Back before my experience with Ice Cream Sandwich and the amazing launchers like Apex or Nova I found a constant need for finding a perfect launcher that fit both my need for functionality and my need for it to be polished as well. You know, one that was fancy but fit my needs for daily use without lag. Well when I first saw the preview for TSF Launcher and its functionality I became quite excited as I felt this would possibly fit the bill.
Well when the launcher became live I went to the Android Market now turned Google Play Store to download it. I gawked at the $17 price tag but made the purchase thinking I would play with it for a few minutes and then return it in the 15 minute refund window. Well as I got to playing with it I decided that I’d keep it and write up a review for you guys so that you didn’t have to go in blind in purchasing this.
In order to get a good feel for the launcher and how it worked I dedicated 10 days to it because honestly I feel that you can’t get a good feel out of a launcher or an app until you’ve used it consistently for a period of time. While apps may take less time, a launcher is something you use everyday so it requires some extra attention. So here it is in all its glory; ten days with the TSF launcher, my hands on review.
This is by far the most original launcher I have ever used. The doodads and widgets that come with, but as separate downloads, add some much needed polish and functionality to your homescreens. The weather widget is just a touch of different and I like the feel. The music widget adds music functionality at the touch of your fingers and I do have to say that I like the “Sticky Note” widget function for quick reminders and notes. In the time I’ve used it we’ve had an update that fixed the force closes and glitches I was having and I have yet to see a force close since so I won’t complain about that.
The update also added some toggle widgets that range from Wifi to Airplane Mode with Sound, Help and others in between. Another toggle they have is one that changes the density or size of everything. This means that you can effectively put a whole bunch of stuff on one page. The only downside to this is that all your apps look tiny and cluttered (see below).
Transitions between the homescreens took a bit to get used to in that you had to hit the bottom left corner of the screen (see below) to access the ability to move between the 4 home screens and “app drawer.” At first I found myself trying to swipe left or right to access my other homescreens and became frustrated when nothing happened. At least that was until I remembered how to access everything.
Once I got used to that I was moving between homescreens with ease. Everything felt smooth and that could be the hardware in my Galaxy Nexus making this launcher shine. I had no lag whatsoever moving through the launcher. It was after that though that I started noticing the shortcomings.
Okay let’s just get this out of the way right in the beginning. $17 dollars is a steep price to pay for an app. This is in part to the app pricing set up that is already established making high end apps close to $5. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t pay the price for a good product or an app that’s worth it but with all the hype and the preview videos I must have read or watched a dozen times, I expected more. For the most part though it’s because of the price that these shortcomings become so prevalent.
This whole launcher felt as if it were a beta app. When I tried to replicate some of the features I kept getting an error or nothing happened at all. For example I tried the replicate the lasso effect in various areas and I kept getting the pop up “This function is not available in the current version,” (see below). When I pay 17 dollars for an app I don’t want to be told to expect a feature in a later update or that it’s not available now.
I can look past that but the one thing that I cannot look past in a custom launcher is a lack of scrolling widget support. Most launchers like Go Launcher or ADW Launcher, heck any of the launchers I’ve ever used, have this built in. To not have it at all is ridiculous. I use scrollable widgets all the time between my Gmail, Twitter and Reader apps andI felt stunted at not being able to do so. It seriously hindered my ability to look at look at social updates, news items and my voicemail at a glimpse.
One last gripe I have is the process to set up folders. Rather than drag and drop and have the folder automatically created you have to pull a folder from the side-loaded menu then go to the “app drawer” and pull apps from there. I was able to get the lasso to work just right to select multiple apps every once in a while but I had to be exact about it and it was seldom quick to do. But that really is a personal gripe about it being a tedious process.
After using this for the past ten days it felt lacking. I expected to be able to write tons about how glorious and epic this launcher is. Sadly though I couldn’t because it’s not epic… yet. It will get better in time I assume and my gripes may go away at that point but when I spend 17 dollars on an app I expect it to be finished, polished or damn close to. It could be that I have been spoiled by Ice Cream Sandwich and that I am unfairly comparing this to that but let’s face it, given that Android 4.0 is the cream of the crop the comparison needs to be made. This launcher from time to time just felt like yet another launcher without any distinguishing factors.
For those of you that are missing out on Android 4.0 though, I would say that this would be a good launcher for you for functionality and folder support plus the polish that is there. However I honestly have no idea how this will function on lower end devices. Like I said, I found no issues on my dual-core phone. The lack of scrolling widgets and missing features is a deal breaker for me for the price though. If the launcher were cheaper I wouldn’t mind so much. You could get similar functionality from much cheaper launcher options and various folder apps and you’ll get scrollable widgets to boot!
I want to very much recommend this launcher but I just can’t for the price. The polish it has doesn’t outweigh its lack of functionality. As this gets updated that may change but until then I will recommend going with a different, less costly route. $17 is just too much for TSF as of right now and the potential it has doesn’t justify dropping that kind of dough on it; not for what it’s missing.