Android this week: Hot home screens; more Nexus partners; Galaxy S III pre-orders

Even with manufacturer “skins”, Android tablet home screens haven’t been much more useful than those on Android smartphones, even though the slates have larger displays. One third-party software developer wants to change that and it’s using Kickstarter to fund the effort. A $ 5 pledge will get you a copy of Chameleon; an intelligent, customizable home screen app for Android tablets.

What makes Chameleon unique — aside from what’s essentially a “pre-sale” to guarantee money for the developer up front — is the superb customization it offers for Android tablet home screens. Think of Android widgets, which are of course, great by themselves; but on steroids. The entire screen can be used to show information from social networks, weather apps, your music player of choice and more. You customize what you want to see.

Even better: Chameleon can change the home screen contents based on where you are or what time of day it is. So you could create a morning profile for home, for example, with your personal preferences. When the tablet senses you’re in the office later in the day then, it could show home screen data that’s relevant to your job. The idea is smartly based on the observation that tablet users typically open up the same groups of apps at certain places and times. I love the concept and backed the project with my own $ 5 pledge, just in case Chameleon later appears in Google Play at a higher price. Here’s a demo video to illustrate what the app will do.

I was so impressed by the app demo that I tweeted “Google should buy this company, immediately!” Maybe that’s too much enthusiasm though and besides; Google seems to be busy at the moment: This week a report surfaced that Google will alter its Nexus device program with more hardware partners.

This is a major change from the prior three years as Google has chosen one hardware maker per Nexus device to showcase Android. HTC built the Nexus One while Samsung delivered both the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. With Android 5.0, also known as “Jelly Bean”, Google could offer a range of Nexus devices from HTC, Samsung, LG, Acer, Asus and others. Part of this strategy is to offset any partner concerns with Google’s proposed purchase of Motorola. But I suspect this also about doing exactly what I asked Google to do earlier this month: Take more control over Android. And like the $ 399 Galaxy Nexus available through Google Play, Google is expected to sell these new devices directly to customers.

Although Samsung is one of those Android partners that could help Google sell its own devices,  the company continues to dominate the Android scene with solid smartphones of its own.

The highly anticipated Galaxy S III already has 9 million pre-orders from network operators around the world and Samsung can only produce 5 million per month. With 290 carriers in 140 countries vying for Samsung’s latest, it’s possible that some regions will be waiting for months to get the device. I wouldn’t expect Apple-like lines around stores to get a Galaxy S III, but I do anticipate a long, slow global rollout similar to the prior model.

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