Claystone Launcher 20 for Android makes its debut, we go handson

You're likely familiar with many of the heavyweights in the Android launcher world such as Apex, GO and Nova, but if you've yet to delve into the world of Claystone, you're really missing out. The free launcher brings centralized access to apps, contacts, Facebook feeds and news, and for those so inclined, Amazon's app and video stores. Unlike most launchers, which place an emphasis on numerous home screens positioned in a row, Claystone presents all of its content on one screen that you scroll through vertically. Individual sections such as contacts, Facebook posts and news stories are presented as cards that you can flip through. At the very bottom, you'll find a familiar arrangement of permanent shortcuts to the phone, email, messaging and camera apps.

New to Claystone 2.0 is the tandem launcher, which allows users to quickly switch back and forth between the Claystone environment and another launcher with a single press of the home button. While this may come off as a bit schizophrenic, the tandem launcher is particularly helpful in Claystone's current state, as it takes an inappropriate amount of time to scroll through the 3 x 3 grid of application icons on the home screen. Unfortunately, users of HTC's latest smartphones will need to contend with a non-functional settings button, which is an unnecessary eyesore that hogs screen real estate.

There are many features about Claystone 2.0 that we genuinely like, and it's certainly worth checking out for yourself. Unfortunately, Claystone still feels more akin to a proof-of-concept rather than a fully functional launcher. For example, while we genuinely dig the ability to quickly view news stories, the feeds aren't customizable. Instead, you'll find news streams from Google that cover a set list of interests: business, entertainment, science / tech, sports and top stories. Also, while Facebook integration is a nice touch, we'd like to see a similar treatment for Twitter. Finally, if Claystone is to compete head-on with other launchers, it'll need to integrate content such as weather, calendar events and email messages into the main interface. Given the current card layout, we imagine that each of these elements -- and more -- could be integrated quite intuitively. In the meantime, be sure to check out our preview after the break.

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Claystone Launcher 2.0 for Android makes its debut, we go hands-on (video)