September 14, 2014

App Review: Start, from the makers of Active Lockscreen

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I got the chance to review Active Lockscreen, made by Celltick, at the beginning of this year. It was a great, simple lockscreen replacement that just worked. While it was missing a few things, I was quite satisfied with it. The guys over at Celltick have been hard at work, and they just rolled out their newest app: Start. It’s essentially Active Lockscreen’s bigger brother, with more features and some improvements that make the experience even better. I had the chance to spend the past week or so with Start, and I’m very impressed with the upgrades. So without further ado, let’s see what Celltick has been up to since January.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-00-19-34For those of you who read my Active Lockscreen review, you’ll notice that Start’s design is very similar. There’s on large circle at the bottom, and two unlock targets to the left and right. As the icons suggest, these serve to unlock the device and mute/unmute the volume. Active Lockscreen had the same basic function, along with the four app categories that appeared upon dragging around the main circle icon. As I said in my previous review, this is just a simple design that’s functional without being too cluttered all at once.

So where does Start differ from Active Lockscreen? Well, Celltick took some time to rethink the way that information is displayed. With Active Lockscreen, users could download plugins that displayed in the center of the screen. These were mostly RSS feeds, but they were quite useful for news and content junkies like myself. One of the biggest issues that some had with the old layout was that it was too cluttered. Users wanted to have plugins, they also wanted the simplicity that the rest of the app offered.

Screenshot (01-36AM, Oct 18, 2013)Taking this to heart, Celltick changed the way plugins are displayed in Start. Instead of having a big scrollable list of articles and videos stuck in the middle of the screen, plugins are now organized into tabs that are place on the right and left sides of the lockscreen. Users can simply swipe a tab out to view the content, and then throw it back to the side once they’re done. I found this to be much cleaner and functional than having large widget-like things in the middle of the display. Celltick really improved on the functionality of Active Lockscreen, making it more useful and less cluttered at the same time.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-00-21-26In addition to simplifying the plugin scene, Start also offers something that I’m sure many users will be happy about: Facebook and Twitter integration. The lockscreen app comes preloaded with a handful of plugins, and these two social networks made the list. I’m typically not the type of user who wants a ton of widgets, apps, and plugins on my lockscreen, but I can’t emphasize how useful it is to just pull a Twitter plugin out and scroll through my timeline without going into the app itself. The same can be said for Facebook, and Celltick executed both very well. There are no big hoops to jump through, you just log in and authorize Start as you would any other app. Within seconds, I found myself browsing Facebook and Twitter from my lockscreen with ease.

Start simplified the plugin area, but it actually added more to other parts of the lockscreen. But in a good way. One minor issue that I had with Active Lockscreen was the fact that users not only couldn’t display their battery percentage (a feature that’s sadly still missing from the notification bars in quite a few stock ROMs), they were stuck with an Active Lockscreen logo at the top of the display. Start fixes this with an enhanced clock header, and users are even given the option to pick and choose which parts of the header (if any) they want to see. So I can choose to display only the battery percentage if I so choose, without bending over backward to make such a simple change.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-00-50-37Not only can users choose which widgets to show in the header, they can customize the size of each one. If you want a large clock, but a small battery percentage, you can do that. It’s built in, and it’s incredibly convenient. It may seem like a minor detail, but Celltick clearly put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that users have greater customization with Start, and it shows in the little things.

When I reviewed Active Lockscreen back in January, quite a few users told me that they weren’t happy about not being able to change the background in the app. Users were essentially stuck with whatever background a particular theme employed, with no customization. Celltick heard their cries and delivered this feature in Start. Users can now set their own wallpapers, further expanding the customization options within the lockscreen replacement.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-01-38-40One of my main complaints with Active Lockscreen was the limited portfolio of themes to choose from. I’m happy to see that Celltick worked tirelessly with developers and designers to come up with a plethora of new themes for Start. A quick search reveals over 100 themes, although I have a feeling that number may be growing as we speak. This is great news for users who truly want that customization, as Celltick is giving them even more options to make their lockscreen truly unique.

In terms of performance, I couldn’t find any issues with Start. If anything, it’s actually faster and more fluid than its predecessor. Plugins slide in and out without any problems, unlocking and changing volume modes is simple and fluid, and it just works very well overall.

