One of the unique things about Android is that users can simply pick it apart and replace important features with apps made by companies other than Google. In its effort to encourage employee tinkering Microsoft may have just stumbled into what could be the best Android lock screen app available.
To be clear, Microsoft isn’t actively working to subvert the Android experience with its own – at least not on a massive scale. Next Lock Screen is one of the Android mobile apps to come out of the Microsoft Garage. Microsoft Garage isn’t so much a product group as it is a place for company employees to tinker with mobile apps in their free time.
Next Lock Screen is great because it turns the lock screen into the productivity tool it should be. A swiping gesture lets users quickly and easily get to the Android dialer and a row of app shortcuts allow Next Lock Screen users to easily launch different apps. Important calendar items are always available and some apps are even surfaced on the lock screen based on user’s location. Backgrounds on the lock screen actually change depending on location. Toggles for Bluetooth and more are surfaced right there on the lock screen too. Next Lock Screen is available free in the Google Play Store now.
There are tons of other apps being made available through Microsoft Garage. For example, Torgue is a way for Android Wear users to replace the “Ok, Google” voice command with Bing voice search by just twisting their wrist. To be clear, Microsoft isn’t focusing its efforts on Android. The Microsoft Garage has apps for Apple’s iPhone and its own Windows operating system too. Journeys & Notes is an Android only app that lets users check-in at tourist destinations and leave notes for other app users based on location information.
The takeaway from this is really that – at least on the surface – Microsoft is experimenting with other products in the mobile space. As Windows Phone continues to trail other smartphone platforms, this is key.
Users like to think that the Microsoft’s relationship to Android is the same as Apple’s, but that’s not the case at all. Apple is committed to not developing apps and enhancing the platforms of rivals. It’s one reason we’ve never seen an iTunes app for Android. Microsoft under former CEO Steve Ballmer and new CEO Satya Nadella doesn’t share Apple’s disdain for other’s platforms.
Most of Microsoft’s core products have apps on Android on the iPhone. OneNote, the company’s note-taking application and competitor to Evernote, is available on both Android and iPhone. So too is Office Mobile, a smartphone centric version of the Desktop productivity suite that millions of Mac and PC users live in every day. This new Microsoft has a two-pronged strategy to users. If it can’t convince them to switch to its own operating systems and platforms, it’s perfectly happy making its services available to users on rival platforms.
In most cases the company does it for free, but embraces freemium models where it makes sense. For example, Office for iPhone & iPad is free for everyone to download, but some features requires that users purchase an Office 365 subscription. Office 365 costs $99.99 a year or as little as $6.99 a month.
Next Lock Screen and Torque for devices running Google’s Android Wear operating system are completely free for users to download from the Google Play Store. In fact, each one of the apps available through Microsoft Garage are completely free for users to download whether they’re for Windows, Windows Phone, the iPhone or Android.