Another day, another Android launcher alternative, but Cover claims to be doing more than making Google’s OS pretty like other skins promise. The new lockscreen uses location context to flag up the apps it believes users will be most likely to want – email while you’re at work, perhaps, but games and music while you’re at home – while learning from which are actually used to improve the algorithm over time. Meanwhile, Cover can even tell the difference between walking and driving, and it doesn’t need an M7 coprocessor to do it.
Up to six apps can be shown at any one time on the lockscreen, running in a list down the left side of the display. Exactly which show up is dependent on whereabouts you are: Cover uses a combination of WiFi and cell-tower positioning to figure that out, tailoring the options according to what the app expects you’ll be most likely to reach for.
However, that’s not the only contextual awareness Cover has built in. By monitoring the accelerometer and gyroscope, the app can figure out whether a user’s movement is pedestrian or in a car, and so differentiate between the software offered: Spotify while you’re walking, perhaps, whereas Waze might be more appropriate for drivers.
It can also monitor whether there are headphones plugged in, offering media apps as a result. Each different location or scene can have its own wallpaper and ringtones.
The other side to Cover is the “Peek” gesture and multitasking system it adds to Android. Peek borrows a little from BlackBerry 10, allowing users to pull the lockscreen to one side and see the latest status of each of the apps currently shown. A full swipe opens them completely, though if you’ve a PIN enabled then you’ll have to punch that in first (and Peek itself is disabled for privacy reasons).
As for multitasking, there’s an app-drawer which slides out from the right edge of the screen, showing all of the recent apps to jump between.
Interestingly, the Cover team says it has no plans to support other platforms, citing iOS’ locked-down nature when it comes to third-party UI modifications as its motivation to stick with Google’s OS. “Cover does things that are only possible on Android: it replaces the factory lockscreen, it launches other apps, it monitors sensors to detect driving, it automatically sets ringer volumes, etc.” the company explains. “It simply isn’t possible to build Cover on any other mobile platform.”
Currently, Cover for Android is an invite-only beta, so you’ll need to sign up if you want a chance at using it.