After downloading the new version from the Market, Car Home should launch like it always has. The overall look and feel is refined with smoother gradients on the icons, and much improved scrolling. The first screen is populated with links to common in-car apps like Navigation and Voice Search. The seconds screen has a few more, but also introduces blank spaces where you can add shortcuts. This was something missing in the old version.
Just tap one of the unused spaces to add Car apps, standard apps, direct contacts, or directions. To modify an existing link, just long-press it. You can then move it, or trash it at the bottom of the screen. If you add a standard app, Car Home will apply the monochrome effect is uses on Car apps to the icon. This is a nice touch that keeps the look elegant and consistent. You have 4 screens of 6 spaces, so you can load it up with more car-friendly apps than we can think of right now.
In the settings, you can pick a different wallpaper, or even change the color of your shortcuts. It also has the option to automatically start Car Home when a specific Bluetooth device is in range. It's a great update, and long overdue. Car Home is available for free in the Android Market. It might not be rolled out to all versions of Android yet, so be patient.
You add these like any other widget, just select Gmail Label Widget and you will be taken to the configuration screen. Here you select the account, label, and decide if you want the number badge to be hidden when there are no emails. Tapping on any of these will open the Gmail app to the correct label.
Gmail Label Widget is a simple app, but it definitely serves a purpose. We only with these was the opportunity to customize the icons a little bit. Support for the new Priority Inbox's "Important" label would be good too. Gmail Label Widget is free in the Android Market.
Not to get too hung up on appearances, this is still a very powerful application. You can add feeds by searching, pasting in a feed link, or by using the recommendation engine. Your feeds are shown in scrollable list in the center of the UI with the completely revamped controls at the bottom. The menu button allows quick access to update your feeds. In the settings, rules can be set for when to check for updates, and when to download them. You can set parameters like, 'check every 12 hours, but only download episodes when on Wi-Fi.' This can be done globally, or for individual feeds. This app also offers a great backup utility that will store your feed preferences to the SD card in case you get a new phone, or need to wipe your current one.
DoggCatcher supports audio, video, and text feeds. You can filter with various rules with the buttons at the top of the UI. Moving around podcasts in your list (a common task) is a little awkward, and we couldn't figure out how to do it at first. The option to move feeds is in the long-press menu. When you're playing podcasts, DoggCatcher can bind to a headset button if you have one, and there is a very attractive home screen widget as well. You can set some of the UI elements to only respond to a long-press. This is helpful so you don't accidentally skip to the next file, or move the seek bar and lose your place.
DoggCatcher is a little pricey at $6.99, but it is a must have app for listening to podcasts. We feel like the feature set and design is just that much better than Google Listen.
The app has three tabs at the top. On the left is your buddy list. This is populated with a merged list from whichever services you are logged into. The next tab is your active chats. This is where you can preview new IMs from your contacts when they come in. The last tab is where you set your status for each service. Tapping on the account name allows you to change the login credentials, while tapping on the status changes that.
When you're chatting, your messages show up in a popup balloon when being composed. This is a nice looking effect, but it currently blocks the standard Android long-press menu. That means no copy and paste. If held in landscape, you get a standard text box, so you can long-press. Hopefully they sort this out soon. A clever UI element that you'll love is the window shade style system for switching chats. When you're in a chat, there is a bar at the top, below the contact name. Pull it down to see your other active chat sessions.
One last interesting feature, this app has support for Google's Cloud2Device messaging on Android 2.2 and later. You can enable this in the settings to allow notifications of IMs to be pushed to you through Google's servers. This lets the app go to sleep, so it consumes less power, but you still get your messages. Beejive is expensive at $10. We're hearing Trillian might go for around $5 when it's finalized. Although, considering the feel of the beta, Beejive will probably remain the more polished option. If you can bring yourself to drop the cash, Beejive is a very cool app.
The interface is very simple. You have a big button in the center to toggle your night mode on or off. It also has some simple explanatory text when on and off to remind you of your schedule. In the settings, you can set times for the night mode to go on and off automatically. This is also where you set your list of "important persons" that will ring through when Good Night is enabled. There is a 2x2 home screen widget that can be used to toggle Good Night.
The premium version of Good Night has just arrived in the Market, as Google has allowed the developer's home country of Sweden to start selling apps. You can get Good Night for 25 Swedish Krona, or about $3.72.