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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Defeating Lollipop Longing with KitKat Kustomizations

Even with a third-party ROM, I won't be getting Lollipop on my long-in-the-tooth Samsung Galaxy S3. It runs fine, doesn't give me any real troubles, gets app updates from the Play Store - just no operating system updates.

And of course, that's the issue.

Some of the new features of Lollipop - most notably notifications and smart lock - are missing from KitKat (4.4.2 is what my GS3 is running). And I need them!

Developers to the rescue!

Notifications

For notifications, I looked at a few options and first settled on Heads-up notifications. It was easy to set-up and use, offered a clean and smooth user interface and did what I wanted - mostly. It didn't offer multiple notifications, only the latest one. Feature requests were made but it seems the developer doesn't want that in this app. From the open-source repository:

"I ran a poll on my website a while ago, where over 1,000 users voted. Roughly 50% of the users wanted support for multiple notifications. [...] (this option should probably be implemented in a separate app as it kills the whole point of non-intrusive notifications)."

Since "Android app developer" isn't on my resume and my limited programming chops couldn't make heads or tails of the open source code, I needed to find something else.

Enter Floatify. This app does the same but allows for multiple notifications. However, you'll need the ProKey ($2.49) to enable all features. I sprung for it and am pretty happy so far.

Smart Lock

Like notifications, I looked at a few options and settled on Dislock. This allowed me to set up my home WiFi network as a trusted location and disable the lockscreen while at home. I previously used the pattern unlock but this app (and most others of this kind to be fair) only supports PIN and password mode. So I had to switch and get used of using PIN to unlock; not a big deal.

This app too has a paid-for mode ($2.99) with an in-app purchase to allow more than one trusted "device". Since I've set up my home WiFi, I can't set up my Bluetooth headset or car Bluetooth also without the purchase. For now, skipping the lockscreen at home is fine.

Another note is that when this app installs and activates, it changes the default lockscreen security to "None" when on the trusted network. This means pressing any button on my phone (power or home) activates the home screen. This can lead to accidental app opening or other issues since there isn't the intermediate swipe to get to the home screen. I tried setting the default lockscreen security to "Swipe" and it WORKED! Now, at home, pressing a button activates the swipe to unlock screen (no security). And when I'm away, PIN to unlock appears to maintain security in untrusted locations. Works a treat!

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