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Rise of the planet of the lockscreens

Mike Elgan | July 21, 2014
The humble lockscreen is about to become the most important interface on your smartphone, says columnist Mike Elgan.

At its Google I/O developers conference in late June, the company talked about lockscreen changes in the L release.

For starters, Google is changing how you unlock an Android phone with the L release of the operating system. Instead of touching and dragging the lock icon in a specific direction, you can unlock by swiping upward anywhere on the screen. Swiping from the left side to the right launches the phone app. Swiping from the right side of the screen to the left still launches the camera app as before.

If you've set up your phone with a password, PIN or other security mechanism, you typically have to input that before you can access the phone proper — unless you take advantage of another L feature (borrowed from the Moto X) that grants access without a password or PIN in the presence of any user-designated Bluetooth device, such as an Android Wear watch or a headset.

Best of all, Google is adding notifications to the L lockscreen. These can be swiped away or opened with a tap to select and another tap to open. Some notifications are hinted at but not shown for privacy purposes. Swiping down reveals these hidden notifications.

Apple's next lockscreen

Apple talked about its next mobile operating system, iOS 8, at its WWDC developers conference in early June, before Google I/O.

One of the most interesting features of iOS 8 is the ability to show apps on your lockscreen — even if you don't have the app installed — triggered by iBeacon.

OK, let's back up a minute. iBeacon is Apple's close-quarters location technology, which can enable your phone to figure out its location to within a foot or so.

The classic example for combining iBeacon awareness and the lockscreen, and the one Apple demoed, is Starbucks. When you arrive at a Starbucks location, your phone detects the store's iBeacon system, identifies the store and puts a Starbucks icon on your lockscreen. If you've got the Starbucks app installed, tapping it launches the app. If you don't, tapping downloads the app.

Apple's new "Continuity" initiative (which features technologies that will enable you to move from one Apple device to another — say, from a MacBook Pro laptop to an iPhone — and keep working on the same document on each device) also has an elegant use for the iOS 8 lockscreen. Whenever you're working on a document on your other device, an icon for the application will appear on your iOS 8 lockscreen. So, for example, if you're in the middle of crafting an email on your iMac and have to leave the house, you'll see the Mail icon on your smartphone. By tapping it, you'll open that same draft email and be taken to the same place in the message where you left off. The feature will work on most Apple apps, and probably third-party apps that support the feature.

 

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