Android Expert Profiles

How I Use Android: Action Launcher developer Chris Lacy

One of Android's most imaginative developers opens up about ditching TouchWiz, holding off on wearables, and setting up his home screens for maximum efficiency.

How I Use Android: Chris Lacy

Like most Humans Who Use Technology, I have a fair amount of apps that I depend upon to get through my day. Some of them are useful; others are entertaining. The better ones are thoughtfully designed.

But you know what? Not too many of them are actually innovative -- you know, truly original. Creative. Based on ideas or methods that are totally different from everything else out there. You really don't come across apps (or, heck, anything) like that very often.

That's why I love to keep a close eye on Chris Lacy. As I've mused before, I'm a sucker for innovative ideas -- and Lacy, bless his Australian heart, just keeps churning 'em out.

Name doesn't ring a bell? Here's what you need to know: Lacy created and continues to develop Action Launcher, a home screen replacement app for Android that isn't like any other. Action Launcher rethinks the way you get around your phone, with unusual features like a streamlined side-sliding app drawer and the ability to keep widgets available on demand without having them take up any permanent space.

He also came up with (and just sold!) Link Bubble, one of the most used and useful apps in my own Android arsenal. Link Bubble intelligently handles all the links you open from within other apps -- stories you tap in news readers, for instance, or links you follow from social media services -- and cuts out all the waiting and interrupted work flow that usually accompany that process. Like Action Launcher, it's one of those rare things that completely changes the way you use your phone.

So how does a guy who's changed the way so many of us approach Android use the platform in his own life? I thought it'd be interesting to find out, so I invited Senor C.L. to take a breather from his developing, designing, marketing, podcasting, blogging, and tweeting (GOOD LORD, CHRIS!) to walk us through it.

In his own words, this is how Chris Lacy uses Android.

The basics

Your current primary phone: After spending 30 minutes waxing lyrical about the Galaxy S6 recently, I've found myself switching back to the Nexus 5 of late. Certainly the camera is nowhere near as good as the S6, but that (major point) aside, I think it's pretty close to the best Android phone available today.

For me, there's just no match for the purity, speed, and fluidity of stock Android, and the Nexus 5's ability to run the M Preview is a big bonus also. Fingers crossed Google finally puts a decent camera in this year's heavily rumored Nexus 5.

What case is on your phone (if any): None. I prefer to use no case, then complain when the screens on my devices crack.

Your current tablet (if any): Nexus 9. By absolutely no means is it anywhere close to a perfect tablet, but I do quite like it. I think the 4:3 aspect ratio is more appropriate for a tablet than the more widescreen tablets that have been largely prevalent previously.

Your current smartwatch (if any): I recently finished a few months using the Apple Watch. I liked some things and disliked others. I have a great many of the same issues with all the smartwatches I've tried to this point: Namely, I find having to charge yet another device each day is annoying to the point of inhibiting my will to wear such a device at all, and I want it to be entirely waterproof.

I plan on speaking more about my Apple Watch experiences on a future podcast episode, but overall, I did not find it compelling enough to keep wearing on a daily basis, so I'm back to not wearing a wearable.

The home screen

A quick walk-through of your phone's home screen setup: I have just a single home screen, which contains everything I need access to. As you can see, I make extensive use of Action Launcher's Covers and Shutters, putting all my shortcuts at my fingertips. Any other apps I need can be quickly accessed via the Quickdrawer.

Chris Lacy Home Screens (1)

Chris Lacy Home Screens (2)

Reading this back, it can't help but feel a bit like I'm hawking my own product, but I assure you I'm being genuine! I created Action Launcher largely to service my own needs, and I make use of it extensively.

What wallpaper you're using: I often flick between Muzei and 500 Firepaper, but at the moment I'm using Minima Pro Live Wallpaper, which integrates directly with Action Launcher 3's Quicktheme feature. As the colors in my wallpaper change dynamically throughout the day, so too do the colors of items in Action Launcher (such as the search box).

Anything else of note (interesting customizations, special icons, etc): People may be interested to know that I basically never install a custom ROM or anything like that that. I find there's a lot of tinkering involved in that scene, and frankly, that's time I'd rather spend making my apps better.

Certainly I'm on a one-man protest of Xposed, simply because of how much time I've lost dealing with support issues where people come back a few days later saying "I disabled Xposed module X and it all works now!"

The apps

Beyond the obvious stock Google programs, a few apps you can't live without right now (and a quick word about why): Link Bubble is top of the list of course! Pushbullet is probably my favorite new service of recent times, with Timehop and Google Inbox notable mentions also.

I don't have too much need for a file browser in my everyday use, but when I do, Cabinet serves me very well. I've heard it said that Pocket Casts is arguably the best third-party app on the Play Store, and I'd have a hard time mounting a case against that claim.

Check out more Android expert profiles below or in the official Google+ collection -- and stay tuned for even more entries in the weeks to come!

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