Chameleon is Teknision‘s bold attempt to re-imagine and re-invent the way Android home screens look and operate. Their view is that the home screen is what you look at on a device 90% of the time, so why shouldn’t it be fully customizable, tailored to your exact needs?
Earlier this year, the company launched a Kickstarter project, accompanied by a demonstration video of Chameleon. The project raised over $60,000 — over twice what they needed — and the beta has now been released.
In this Preview, let me take you through the current version of Chameleon…
Widgets, Widgets and Widgets
Chameleon is all about widgets – but these aren’t the widgets you know. As far as Chameleon is concerned, a widget is a fully customisable and dynamically resizable window to information and applications. You can have two widgets filling an entire screen, or 6 smaller ones. They can be vertical, horizontal, or both. It’s entirely up to you; make it yours.
My current Chameleon Morning setup.
Arranging Resizable Widgets Couldn’t Be Easier
Rearraning widgets has been terrifically reimagined by the Teknision team. Traditionally, both home screens and widgets are a “get it right first time, or do it again” situtation. When you drag and drop a widget onto your home screen, you have to choose the size and configuration options which it will bear until it is removed.
Resizing some Widgets
This is frustrating, because as time passes, space may open up on your home screen and you’ll want your Twitter widget to expand from 4×1 blocks to 4×2, or even 4×3. You’ll have to remove the existing widget and all its configurations before replacing it with the larger one.
With Chameleon, you simply tap and hold the screen to enter Edit mode, grab the widget’s corners, adjust the size, and save. The alignments and position of the widget changes whilst maintaining the configuration. Some widgets benefit from having a lot of space so they can show more information, and they show less when shrunken down.
Editor’s Note: Admittedly, newer versions of Android (particularly Jelly Bean) have improved on many of these aspects of home screen design and widget placement, but Chameleon works on versions of Android as early as 3.2.
Different Usage Profiles and Layouts
One of my favourite features of Chameleon is its ability to shift functionality, presentation and organisation throughout the day.
Most people treat the ‘panes’ of a homescreen as a space to throw spare widgets and app shortcuts. Chameleon lets you do this, but a better featurette is hidden underneath: you can assign widgets to the panes for different situations and events. In the blog, Teknision explains that you could have separate Morning, Work, and Evening setups.
On the Morning pane, you could have Twitter, News, and Music. Drag the pane over, and you’re in Work mode, showing your calendar, emails, and schedule. Once more, and you are in Evening mode — similar to morning, but perhaps with Widgets to show what is on TV and so on. You can have as many profiles as you please, and they can be event-driven, so the time of day and your device’s GPS location can change the home screens automatically.
Another promise from the Teknision team is that future releases of Chameleon will support user accounts! This means that several people can use one device and not worry about interfering with each other’s preferences or seeing things they aren’t supposed to. Users will be able to add themselves effortlessly and without fuss. This is demonstrated in the video below:
Currently, Chameleon remains a closed Beta project. The aim of this beta is to have the testing community ravage the program on so many tablets in so many different ways that the program breaks, and people report bugs. This means that when the eventual release comes around (not too long!) the app will be as bug-free as possible.
If you want to get your hands on the software now you can still get in for the same price everyone else has already paid – $10. For that, you get to enjoy the beta, all the upcoming widgets and experiments, and the final version of the product.
It is important to note that the home screen is currently only available for tablets. If you have an Android phone, be patient, Teknision say that a version of Chameleon for phones will come out in time, with the beta of that planned for winter 2012.
Since this is a preview, not a review, I’m not going to give Chameleon a score out of ten. But what I will say is this: it’s a great and impressive start. If they carry on with the level of quality and presentation they have shown already, this is going to be one of those ‘classic’ apps that everyone will soon want their hands on.
Currently there is only a handful of widgets available, and many of the more advanced features shown in videos are not yet available to the public in the Beta release. Still, the features are being rolled out slowly but surely.