Let me start by asking a simple question: currently, what is the quickest way to switch between apps on Android?
If you have already opened the app, then simply pressing and holding the home button on your phone will show you it on a list of recent apps. (If your phone came with ICS, it may even have a dedicated button just for this.) But every time you restart your phone, the recent apps list is emptied – and sometimes, of course, you’ll want to switch to an app that you haven’t opened recently. In either case, you’ll have to open up the app drawer and scroll through the multitude of apps residing in there to find the one you want.
SwipePad: Hyperspace Jump is a much better solution. It allows you to “launch anything from within any app”, as the developers, Calcium Ion, put it. But don’t be fooled; this app’s functionality exceeds just switching between applications…
The app itself weighs it at less than a megabyte, so it shouldn’t take you long to download and install. Once installed, the app will take you through a quick tutorial on how to get started. Within SwipePad you should see three tabs: General (where you start), Hotspots, and Add-ons
The General tab in the Settings
This tab contains the few basic settings available, as well as a variety of information about the developers and how to contact them. You also have the option to view the tutorial again if needed. I will explain these settings later, but for now go to the Hotspots tab and select one of the nine possible hotspots (areas along an edge of the screen) to serve as your default “pad”.
That’s it! Now exit to the home screen.
Firstly, get a hang of how to view your pad. Drag from your selected edge (literally right from the edge of the screen) to the center of the screen without lifting your finger, and you will see your (currently empty) pad. Upon moving over one of the 12 boxes, you will see the box turns orange. Now releasing your finger will give you a choice of what you want to assign to the box.
Without the paid add-ons (which I will come to later), your only options are an app or a shortcut; so after selecting an app or shortcut of your choice, go back and look at your pad again. Now you will 11 blank spaces and one occupied box. You can immediately open that new app or shortcut by releasing your finger over that spot.
If you hold your finger over the box for a couple of seconds, it’ll turn orange and let you edit it again – so be quick! If you’re just launching it, the box will turn blue briefly before the app or shortcut is opened.
Switching apps using SwipePad
Going back to those settings: I personally have enabled the haptic feedback as I find feedback comforting in almost all the applications I use. I have also left both the “Indicator Icon in Status Bar” and “Transparent Indicator Icon” unchecked. Apparently keeping the SwipePad icon in the statusbar will help keep it in memory, in some cases where the phone gets low on memory, and if the constant icon bugs you, you have the option of making it transparent.
In my experience, even while using the phone over multiple days and keeping multiple apps open, SwipePad did not shut or become inactive at any point. Even after playing a few games, which were slightly intensive on memory, SwipePad remained active. Having the status bar icon might help on older phones, but I personally didn’t notice any difference even after leaving that option unchecked.
There is also an option to disable SwipePad, without uninstalling it or forcing it to close.
Functionality and Performance
The app does what it says; I can actually launch any of those 12 apps from within literally anything else. I tried it from the homescreen; from within games (Osmos and Scramble); while using Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and many other apps; and even during a call. At no point did the app give me any issues.
In the beginning, however, I did have some problems estimating how big the hotspot actually was. I would intend to view my pad but would instead end up swiping to the next homescreen instead. Luckily, SwipePad has a setting (in the Hotspots tab) called the “Hotspot size factor”. This lets you change the size of the hotspot, to make it larger or smaller depending on your needs. I was finding it too small for comfort, so I increased it from 1.0x to 1.2x.
The hotspot size factor in the settings
This solved my problem and it was smooth sailing after that.
Regarding performance: I noticed no change whatsoever in overall responsiveness or the battery life of the phone. That is not surprising considering that it is such a lightweight application. I am sure you can use this on your phone without any negative impact on performance or battery life.
The app does what it claims, and it does it well. However, in its current form the app is severely crippled by what it cannot do. You have nine available hotspots, but only one usable pad. That means that while you can launch your pad from anywhere, you can only have one of them, and a grand total of 12 boxes. There is no option to create another pad and assign it to another hotspot.
However, you can buy an add-on from the developers that allows you to do this. While they give SwipePad away for free, they offer four add-ons that truly make it awesome and eminently useful. For example, another lets you assign one hotspot to be a dynamic “recent apps” menu, completely replacing your current setup of long pressing the home key to view them.
All four of these add-ons are available in the Play Store, for $0.99 each. In order to really use SwipePad to its full potential, I would highly recommend you buy the MoreSpace and the Dynamic Pads add-ons.
Dynamic Pads: This app enables you to assign Frequently Contacted, Recently Contacted or Recent Tasks dynamically changing pads to hotspots of your choice. Swiping from that hotspot will reveal these lists which are updated automatically.
MoreSpace: This app gives you more useable pads which you can assign to any hotspot. Essentially instead of just 12 boxes (1 pad), you can have up to 108 boxes (9 pads) of user organized apps or shortcuts with this add-on.
AppLauncher: Using this app, you can assign one of the boxes in your pad to open up your entire app list. Using 11 boxes for your most used apps and the last one as an AppLauncher makes for a pretty efficient setup.
WidgetPad: The app allows you to overlay any widget over any app. I cannot envision too many cases in which I would need to use this particular add-on, but I imagine some of you do.
The concept behind SwipePad is ingenious and it fills a niche that is just waiting to be exploited: efficient multitasking. It performs well in a rather limited capacity. But it is this limited capacity that is holding it back from becoming a daily driver and an app one can’t do without. Knowing that these add-ons are available gives the app a very demo-like feeling, however.
With the add-ons, even just the two that I recommended, SwipePad turns into a beast that has the potential to really supercharge your phone and make waiting times so much shorter. With the add-ons I would give this app either a nine or a ten out of ten (yes, it really is that good) but for the app on its own I cannot give it more than a seven out of ten. That shouldn’t stop you from trying it out though, if only for a week. Tell me what you think!