Jailbreak: The Lock Screen is a Barren Land (Part One)

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Apple blessed the iPhone 3G with a gorgeous, large screen. There is plenty of screen real estate, so why waste it with just a wallpaper, album cover artwork, or the date and time?

Having been a Windows Mobile user for six years, the Today Screen in Windows Mobile was the one feature I sorely missed in the iPhone OS. With the Today Screen, I could, at a quick glance, see upcoming appointments and know I have new mail, new messages, or missed calls.

It is possible to replicate that experience on a jailbroken iPhone. Today, in the first of two articles, I’ll talk about two third-party apps that’ll turn the barren land that is the Lock screen into a golden field of usefulness.

IntelliScreen

The undisputed king of the hill app for enhancing the Lock screen, IntelliScreen (Intelliborn, $9.99), boasts a long list of features. To simply say it enhances the Lock screen is an understatement. It’s really a productivity suite. To understand what IntelliScreen does, think of it as being comprised of two distinct parts.

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The first part puts information such as appointments, mail, messages, weather forecast and RSS feeds on the Lock screen.

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This part of IntelliScreen is highly configurable. You choose what goes onto the Lock screen of your iPhone, and you can arrange the order in which each information type is displayed.

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What’s more, you can launch the native app associated with each kind of item. For example, sliding across an appointment brings up a button to launch Calendar.

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For items such as mail and text messages, you can invoke a QuickView pop-up and read them without having to leave the Lock screen.

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The second part completely overhauls the way iPhone OS presents you with system alerts such as missed calls and scheduled reminders. This part of IntelliScreen, called IntelliAlert, is not visible unless your iPhone needs to notify you of a system event, which it does by curling up its usual view and revealing the alert beneath it. Alerts can be by sound, vibration, or a screen flash, and can be set to repeat in intervals.

In addition, IntelliAlert displays in the Status bar notification icons for each type of alert. There are icons for new mail, new messages, new voicemail, missed calls, call forwarding, and due appointments. Small as this may seem, having notification icons in the Status bar goes a long way toward enhancing user experience. More on this in Part Two.

A Rogue App

There is something that should be said about IntelliScreen. Newcomers to IntelliScreen should know that it’s an app with a somewhat bad rep. Many users have reported IntelliScreen to be the culprit in software conflicts with other apps, or that IntelliScreen was the cause of fatal crashes.

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These problems are almost always attributable to the fact that IntelliScreen does not hook into Mobile Substrate, the framework that provides third-party apps and mods to inject their code into iPhone OS. Mobile Substrate is designed to boot into a safe mode in the event of a crash, so that your iPhone does not become completely unbootable. Since IntelliScreen does its thing its own way — “rogue,” if you will — the chances of incompatibility with other apps are real and potentially high.

To date I’ve had to restart my iPhone only occasionally, after IntelliScreen becomes unresponsive, but nothing as serious as having my iPhone stuck at the Apple logo has taken place.

Lock Calendar

For those of you looking for a free solution, Lock Calendar (Thomas Moore, free) is a worthy alternative.

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Lock Calendar does one thing and does it very well, which is to display upcoming Calendar appointments in the Lock screen. While functionality in its first release was very basic, Lock Calendar 0.3 is a huge improvement, with some features that even IntelliScreen lacks. These include the ability to display some or all of your calendars, and to change font type, size and color. What I personally like about Lock Calendar is that it doesn’t require WinterBoard to run.

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Lock Calendar has a lot of potential for becoming a replacement for IntelliScreen on my iPhone. Its developer, Thomas Moore1, is looking into adding new features such as themes, customizable view layout, weather information, and notification alerts for text messages and mail. This is an app I am definitely keeping a close eye on.

Which is the App for You?

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IntelliScreen is a must-have app for my iPhone. It’s the kind of app you only need to spend a day using to appreciate how well-rounded it is. Telephony-specific enhancements, such as QuickView and IntelliAlert, are the kind of bells and whistles that power users crave but cannot get with the stock iPhone OS.

lockcalendarOn the other hand, Lock Calendar is an app that should be sufficient for many users. Its simplicity will appeal to those who simply want to put the Lock screen to better use. Lock Calendar should appeal to iPod touch users, too. In fact, I chose to install Lock Calendar for my iPod touch rather than IntelliScreen; without messaging, telephony or vibrating abilities, there is little else in the iPod touch for IntelliScreen to do.

IntelliScreen and Lock Calendar are by no means the only Lock screen apps available in the jailbreak world. In Part Two, we’ll look at a handful of other apps ranging from clever to plain weird. Stay tuned.

1 Disclaimer: While I do not personally know Mr. Moore, I was involved in the internationalization work for Lock Calendar 0.3.

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