A month or so ago we posted an article subtitled ‘How to supercharge your phone without even trying”, extolling the virtues of the best Xposed Framework module, GravityBox.
Since then Lollipop has launched and has begun the rollout to flagship devices across many brands. Xposed is not compatible with Lollipop, which means that if you upgrade—which you surely will—you’ll lose all of the awesome tweaks that made GravityBox so essential.
In this feature we’ve revisited our GravityBox piece and attempted to find alternatives that do work in Lollipop without the need for Xposed, be it root or non-root.
Spolier: we didn’t come up with alternatives for all of them. If you know of any, or if you’ve found a good replacement for your own favourite Xposed module, let us know in the comments below.
The first hack actually encompassed three tweaks, Unlock ring targets, Show battery arc and Enable torch.
Unlock ring targets enabled you to unlock your phone straight into specific apps depending on which direction you swiped the unlock ring. The unlock ring no longer exists in Lollipop—it’s now just a straight swipe up from anywhere to unlock the device—so this cannot be replicated.
However, it is still possible to replace the stock lockscreen with a third party alternative that can launch directly into your chosen app. A good option for this is Next Lock Screen from, of all companies, Microsoft. It adds key notifications to your lockscreen, just as the Lollipop one does, and also enables you to add up to ten apps for several different use cases, such as at work or at home.
To use a third party lockscreen you also need to go into Settings > Security > Screen lock and choose None to disable the stock Lollipop lockscreen. (This will also leave you without any security on your device.)
Show battery arc was a minor aesthetic tweak that integrated a battery graphic into the unlock ring. The unlock ring is gone.
Enable torch toggle the torch on an off with a long press of the unlock ring. It’s no longer needed now, since the torch function is a built-in part of the quick settings panel. Just swipe down from the top of the screen and it’s right there.
Statusbar lock policy
The Statusbar lock policy hack enabled you to swipe down the notification pane to view and clear notifications even when the phone was locked.
This has been replaced completely by Lollipop’s improved notifications system that displays all your alerts right there on the lockscreen. By going into Settings > Sound & notification > When device is locked you can configure what kind of notifications are shown on the lockscreen.
Customise quick settings
As with previous versions of Android this cannot be done by default. On KitKat and earlier devices it could only be done through Xposed or another framework, which means we may never get to see it.
Ongoing notification blocker
Some apps that need to be kept running in the background use a persistent notification to prevent the OS from closing the app.
In GravityBox you were able to hide these without removing them—they would still effectively be there, doing the job intended, but you just wouldn’t be able to see them.
There’s no way of replicating this in Lollipop right now. Most of the apps that use persistent notifications have an option in their own settings to disable it. Alternatively, you can go to Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications then select the app and hit Block.
This is a workaround that blocks all notifications from an app. It may work for something like Tasker, but is not suitable for messaging apps, for example, that need to create legitimate notifications as well.
Volume keys skip track
Our most used GravityBox tweak, and so the one we miss the most, it allowed you to jump back and forward in your music app simply by pressing the volume up and down keys.
There are alternative solutions through various apps, though having it implemented either through a framework or a ROM will always deliver more consistent and battery friendly performance.
The first solution is to check whether your chosen brand of headphones has an app ion the Play Store. IF the ‘phones have a one or three-button remote on the cable then there’s a pretty good chance there will be, and this app will add a whole load of options for how you can configure the buttons to work.
If there’s no dedicated app, the check out QuickClick from the Play Store. You can use this app to assign various functions to combinations of button presses on your volume keys. It doesn’t require root and does work, although the performance can be a little patchy at times.
Finally, if you use one of the Android automation tools like Tasker, AutomateIt, or our favourite MacroDroid, you can program the volume buttons to control the media app whenever you press them.
Resize any widget
As with previous versions of the OS, widgets can only be resized when explicitly allowed by the developer.
Most third party launchers enable you to resize any widget regardless. The best launcher in our opinion is still Nova Launcher, which can be very easy set up to look exactly like Google’s offering.
Navigation keys actions and Application Launcher
One solution for two tweaks, here.
With the Navigation keys actions mod in GravityBox you could assign extra functions to the back, home and recent apps buttons, accessible through multiple button presses. With the Application Launcher you could build a small grid of app icons that was accessed through a menu button placed on the navigation bar.
There may not be a direct alternative to either at present, but using the Home Button Launcher app from the Play Store you can build a menu of apps and shortcuts that are assigned to the swipe-up gesture from the home button, the gesture that is normally assigned to Google Now.
Because the home button can be accessed through any app, it speeds up task switching by enabling you to instantly move to another app without needing to return to the home screen beforehand.
Even if didn’t use either of these tweaks in GravityBox Home Button Launcher still counts as an essential Android utility.
Ultimate notification control
The Ultimate notification control feature was part of the paid version of GravityBox, and was used to customise the notifications on a app by app basis.
There are a few LED control apps on the Play Store that can fully replace it, the best being Light Flow (available in free and paid versions).
At the time of writing performance could be a little patchy under Lollipop, although we had the Lite version working mostly fine, and in any case was promised to be on its way. Once it is fully up and running it will perfectly replace what the notification controls in GravityBox, with support for different LED colours and blinking patterns for each app, as well as control over vibration and sound.
And finally, Quiet hours. This has been adopted in Lollipop, albeit in slightly lesser form.
Found in Settings > Sound & notifications > Interruptions, you can set a Downtime period when you will only be hear priority notifications, which can include Events and reminders, Calls, and Messages configured in the same screen.
You can also go to Settings > Sound & notifications > App notifications to set any individual apps to deliver priority notifications so that you still receive them during your downtime period.
Furthermore, hitting the volume key enables you to manually set a period for priority notifications or none at all at any time.
Nothing can quite compare to the convenience of having so many essential tweaks all residing within a single place, or the performance benefits of having them executed at a system level rather than via apps. But as we’ve seen there are workarounds and alternatives to many of the popular tweaks and mods from GravityBox.
As developers begin to get to grips with Lollipop we’d expect more and more root solutions as well, not to mention the possibility of Xposed eventually becoming compatible with Android 5.0, or the emergence of an alternative.
Have yo found alternatives to your favourite Xposed hacks? Let us know in the comments!