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Orange Android phone gesture control: hands on

We’ve been openly hostile to Orange‘s custom Android homescreen and launcher in the past, when we’ve encountered it on phones like the LG Optimus GT540. Normally when presented with an Orange locked Android phone we just install LauncherPro (One of our best Android apps Top 100) and clean our hands of it, but a new addition to the software skin coming this Spring will make us think twice about that in future.

You see, Orange has added a new gesture control feature to its Signature homescreen, letting you open apps and shortcuts with a swipe of a letter or symbol. We got to try it out, and it works a treat. Read on for all the details.

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The premise is simple: you simply draw one of 27 assigned characters or symbols anywhere on a supported Android phone’s homescreen, and it opens an app or shortcut. You can set any app or shortcut that you can place on the homescreen as an action, and when you draw an unused symbol, it prompts you to set a shortcut to it. It’s not dissimilar to SwipePad, which lets you pull up a a menu of shortcuts from the bottom of the screen at any time, but we found it was much faster to use – so long as you’re already in the homescreen.

We tried it out on a Google Nexus One running a custom Android build Orange had to hand, and we have to admit, it worked pretty flawlessly, getting the right symbol every time no matter how small or large we drew them. The only shame is that it’s a feature built into Orange’s launcher, rather than a standalone app, so you can’t install LauncherPro or SlideScreen and still use it.

We’ve never been fans of network made Android software skins (T-Mobile’s is also particularly painful) but this might just make us reconsider. It’ll be available from Q2 this year on all new Android phones on Orange using its Signature homescreen – which should be most models bar HTC’s Android phones. Sorry existing Orange customers, no backwards compatibility.

Out Q2 2011 | £TBC | Orange

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