9 Cards is a unique home launcher that can help make you more efficient and productive in your interaction with Android. This isn't the standard home screen launcher (you can't select it as your default launcher). Instead, it runs as an app on top of your default home screen launcher to serve as an overlay and help you better organize your applications.
The truest beauty of 9 Cards is that, as you use the app, it adapts to your usage so you can locate your most used apps more easily. Here are some of the features you'll see with 9 Cards:
- Easy app organization
- Highly customizable
- Share your app collections
- Add apps to collections from 9 Cards curators
- Open with same gesture as Google Now
- Theme-able (you can even edit themes)
When you first install 9 Cards, things seem a bit odd. This is an app seemingly stuck between a home launcher and a full-screen dock. I like to think of it as a supercharged app drawer ready to take your Android experience to unheard levels of efficiency.
Let's install and start using 9 Cards.
9 Cards is free (though you can purchase an upgrade for $2.99 to get more features). As you've grown to expect, the installation for 9 Cards is simple. Just follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store on your device
- Search for 9 Cards
- Locate and tap the 9 Cards entry by 47 Degrees LLC
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing
- If you are okay with the permissions, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
As I mentioned earlier, this is not a replacement home screen launcher. You might expect, at this point, to tap your home button and be asked which launcher to use (as is the case when you install any new home screen launcher). With 9 Cards, you'll simply see an icon on your home screen. Tap that icon, and you're ready to go.
Upon first launch, you'll be walked through a lengthy instructional "wizard." During this process, you'll need to associate an account with 9 Cards. Your Gmail account will work fine. Select that account, and tap Continue. You'll then need to OK 9 Cards to have permission to access the Android Market. Swipe through that (gleaning as much information as you can), and you'll finally find yourself in the 9 Cards app (Figure A).
9 Cards running on a Verizon-branded HTC M8.
What you see on the first page of 9 Cards is the Collections "cards" or tiles. Tap one of those, and you'll be taken to a listing of related apps (within that particular Collection). From there (Figure B), you can swipe to the right or left to view all of the other Collections.
The Productivity Collection.
From within a Collection, you'll find installed apps and app recommendations. If you tap on a recommendation, it will open in the Google Play Store, where you can install it if desired. The more you use 9 Cards, the more intelligent it will get with its recommendations. This is an important feature of 9 Cards, as it makes finding apps that suit your needs a priority. You can also tap the plus sign [+] — you may need to swipe all the way down, once in a Collection, to reach the Add New button — to check out a listing of Recommendations (Figure C). You'll be pleasantly surprised at how many recommendations you'll get.
App recommendations through 9 Cards.
You can also edit and rearrange the Collections tiles. To edit the tiles, tap the tiny overflow button in the top right corner of the tile you want to edit. This will bring up four icons (Share, Edit, Colors, and Delete). You can share a collection by tapping share, change the name of the collection by tapping edit, change the color of the tile by tapping Colors, and deleting the tile by tapping Delete.
To rearrange the tiles, long-press a tile and then drag it to the new location. This same method allows you to remove a Collection (long-press and then drag to Delete). New Collections can be added by swiping to the right and then tapping ADD NEW. You'll be prompted to select a Collection from the listing (Figure D).
Listing of new Collections that you can add.
The nice thing about Collections is that they bring together related apps in one place. This means you don't have to endlessly search through the Google Play Store to find something that you need (that you might not know about).
You may add a Collection and have no related apps installed on your device, which is fine. Just search through the recommendations, and you'll find plenty of apps for installation.
With 9 Cards you can customize:
You can also apply new themes or edit the current theme. One of the first configurations you'll want to make is defining your home and work Wi-Fi networks. This will help 9 Cards learn what you do at each location. To define these networks, do the following:
- From the 9 Cards main window, tap the overflow menu
- Tap Settings
- Tap Moments
- Tap Home (Figure E)
- Select your home wireless network
- Tap Work
- Select your work wireless network
- Tap the device Back button to return to Settings
Defining your Home and Work networks for 9 Cards.
At this point, it's a matter of using 9 Cards to allow it to get to know your habits.
I've found 9 Cards to be an outstanding means of working productively with an Android device. By arranging your apps and helping you find new apps, you'll feel like you've become a machine of efficiency.
Have your tried 9 Cards on your Android device? If so, tell us your thoughts about this app in the discussion thread below.
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.