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Android UI head is only a third satisfied with Android

Posted by wicked September - 19 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off

Android has come a long way from its inception almost four years ago. Google has made amazing progress with its mobile operating system and they wowed us with 4.1 Jelly Bean in June. However, Android still isn’t even close to where Google wants it to be. Senior Director of Android User Experience Matias Duarte even said it himself.

In response to a comment of criticism on Duarte’s Google+ page, the Google boss replied agreeing with the critic. “It’s true, we still have a lot of work to do. Personally I feel like I’ve gotten only about a third of the way to where I want to be with regards to consistency, responsiveness, and polish,” said Duarte.

Jelly Bean was initially announced in late-June, and we particularly liked it, but there were obviously a few things that we would’ve done differently. With that said, we know where Duarte is coming from and we’re excited to see what Google comes up with during the remaining two-thirds of refinement.

Of course, probably one of the most popular gripes of Android is its many versions still floating around on different devices. While very few phones and tablets are running Google latest version, a lot of users are still stuck on Gingerbread, Honeycomb, or Ice Cream Sandwich.



Chameleon Kicks off New Kickstarter Project, Reaches Goal the First Day

Posted by wicked June - 17 - 2012 - Sunday Comments Off

Earlier this month, we stated that the Chameleon Tablet Kickstarter project had to be restarted. It hit a road block when one of its original creators abruptly left the team which created funding issues and inevitably caused them to cancel the Kickstarter project for the time being. But now, I’m happy to say that the project is back on and the company is more determined than ever to get this home launcher to the point that they imagined it could be. You can now pledge money to the project via their new Kickstarter page.

The UI looks fantastic and very intuitive. What I like about it the most is that it looks very similar to Google’s holo UI, which makes it blend in real nicely with Honeycomb or ICS on an Android tablet. Chameleon looks wonderful and very aesthetically pleasing so if you haven’t checked it out yet you really should. Head over to the source link to learn more about it!

source: Kickstarter



Google shows their inspiration and exploration of Android 4.0 ICS design [Video]

Posted by wicked June - 12 - 2012 - Tuesday Comments Off

Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS is up for an award for the overall user experience in Android 4.0 ICS at the Parsons School of Design 2012 UX Awards. The team at AndroidDevelopers put together a neat little video showing off Android 4.0, as well as their inspiration and exploratory design and graphic elements of our favorite mobile OS.

The screenshot above is just one of many aspects of the video that caught my attention. I couldn’t help but wonder what ICS could have been, and what parts of this we still might see in the future with Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean and beyond. The entire video is awesome for Android fans but around the 2:10 mark they start showing us a look at their exploration and ideas as they designed Ice Cream Sandwich.

My image above came from the 2:30 mark where the Android Developers wanted to show some of the visual and motion graphics that were possible with Android 4.0 ICS, but for whatever reason didn’t make the cut. The way the icons fly out of the ground, bounce when in use and flow so smooth really is neat. I’d love to see this is future versions of Android.

We here at Android Community obviously love Ice Cream Sandwich, and I’m sure many of you do too. The simplistic design, smooth animations, and amazing multitasking are all about what makes Ice Cream Sandwich’s UX one of the best. Whether it wins or not, ICS is a winner in our book.

[via Droid-Life]



Huawei breaks hearts, plans custom Android UI

Posted by wicked May - 28 - 2012 - Monday Comments Off

You know what I really like about Huawei? Despite being a definite up-and-comer in the Android world (in Europe and Asia, anyway – here they keep getting the shaft) they’ve left Android alone for the most part. Even on their high-end devices like the Acend P1 S, you’ll find an interface that is mostly stock – and with Ice Cream Sandwich, what more do you need? Yes, Huawei is truly an example of what an Android manufacturer should be: a hardware vendor that lets Google’s software shine on its own.

…oh, for cryin’ out loud.

In case you Chinese is rusty, the image above says that Huawei will unveil its own custom interface, dubbed “Emotion UI”, in a press conference on June 9th. Phones released in July and after will sport this new interface, though Huawei hasn’t said if it will be updating current phones and tablets to bring in the new UI. The announcement above doesn’t actually show off the changes – the Ascend P1 S looks like it’s running stock Ice Cream Sandwich, as God intended.

