All of your preconceptions of what an Android launcher should be is about to be changed by block ratio. This is essentially an anti launcher, a gorgeous minimal launcher that actually wants you to be more aware of how much you use your smartphone.


So, a little bit of backstory first. Block is a Berlin based company that originally released the minimal Zero 18 smartphone which did come with ratio pre-installed as a monochrome interface. Despite the limited availability of the Zero 18 the launcher inevitably caught the eye of Android fans so now the team behind block has decided to test the waters with the release of their custom launcher for the masses although this is the early stage of development and is currently invite-only, even though it is in the alpha testing phase ratio is easily one of the most unique and most compelling Android launchers that I've used in a long time.
Part in thanks to the sheer thought that has gone into this launcher from start to finish it is designed to make you more aware of just how much you use your device, minimising daily distraction and all whilst simultaneously helping you to curb overuse with a much more simplified user experience considering that we are far more accustomed to tweaking tuning and enhancing our smartphones with a third-party launcher. This is going to be quite a departure from regular convention for most of you.


Ratio itself consists of two main sections of screens. You have a main draw and home view which collects all of your applications into distinct sections and the route view, this is a section that hosts a selection of widgets such as the current weather some conversion tools RSS feeds plus a few more of those on top it is clearly designed to stop you from diving into apps directly and gives you information at a glance rather than overwhelming you with options from this route view. 

You can even use a sort of mini apps like a timer viewer weather timeline and even get news kind of like how the Google discover feed collects them but this is direct from one particular source. We think this is definitely something that could work well on the pixel launcher if implemented in a similar manner so using ratio means a full change of your core OS experience that does mean in part that it might be jarring for some people out there especially those accustomed to having proper app drawers and a multitude of icons later in their home screens. 

You can swipe into the route view or stick with your main draw view at any time that's literally all the writer ratio from the outset. This main view lets you organise your apps in individual sub-folders which can be expanded and collapsed to help reduce clutter on your home screen view. The preset selection of app folders can also be edited and expanded with some further customisation available on app icons themselves. One notable inclusion is that of timers, for each selection of apps that you use all inside these labels you'll see the collated time of usage for the apps start within this small indicator makes you far more aware of what are the biggest time syncs on your smartphone and I think it's a powerful addition that makes you hold yourself to account far more than you would do if you look at the hidden settings menu tracker within your smother.

One big thing, that I think may irk some people is the lack of wallpaper. When using ratio as a default launcher the default is the dark mode but you can switch easily between the light sun mode which just switches the black backgrounds to white and as someone not too fussed by dark mode most of the time actually think it's slightly more attractive just because ratio is more minimal from the outset that doesn't mean the team at block want to stop giving you customisation options you can make it your own quite similarly from iOS from the outset.


In most regards you can drag and drop icons around to various draws on top of that you can even change the color of apps and even expand them in quick toggles although I wouldn't suggest doing this as it starts to get a little bit messy one neat feature is that you can turn applications and monochrome on an app by app basis this is a in keeping with the entire monochrome style but be actively deters you from overusing certain applications. 
If you've ever used a digital well being or winding down features on Android Pie onwards turning apps monochrome does make you want to spend less time scroll in a wasting time on certain big time hogs. Your phone social media being a prime example of course, that ability to adjust what apps you see in color helps in applications that essentially rely on color like Instagram, YouTube and so on using the option sparingly something I would suggest though and it is easy enough to activate on the fly as you can just swipe up from the corner of your display in the same way the activate the Google assistant on android 10 being able to lock apps using face unlock on phones that support it such as the pixel 4 is a neat touch.

You can also use in display fingerprint and physical fingerprint readers too for biometric locking of all of your applications.


The customisation of ratio doesn't go much deeper than that but given the design this is probably it to be expected if you want proper in-depth customisation than likely ratio won't be for you anyway.


The biggest impression that blocks ratio has left on me though it's just how much I use certain apps on my smart phone on a daily basis. I feel actually less inclined to use most of my apps but in some sort of weird paradox I found myself just admiring how sleek ratio looks rather than using the apps installed on my phone, with that in mind I'm really surprised at just how much of a difference a black and white interface has made others overall desire to use or actively not use my phone. I'm far more conscious of how much time I'm spending or simply wasting and that suppose is a positive side effect that block might be aiming for with ratio. 

At this early stage there are a few issues that sometimes make the experience quite jarring such as apps locking when the app switch is used this forces you to head back to the homescreen and then reopen apps although it has the unintended consequence of making me just put my phone down half the time, which could be argued is what block is still trying to achieve with ratio anyway.

Coming from far more fully featured Android launchers like Nova and lawnchair ratio does feel like a sort of anti launcher. It's designed in a way to lower your reliance on your smartphone and it just so happens that it is a fantastic looking alternative with some impressive features will it be hit though not entirely sure but it is a fantastic alternative that we can't wait to see fully release at some point soon.

Post a Comment