Cover: the Android lock screen that’s transformed my HTC One

Screenshot_2014-01-09-14-12-01-462x344

Cover: the Android lock screen that’s transformed my HTC One

As regular readers will know, I jumped from iPhone to Android a couple of months back. This hardly qualifies as breaking news, but one of the best things about Android is how customisable it is. Don’t like the lock screen on an iPhone? The best you can do is email Jonathan Ive and wait for your auto-reply. Don’t like the lock screen on your HTC One? Just download another one.

Which is what I did. Cover, to be precise. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s transformed my HTC One. Cover makes it a doddle to quickly access your most commonly used apps. The software quickly learns which apps you use the most, and places a shortcut for them on your lock screen. To open that app, you simply swipe right and enter your passcode (if you have one); the app opens right away.

Screenshot_2014-01-09-15-03-54The icons carry iPhone-like notification numbers, showing the number of unread email or SMS messages. There’s also a Peek Mode, where if you slowly swipe the icon to the right, you can see the relevant app appearing below, allowing you to get a glimpse of email or text messages without having to fully open the app. Peek Mode is disabled if you’ve got a passcode set, which is how it should be: otherwise thieves could easily bypass your security.

Cover also detects when you’re at home, at work (once you’ve punched the relevant addresses into the settings), out and about or in the car, and chooses apps appropriately. Here in the office, for example, it’s detected that SMS and email are among my most used apps; at home, I tend to find Scrabble and Sky Sports bubble to the top. In the car, Google Maps and Spotify are high up the list. It really is very clever.

Cover doesn’t only allow you to open apps swiftly; it can switch between them too. With an app open, drag your finger down from the top right of the screen and another transparent app tray appears on the right-hand side of the screen. You have to be pretty precise with your finger placement, or you end up opening the Android notifications menu, but once you’ve got the knack it’s a more convenient way of flipping through open apps than double-bashing the Home button.

The only niggle I’ve found with Cover is that, say once in every ten uses, it allows me to access apps without entering the passcode (allowing for the five-minute timeout), which is a bit worrying from a security standpoint. If you see me in the street, I’m basically asking to be mugged. Another downside is that you can’t yet stipulate for yourself which apps appear on the lock screen, although the developers have that on their to-do list.

Otherwise, it’s had little or no discernible impact on battery life and it’s the most useful “app” I’ve downloaded for the phone to date. And to top the deal, it’s free. Give Cover a try.

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