Screenshot_2013-10-18-01-39-17Unfortunately, Start doesn’t get off completely clean. While it is a great app, and it improves exponentially on Active Lockscreen, I managed to find one single gripe that remains untouched. The four app “folders” that can be customized are great, because I can put up to eight custom apps into each one. They give me easy access to my favorite apps right from the lockscreen, and that convenience is surely helpful to many other users as well. However, the biggest complaint I had with Active Lockscreen was that the leftmost folder — the one that’s specified for contacts — was limited to phone calls. Sadly, this persists in Start, as I can only set contacts to directly call. While this is great for users who communicate frequently through calls (they are called smartphones, after all), it would be nice to see Celltick give others the option to add a contact to directly text message instead of call. A large number of users just want to jump into a message to their friend or family member without a lot of hassle, and Start hasn’t addressed that just yet.

In the end, I was very satisfied with Celltick’s latest creation. Active Lockscreen was great, and Start is even better. It manages to simplify the experience even more, without taking away the functionality and usefulness of plugins. It’s clear to me that a lot of thought went into this lockscreen replacement, and I’m impressed with the changes that have been made. With that being said, you can download Start from the Google Play Store for free by clicking the link below.

What we Liked

  • Same simple design, but even less cluttered than before
  • Slide-out plugins are very useful, but they stay out of the way
  • Much larger collection of themes to choose from
  • Facebook and Twitter integration
  • Custom wallpapers
  • Customizable header is a nice touch
  • Performs very well, no lag or issues to report

Room for Improvement

  • That one nagging issue with the contacts folder is the only real bothersome thing that we can find

Download Start from Google Play

 

Celltick Launches Start, a Personalized, Customizable Android Interface for Businesses

 Mobile Carriers, Media Companies and Device Manufacturers are engaging their users on their start screen

San Francisco, Calif., – Oct. 15, 2013 – Celltick, a global leader in mobile initiated commerce, today announced the launch of Start, a next-generation customizable Android interface. Start enables businesses to get presence and engage their users on the most prized real estate on the mobile device – the start screen. With Start, Celltick aims to democratize the smartphone market that is being dominated and governed by a few large companies.

Users enjoy fast access to what matters most to them as soon as they wake up their phone. With a single finger swipe, Start allows users to make calls to favorite contacts, launch tens of apps, explore their social media feeds, access camera and multi-media functionalities, view videos and pictures, and engage with the most relevant global and local content and services.

Start is different for each user. Start incorporates a recommendation engine that is based on big data technologies and uses collaborative filtering for individualizing the initial configuration as well as do ongoing recommendations based on user behavior. Nevertheless, users can customize and personalize everything on Start to make it their own.

With Start, Celltick enables its partners to have a substantial play in the mobile arena and the opportunity to provide value and monetize through the user’s lifetime. Carriers can provide a high value interface to their subscribers that increases engagement, creates a rich branded communication medium and provides increased monetization. Media companies may utilize Start to have an easy way to transition their assets from the Web to the mobile, consolidating them on the start screen while improving engagement and monetization. Device manufacturers use Start’s unique capabilities to differentiate themselves against their competition while ensuring a long-term relationship with consumers and monetization capabilities beyond the sale of the device.

“The average person interacts with their smartphone about 150 times per day,” says Ronen Daniel, CEO of Celltick. “We created Start to help consumers maximize every engagement they have with their device while ensuring that our partners can leverage it for the best of the ecosystem. For us, it was about developing a cool, personalized platform that provides all the relevant information for individuals with a single finger swipe at the start screen. The Start recommendation engine acts as a virtual concierge and is complementary to how you’re already using your smartphone.”

Celltick has already partnered with more than 15 partners including media companies such as Yahoo!, ESPN, iG Brazil, the industry’s leading mobile carriers, and a number of handset manufacturer brands to enable distribution of Start as of today in certain parts of the globe.

The growing Start ecosystem includes hundreds of themes and plug-ins that are readily available to download from Google Play. Start is available today for Android users worldwide.

About Celltick

Celltick is a global leader in mobile initiated commerce. Celltick’s Start is a next generation personalized intelligent interface for Android devices. Celltick is unique in creating and managing mass market mobile marketing solutions for mobile operators, large media companies, device manufacturers and large brands. Celltick enables its partners to engage and monetize their users on the mobile. The company drives billions of transactions annually across more than 140 million active consumers across its different mobile platforms in over 25 countries. A rapidly growing company, Celltick has subsidiaries in Europe, Asia, South America and the U.S.

For more information, visit www.celltick.com