Customize your Android lock screen

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Android's lock screen is the first thing you see every time you pick up your phone -- so why not turn it into a function-filled information center?

With a few minutes of setup, you can make your Android lock screen infinitely more useful. Here's how.

Android Lock Screen: Meet WidgetLocker

Android Lock Screen

The best utility I've found for pimping out an Android lock screen is a program called WidgetLocker. WidgetLocker can put any standard widget right onto your lock screen, letting you see and interact with it without having to unlock your phone.

How could this come in handy? In plenty of ways: You could check the forecast at a glance with a live weather widget on your Android lock screen. You could control your phone's audio playback by installing a lock screen widget for Pandora, your music player, or your favorite podcasting program. Or you could get a quick glance at your phone's battery level with a lock screen-based battery widget. The options are practically endless; as long as there's a widget for the function you want, you'll be able to make it work.

Depending on the size of the widgets you use, you can fit anywhere from one to 16 items on your WidgetLocker-enhanced panel. The activities run only when the lock screen is active, so there should be no significant toll on your overall system performance. Even on my original Motorola Droid, with its relatively limited RAM and processing power, I wasn't able to detect any adverse effects from having the app installed.

Android Lock Screen and Security

In terms of security, WidgetLocker doesn't actually let you open anything; it only lets you interact with a widget's basic on-screen functions. For example, with a music player widget on your Android lock screen, you can press the "play/pause" or "next track" button -- but if you tap on the left side of the widget to change playlists (and thereby open the Music app), you'll be prompted to enter your standard Android passcode or swipe pattern in order to proceed.

You can also opt to prevent all interactive functionality by instructing WidgetLocker to limit your lock screen widgets to just visual use.

The only real problem I've found with WidgetLocker is when it's run in conjunction with Android 2.2's PIN/password lock feature. In that scenario -- unless you're on a phone with HTC Sense -- you'll end up having to swipe twice before getting to the

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PIN/password input screen. (The developer is aware of this and says he's actively looking for a solution.) It's a minor annoyance, but it's an annoyance nonetheless. You can avoid the issue by using a swipe pattern instead of a password or PIN, if you're so inclined.

WidgetLocker is available for about two bucks in the Android Market. You'll need Android 2.1 or higher in order to install it.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at eSarcasm, his geek-humor getaway.

Article copyright 2010 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

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