Yahoo’s Aviate Android launcher, which the company acquired for $80 million in order to own a piece of the growing mobile ecosystem, as it doesn’t have its own mobile operating system or hardware in play, has seen continued development in the months following the deal. The latest addition to this intelligent homescreen application is something Yahoo is calling the “Smart Stream” – essentially, a stream of personalized content that adjusts throughout the day based on where you are and what you’re doing at the time.
The obvious comparison is that Aviate’s Smart Stream is Yahoo’s version’s of “Google Now,” its competitor’s built-in Android assistant which surfaces information about traffic, weather, meetings, sports scores, flights, and much more, including information it’s able to pull from apps on your phone. But where Google relies heavily on data it mines from its own applications – Search, Gmail, Calendar, etc. and those you’ve installed – Yahoo’s Aviate is more focused on contextual information. That is, it’s aware of your current location and your activity, and then responds by customizing its interface.
As Yahoo explains in a blog post detailing how the new feature works, the app could suggest nearby restaurants as you walk down the street, deliver sport scores as a game starts, or pop up a selection of music apps when you plug in your headphones. In addition, the experience will improve the more you use the Smart Screen, Yahoo claims, as the app will begin to learn your behaviors and personalize itself to you even further.
While the idea sounds great in theory, in practice, it seems that a number of Yahoo Aviate users are not happy with the changes, according to Google Play reviews where the app has been downloaded over 5 million times.
The problem is that the Smart Stream was not rolled out as a new feature on Aviate, but instead took over users’ own customizations while also dramatically changing the navigation and the flow of using the launcher itself. If anything, Aviate users liked the product because it was not like Google Now, but rather because it offered a different and unique way of interacting with their mobile operating system – by allowing them to build out their own spaces featuring widgets they chose alongside related app collections.
Writes one angry user, Anne Baynes, “The best features were the themes and the left-swipe page that was smart enough (and customizable!) to update with the time of day but also allow at-will switching. Now that both of those are gone there is no reason to download this, it’s just a Google clone now.”
That being said, the idea of the Smart Stream alone is not a bad one, but it might not be one that current Aviate user base would want. It may have been better for Yahoo to introduce the Smart Stream-powered interface as a second Aviate app – an option for a different set of users who don’t want to spend as much time on customizations, but rather want information delivered to them automatically.
The new version of Yahoo Aviate is here on Google Play.