Android

A Microsoft app on Android? Try Next Lock Screen

Looking for a way to get information and instant access to specific applications to your Android lock screen? Jack Wallen introduces you to Microsoft's Next Lock Screen for Android.

Next Lock Screen

It should come as a surprise to you that Microsoft has created something for Android that's really both effective and beautifully executed. What I'm talking about is the Next Lock Screen. This app, from the Microsoft Garage Project, turns your Android lock screen into an information screen that gives you instant access (without unlocking your phone) to:

  • Calendar — get a quick glance at your day and scroll through upcoming appointments and meetings
  • Weather — get speedy access to the weather without having to unlock your phone
  • Quick app launch — one-touch launch of the apps you most use
  • Customization — configure the background, apps for quick launch, and more

I've been a big fan of Motorola's Active Display for a very long time. Next Lock Screen, however, does a great job of enticing me to switch. Let's dive in and see if it has what you need to make your Android experience as efficient as possible.

Installation

First and foremost, this app only works on Android 4.0+, so if you're running anything under Ice Cream Sandwich, look elsewhere. If, however, your device meets the requirements, you're in luck. Here are the installation steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store from your Android device
  2. Search for Next Lock Screen
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Microsoft Corporation
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing carefully
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept

After you've installed the app, if you don't already have a lock screen setup (which you should), go to Settings | Security and Screen Lock (this might vary, depending on your device), and set up a screen lock for your device. Once you've done that, when you wake your device up from sleeping, you should be presented with the Next Screen Lock (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Next Screen Lock running on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.

Outside of setting up the lock screen, you really don't have to do anything else to get Next Lock Screen up and running. Its configuration, however, is a different story. Let's configure this app to work for us.

Usage

First off, when you're presented with the Next Screen Lock screen, to get to into your device, you simply swipe down from top of the screen. You'll then be presented with your lock screen window where you can enter your passcode, PIN, or draw your pattern.

From the Next Lock Screen window itself, you can scroll through your appointments by swiping upwards from the appointment section of the window (middle). If you swipe upward from the bottom, you'll be presented with your Quick Launch apps (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Quick access to most used apps.

You should notice a drop-down indicator for the On the Go button in the top left corner of the Quick Launch section. If you tap that, you can select from At Home, On the Go, and At Work. This should indicate to you what this does — namely, it allows you to set up Quick Launch apps for specific locations. This will also change the background image so you know, without a doubt, which location you have available.

Let's take a look at how to remove apps from the On the Go Quick Launch section. Follow these steps:

  1. Select On the Go from the drop-down
  2. Tap Edit apps and tools
  3. Delete an app by tapping the associated x (Figure C)
  4. When done, tap Set
  5. Tap Set for On the Go mode

Figure C

Figure C

Removing apps from the On the Go section.

Here's how to add apps to the On the Go section:

  1. Select On the Go from the drop-down
  2. Tap Edit apps and tools
  3. Tap the plus sign [+]
  4. Tap to select all of the apps you want to add (Figure D)
  5. When you're finished selecting, tap Add
  6. Tap Set

Figure D

Figure D

Adding apps to the On the Go section.

Do this for all three locations, and your Quick Launch apps will be ready to be used. Note: You can only add as many apps as there are blank spots.

You can also configure what you see in Next Screen Lock. You can enable/disable:

  • Meetings
  • Missed calls
  • Unread SMS

It's also possible to hide the status bar from Next Screen Lock, plus switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit for weather.

To get to the settings for Next Lock Screen, swipe upward from the bottom and then tap Settings. In this window (Figure E), you can set up the app exactly how you need it.

Figure E

Figure E

The Next Lock Screen Settings window.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the Settings window, you'll notice the Hide apps entry. With this, you can prevent certain apps from ever appearing on Next Lock Screen. Tap Hide apps, click the plus sign [+], and select all of the apps you want to obfuscate from the app.

I will say that Next Screen Lock isn't perfect. I discovered that once you enter the screen lock password (or drawn the pattern), the app seems to remember it and doesn't require the security code (or pattern) until a reboot of the device. This is a security issue that Microsoft needs to address. I've tested this on a number of devices (using various home screen launchers) and the results were the same — once you enter your security password, it's remembered. What does this mean? If security is crucial to you, you might want to wait until Microsoft solves this odd behavior.

For users who need quick access to their information, Next Screen Lock is certainly worth trying. What it does, it does brilliantly. What it doesn't do, however, can be a deal breaker for users who are extremely security conscious.

What about you? Do you like to have information at the ready, without having to swipe through your lock screen or waking up your device? If so, what app or ecosystem do you prefer? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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