Chameleon is what Android tablet interfaces should have looked like all along

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| May 21, 2012

When Google decided to officially support tablets with its Android operating system, they also decided to temporarily fork the platform to support both phones and tablets separately. The idea behind this was to create an optimized interface and experience for tablets, then to bring the two versions back together in a later OS version.

The end product – where phones and tablets met again – was Ice Cream Sandwich. While both have a very similar look, the tablet interface is better optimized for larger displays. There is a context switch, which I have explained before and feel is necessary and welcomed.

Phones are generally used in portrait mode and held with one hand while widescreen Android tablets are better suited for landscape and held with two hands or propped with a stand or case. The differences in their respective interfaces reflect just that. The notification system on Android tablets is more easily accessed with the right thumb than the pull-down notification shade like on Android smartphones. And the tablet home screen is much larger than the standard four by four grid found on smartphones; it's a seven by eight grid, which is better suited for larger, more useful widgets.

But beyond a few, small discrepancies, the two interfaces are mostly the same. And they don't really cater to the different ways that I use my tablet and smartphone.

I generally use the same applications from my smartphones all day long, every day. It's mostly used for communication: Gmail, Talk, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I also take a ton of pictures all the time. My tablets, on the other hand, are used mostly for consumption (and writing, of course). When I wake up, the first thing I do with smartphone is check emails and answer text messages. With my tablet, the first thing I do when I get out of bed (sometimes before) is catch up on news and RSS feeds, check the weather and look through my most recent Pocket saves.

An up-and-coming home screen project aims to change just that. Chameleon "replaces the standard Android Home Screens and App Launcher with one that isn't just more useful, but more beautiful as well." Currently, the project, which is manned by Canadian tech company Teknision, is looking for funding via Kickstarter. With 25 days to go and 2,492 backers at the time of this writing, the Chameleon project has raised $22,193 of its $50,000 goal.

The idea behind Chameleon is relatively simple. The developers want to create a launcher that caters to your needs with the applications and information you need most, relative to where you are and the time of day. You can set which home screen is more relevant depending on GPS location, time ranges and Wi-Fi networks. From the Kickstarter page:

"In the morning, you can set up your own Morning Home Screen for your tablet based on a time range that you specify. During that time, your tablet can be set to display your favorite news, social feeds, weather, schedule and email.

At the office, Chameleon can recognize when you are at your office based on a GPS location and display a Work Home Screen to display things like your email inbox, tasks, calendar and your latest documents.

In the evening, when you are ready to sit down and relax, your tablet can be set to recognize your home network - and display your favorite apps for movies, music, photo sharing and social media."

Currently, Teknision has a prototype of Chameleon and is aiming for an September launch, where they plan to offer the home screen replacement in the Play Store. Backers of their Kickstarter project will receive the Chameleon application and other respective gifts by August.

Quite honestly, the Chameleon project is an interesting one. There are already a handful of launcher replacements out there with support for tablets, but Teknision is definitely on to something. The interface looks more useful and optimized than any other tablet interface I've seen to date – except for maybe Windows 8. I will definitely be watching the progress of the project and will likely pledge, too.

That said, I have some concerns. The minimum hardware requirements state resolution is for 1,280 by 800 pixels and above, yet in the FAQ part of the Kickstarter description, Teknision states the "the first release will be performance optimized for 10" (1280 x 800)". By August, I will likely have traded my Transformer Prime for the Transformer Pad Infinity, which sports a resolution of 1,920 by 1,200. And the Transformer Pad Infinity may not be the only Android tablet with a super high-res display by then. I only hope Teknision accommodates for that in a timely manner.

Also, since backers are pledging money towards an application that will soon be a paid app in the Play Store, I'm not sure how Teknision will handle this. Teknision says, "If you buy Chameleon via Kickstarter, we will ensure that you pay only once and will have access to all applicable software updates." However, there are no gifting options or promotional codes in Play Store, meaning backers will likely have to purchase the application again, only to be refunded. It's not a deal-breaker. But it's not exactly a great way to handle things from a PR standpoint.

What do you think about Chameleon, readers? Is it the tablet launcher replacement you've been looking for? Or do you think it looks cluttered and clunky? Will you be backing their Kickstarter project?

Images via Chameleon Kickstarter

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