Spark launcher

If you're getting tired of the standard Android look and feel and are looking for a new vertical sliding homescreen, Spark just might be it.  It's a home replacement from HipLogic, and it brings a series of panels that include weather (Android users go crazy for their weather!), news, deals, and social feeds from Facebook and Twitter.  We had a look when it was in the early beta stage, and HipLogic has made a lot of improvement in the speed and useability areas.  Hit the break for a download link and a walkthrough of Spark.

At the top of the Spark launcher sits the weather panel, which is a front end for Weatherbug.  By default it's based on your current location, and a tap will bring up your local four day forecast and other weather info.  Because it's Weatherbug, it's not subject to the random on-again off-again behavior you see from some other weather applications.  While the weather screen is open, you also have the option for metric units, and to manually add a new city.  If you're a fan of eye candy, you'll love the way it looks.

Weather  Shortcut setup

Next in line is a side scrolling list of shortcuts to application of your choosing.  You can include any application from your app drawer, and the list on your home panel expands to fit them all if you want.  This part turned out to be pretty cool, and it's scrolling is really responsive -- a light flick will send it flying. 

As you move down the list, next is your news panel.  In the US it uses CBS News, and in the UK it uses Sky news.  Like the app scroller, a quick tap opens the panel and you have news categories like Hollywood, Opinion, Finance, and Blogs.  If you read a story you find interesting, you can share it through your Twitter account, Facebook it, or snd a link via SMS. Each feed slides right to left independently, which is a nice touch.  It's a beautiful, and very functional mini-news reader, if only you could choose your own feeds or keywords.

Feeds  news

The next panel are your deals.  You can customize the location from a huge list of cities, and see the Groupon deals for that area.  With the click of a button, you're sent to the Groupon site where you can purchase right from the phone. 

choose a city  deals

groupon page

Spark also has your Twitter timeline and Facebook feeds displayed at the bottom if the screen, nestled under small panel you can use to update them both.  A tap on any of the three opens a panel where you use the entire real estate of the screen to see more of each.  Like the rest of the panels, scrolling through is very smooth.  

social  update social networks

Facebook  Twitter

You still have access to your app drawer -- the icon is in the same spot we're always used to.  Give it a tap and your faced with a vertical scrolling app list, and again the scrolling is really smooth.  HipLogic certainly has scrolling figured out in Android.  The app drawer has a surprise or two, it comes with stub icons for other apps.  Tapping them takes you to their respective page in the Android Market.  A bit of advice to the developers -- find another revenue path, because Android users hate bloat in the app list more than they hate broccoli. 

app drawer

Settings are pretty sparse, but they do address two very important thing -- what you want shown on your desktop, and give you settings to control data transmission while you're roaming.  I would have appreciated having the same settings while not roaming, but thank heaven for unlimited data because there are none.  You can also get to the settings for each panel from the main settings window. 

Dashboard settings  Roaming control

I'll be brutally honest -- Spark isn't for me.  If you're a power user, or just think you're a power user like I do, you'll probably agree.  But I constantly hear people asking for "simple and elegant" from Android.  If that's you, it's well worth a look because Spark is both.  The eye candy and well thought out set of informative panels really works as long as you don't mind the lack of options.  Spark is free, so there's no reason not to try it.  Grab it below.

 
There are 23 comments

dskwerl says:

I should point out that I do, in fact, like broccoli. But I don't like bloat. Getting inundated with things I have no interest in annoys me.

likwidsoul says:

I can't help but to think that I have seen an article very similar to this one before. It might have been at droid-life. Idk but this launcher really isn't the best. Not enough customization. You only get 2 screens which sucks. Plus its slow as molasses in January.

One_Deep says:

I'll stick with launcher pro

I love LauncherPro myself... but you should deff check out Go Launcher, and their SMS app. The launcher is pretty friggin nice, and quite similar to LauncherPro.

teggy6 says:

um dont like the idea of home screen, but i like the idea of the weather, news and deals, and more if aviable in one app instead of a couple is there an app like that currently? with out the home screen..

sumyunguy says:

meh...ADW for me

eric6052 says:

Not for me at all. Reminds me way to much of the motoblur I had to work to remove from my Droid X.

beandon says:

The UI looks good enough.
Think ill be sticking with my LauncherPro though

boweveljoe says:

I loaded it up..it looks like an awful Blackberry theme that shows calender updates etc on the homescreen...no thank you

cmorty72#AC says:

Reminds me of a WM phone, or a theme that I once had for my old BB Storm.
Interesting.. but not for me.
LauncherPro FTMFW!!

swimrage says:

needs upcoming calendar events and let me swap out the CBS news for my Pulse feeds
however, very cool looking. lots of potential

BSG75 says:

I like broccoli.

falconeight says:

That is one terrible free app.

jrz5024 says:

It reminds me of a mix between WM7's vertical "livetiles" and Android's love for widgets. Very cleanly executed, seems perfect for people like my dad who never strays from his main homescreen. I agree that the killer for me is the lack of customization. Integrate Buzzbox and vertically scrolling widgets (like for fb) and I'll take another look.

CaptainYoshi says:

Wow @falconeight that's harsh. For a FREE app it's pretty nice. While I may not use it long, I like the overall look of it and it's nice because by default my Dinc can't rotate at the home screen. It's also cool that you don't need to Root the phone to try it.

I really look forward to seeing future updates for this.

CR6 says:

I don't like the way broccoli makes me feel bloated.

gritsngravy says:

I think it's solid. I've had it for about a week, no lag on my Fascinate and super smooth. They recently updated so you can change up yr wallpaper. I dig the ability to post both Twitter / Facebook status at the same time, that's clutch. Oh and broccoli is the jam, esp with cheese sauce.

jimbohsp says:

Adw! New android user here, former webos. I as well dont see a need for bloat and having all this information on the homescreen. But is there an app that i could load that will have my weather and news feeds on it when i want?

1Brite1 says:

I just tried it and think it is another great app and it's free. Also, for those who don't like it, there is a Spark's setting that let's you select whatever you want or don't want to be on your home screen. So, it is totally customizable. If you don't like the defaults, change them to what you want. I love the weather, news, but unchecked the ads/facebook options.....and added what I wanted......and I have all the paid version of ADW, LauncherPro......and no, I don't work for the company! ;) I just felt that it needed a little clarification as I just loaded it up and from the comments, it seems that either you didn't know or didn't try adjusting the settings just like with the other launchers.....

spunkmeijer says:

This is a pretty good. It's actually faster then the default interface on my droid x.

jelly roll says:

Adw ex FTW!

calbrs04 says:

I like the idea, but i wish it could have my calendar show up and maybe be able to scroll left and right 1 screen for something like a picture.

anotherdroid says:

fortunately, i don't live in either the US or the UK so i can't possibly use this seemingly pile of install-it-slide-around-uninstall-it.