I got my invitation email today, and I was super excited to try out this new launcher! I hop over to the Play Store closed beta section, and… nothing? Check the email again, and it says that… I have to install the desktop app to get my code? But I don’t want the desktop app, I just want the Android launcher. Why do I need the desktop app? My desktop runs Linux, but I dig out an old Windows machine and install Bllocdesk. So far so good, now to click down to the Ratio section and… it wants USB DEBUGGING??? It wants full developer access to my phone just to install a simple launcher? That’s kinda sketchy, and makes me very uncomfortable, but whatever. I plug my phone in and start the install process. Phone unsupported? But when I signed up for my invitation code, Pixel 3a was an option in the dropdown? Why would it let me pick a phone that was unsupported? Well, the installation didn’t stop, so I guess I’ll let it finish… Error, cannot read property ID of null. Great one guys. You have a pretty website but your install process has been thoroughly disappointing.
Pixel 3a is currently not in our list of supported devices. If you selected that phone when you sent us the request, it’s definitely an issue on on our side and we would like to apologise for that.
We may not have communicated properly what this launcher is. For it to work and be able to offer the complete experience that we want to deliver we need the permission to modify system settings. This permission is used for changing the phone’s display color to grayscale depending on the app, being able to change the color by triggering the assistant or to speed up animations, and this permission can only be granted through BllocDesk.
I just discovered that Ratio sets the animation scales to 0.5x. Looks like I can change them back, but can this be a toggle or opt-in feature in the future? Seems sort of strange for a launcher to modify these settings.
I understand the necessity for these permissions to get the most complete experience using Ratio, but I would suggest this to be optional. For a closed-source desktop-application, this is asking for a lot of sensitive permissions to both the desktop and phone, which I believe can put a user at a significant risk.
Another solution is to be transparent about Blocc Desk’s inner workings by publishing it’s source-code. I noticed that it’s a packaged Typescript-application (with source-maps included), so reverse-engineering is already made quite trivial at this point.
If Ratio/Blloc were to charge it’s userbase in the future (subscription based or one-time payment). I reckon making some of the UX/UI optional & be more transparent about Ratio/BllocDesk inner workings are going to be vital. Regardless of others attempting the reverse engineering, the current sensitive permissions requirement for beta and the lack of access to the processes do not give me any cofidence to pay my support financially yet.