Smartphones today are becoming increasingly aware. Aware of where you are, what you’re doing, what’s on your calendar. With services like Google Now, devices are capable of giving you information before you even ask for it: stuff such as traffic, sports scores, and more. That kind of predictive intelligence is what makes Android a stand-out platform. A new app, called Cover, is building on that idea to bring you a more contextually aware lock screen, showing you a handful of apps depending on where you are, what time of day it is, etc.
Built by ex-Facebook, Google and Yahoo engineers, Cover is a lock screen replacement—think of Facebook Home—that provides you with quick shortcuts to apps based on a slew of information. Say you just woke up; Cover will fill your lock screen with apps like email, Instagram, Twitter and more because those are the apps you use most in the morning. The app essentially learns where you use your favorite apps and then places them on your lock screen for easier access.
In the video below, you can see how Cover will put an app such as Google Maps on your lock screen, which you can then quickly access by placing your finger on the icon and swiping to the right. This swiping motion also allows you to take a peak at apps, too, so you don’t have to fully jump in; you can peek at your calendar, for example, instead of opening the app up completely. Six icons show on your lock screen at a time, but you can also swipe up to reveal a dock or more icons, which are glued to the left side of your screen. Additionally, you can reveal even more apps by swiping on the right side of the display, like hitting ALT-TAB on a computer, allowing to go directly to the app you want.
The video best demonstrates Cover’s capabilities; a particularly impressive part of the video happens at the one minute mark, when a users plugs his headphones in. Cover contextually adapts, bringing forward a group of music-focused app so the users can jump directly into their favorite one, no digging through folders or jumping into your app drawer.
Many Android devices already add lock screen shortcuts to your favorite apps, so in that aspect Cover isn’t all that different. What is different, however, is that Cover changes dynamically throughout the day based on your usage and where you are, making your device smarter in the process. The lock screen is typically just a barrier between you and your favorite apps anyway, and Cover makes it that much better—something that’s only possible on Android.
Right now, Cover is still in the early stages, and its engineers have acknowledged there is room for improvement. You can’t, for example, customize the app shortcuts on the lock screen, though that’s a planned feature for the future. There are also other minor annoyances, as The Verge notes, including its penchant for right-handed users, and some gestures conflicting with other manufacturer-designated gesture.
Cover is currently available through an invite process, but it’ll arrive to Google Play soon. There seem to be early battery concerns, though without having actually used the app, I can’t say whether those concerns are warranted. Once the app officially launches, it’ll be available for free without ads or freemium features.