes very little sense in the Android world where PPI controls the size of a UI to a much greater extent than resolution. This peculiar requirement would for instance lock out the Touchpad’s 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 display, while allowing the Galaxy Tab 7.7’s smaller 1280 x 800 pixel display to use the launcher. Logic? None that I can see. I also think that they’re marketing the wrong part of the launcher by doing what they’re doing. Looking at the video, the tablet UI that they show off is beautiful, all thanks to special Chameleon widgets that are unlike anything I’ve seen in the way they make the home screen look. Those widgets are mentioned as a side note on the Kickstarter page however, while all attention is focused on the ability to switch home screens based on things like location.

The problem with that? Tasker already allows you to do that with a few different launchers, with a much wider array of triggers than what Chameleon offers. In other words, they’re trying to get funding for something that exists – and patent it in the process – while the product they have that’s actually rather new and extraordinary is a side note. Having the functionality in the app itself instead of in Tasker counts for something of course, but if I had been the developer, I would have made a bigger deal of the UI and focused less on the automation part of it all. Still kept it in there, but not as the main feature, and made sure that the launcher would also work with Tasker out of the box.

I’m also unsure if an Android launcher will be able to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter. Android has a reputation for having users that don’t want to pay for anything, so it will be interesting to see if that “curse” strikes again. I do want this project to succeed though, and I think Android really needs a launcher that’s truly made for tablets. One thing’s for certain, it’s been a long time since my jaw has dropped when seeing a home screen, but the Chameleon UI did it – which is why I think that should be its selling point.

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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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