ACCESS has released a new suite of apps for Google Android, including a web browser, document viewer, and home screen replacement. The company is no stranger to the mobile space. While the ACCESS NetFront web browser doesn’t get as much attention as it once did, it was one of the first third-party browsers for Windows Mobile that offered tabbed browsing and other features that were missing from Pocket Internet Explorer. ACCESS also launched a version of Palm’s classic Graffiti handwriting recognition software for Android earlier this year.
So what do the new apps have to offer for Android users?
NetFront Life Browser
The company’s new web browser features all the usual goodies including support for tabs, bookmarks, and history, as well as page zooming. The NetFront Life browser also has a unique user interface an done feature you won’t find anywhere else – support for screen tilting, not just rotation. In other words, you can hold your phone at a 45 degree angle and web pages will adjust. No, I have no idea why you’d want to do this either, but it certainly helps set NetFront Life Browser apart from the competition.
There’s an option to import bookmarks from the default Android browser when you first launch NetFront Life. Then you can pull up a list of bookmarks by pressing the box button in the center of the navigation buttons. This will bring up a list of thumbnails and page titles which you can scroll through, carousel-style. From this window you can also see a small version of the currently open page at the top of the screen, plus you can scroll left or right to switch between running tabs.
There’s also a scrapbook function that lets you clip and save portions of web sites, and a checkmark feature that lets you mark areas of a web page.
The browser supports Adobe Flash, although it takes a while to load (which isn’t surprising, as that’s true on most Android browsers). It does not appear to support pinch-to-zoom or other multitouch gestures though. You can only zoom by double-tapping the screen or tapping the screen once to bring up plus and minus buttons that let you zoom in and out.
NetFront Life Documents
This app is designed to let you read Office documents including Word and Excel docs. It pretty much works as promised. When I downloaded a few documents from my email and tapped on them, I was given the option to open them using either NetFront Life Documents or QuickOffice, the default document viewer on my phone.
Documents rendered reasonably well in NetFront, although text didn’t reflow to the screen when I zoomed. Interestingly, while the browser app doesn’t support multitouch zoom, this app does — although it takes a while to adjust text and image size.
You can also launch the Documents app and have it scan your disk for existing documents which you can open.
I found QuickOffice to be faster and more reliable, but NetFront Life Documents isn’t bad for a first effort. The basic app is free, but there’s also a Pro version which runs $1.99. It’s not entirely clear what the difference is between the two versions.
NetFront Life Screen
This app functions as a replacement for your standard Android home screen. It replaces the typical arrange-your-icons-and-widgets-on-a-grid view with a scroll wheel effect that lets you sift through program icons by dragging left or right.
At the top of the main screen, there’s space for a single widget, which you can select from a list of widgets available for your phone. The scroll area at the bottom has widgets for your browser, calendar, messaging app, settings, and a few other items. This area does not appear to be customizable.
When you drag to the left you still see the list of icons on the bottom of the page, you still see the same icons near the bottom of the screen, but at the top you have a list of all the apps installed on your phone. You can only see 12 at a time, but you can drag up and down to see another page full of apps.
The overall effect is pretty — but that’s about it. The NetFront Life screen app is a bit sluggish. I had force close errors a few times while using it. It’s not customizable, and it doesn’t really make it any easier to get to the apps you need.
When all is said and done, the NetFront Life Browser is an interesting app that might make a decent alternative to the default Android browser if you’re looking for a fresh interface and a powerful browser. I’m not really sold on the other apps in this suite.
You can find more screenshots of all three apps below.