Huawei says it’s listened to its customers while developing the new interface. They haven’t been listening to us, because as indicated above, we think that clean Android is the best Android. With the update to Ice Cream Sandwich, we don’t see why anyone needs a customized interface (we’re looking at you, HTC. And Samsung. And Motorola. And Sony.) The reason given by most analysts is “differentiation”, adding something to your phone that your competitors don’t have. Well Huawei, congratulations: you’re set to add needless resource hogging, extra steps for simple processes, and a complete lack of enthusiasm from yours truly.

[via UnwiredView]



Google’s original Android tablet UI design revealed

Posted by wicked April - 25 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off

In case you haven’t been following along today. Google and Oracle are still knee-deep in battle and their lawyers have their work cut out for them. Lucky for us the lawsuit by Oracle is revealing all sorts of juicy information. From the original “Google Phone” in 2006, to the first ever revenue numbers of Android alone and more. All that and more can be seen below but check out this photo from 2010 revealing Google’s initial tablet UI for Android.

All the details provided here and from previous reports today (linked to below) are coming from slides released from the lawsuit. The image you see above is an early look of what appears to be a FroYo and Gingerbread based UI for tablets, with a few small ideas similar to what we know and have seen now with Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich. I for one actually like this more animated and casual design, although the new Holo theme is great too.

From the large widgets, to the simple multitask button on bottom and more. The quick icons for Gtalk, Gmail and Calender on the bottom left are interesting, and have since been replaced with on-screen navigation buttons. I actually wouldn’t mind a few of those with 4.0 but I’m happy with Ice Cream Sandwich just how it is too.

Looking over the data Google expected to sell around .5 million tablets in 2010, with those numbers increasing to over 20 million tablet sales by 2012. They also were forecasting to own almost a third of the tablet market by the end of 2012. Below you’ll see our coverage that in 2011 Google had around 27% of the tablet market – so that forecast seems quite accurate.

Pretty interesting results from today regarding the original Google Phone, Android’s earning, and even this tablet UI design. What do you guys think of the results, and do you like that tablet UI from 2010?

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[Images via Oracle vs Google trial exhibit]

 

Ah yes, the variation of the Android platform. Some people love it while others hate it. Let’s face the cold, hard truth about Android: it’s an open-source platform in which any individual can take the basic source, tweak it a little and truly make it their own. Similarly manufacturers can take the basic open source and throw it onto all sorts of devices with all sorts of hardware configurations. What do both amateur developers and established manufacturers of Android devices have in common? Each want to develop and create an end result or product that is “unique” and more or less different from its competition, while also providing a need for its customers and consumers. Amateur developers have a different perspective from both the engineers/developers at Google and OEMS– that’s to take the Android platform which notoriously omits items such as built-in functions like the ability to take screenshots and make it available for all. OEMs and manufacturers conversely see the bare Android platform as too basic and will slap on enhanced features such as social communication widgets. Independent/amateur developers and OEMs/manufacturers have different visions, but again— they’re looking at the bigger goal of answering what they perceive to be Android customer’s need ands try to address them.

What Android users truly want or need can be subjective and there’s no real right or wrong answer. However, we all believe Android’s benefit to users involve the freedom of choice. There are a myriad of options prospective and interested consumers can look into when it comes to manufacturers. For those who want a simple phone which allows for web browsing, messaging (texting and Twitter) and basic phone calls, there are a ton of budget options such as the Pantech Burst smartphone. For others who are interested in watching videos, listening to music or gaming on the go, there are other devices which feature dual-core processors with built-in GPUs such as the HTC Rezound. Whatever it is a prospective user is interested in, they’ll find what they want. Now suppose I ask this question to you: considering Android is truly an open platform, is it fair that manufacturers generally market devices with various hardware profiles, but only one UI option? More importantly, what is the benefit of having an Android device with a custom UI and would manufacturers and ultimately consumers be better off having the option to choose between a device with a custom skin or no skin at all? I personally believe that not only is it unfair for OEMs to market most devices with custom skins, but also marketing devices with no skins may be a financial benefit as well as positive perception from the various levels of the Android community.

Let’s start off with a quick rundown of what stock or “vanilla” Android is and its purpose to Android users. Stock Android is a direct reflection of the Unix (Linux) operating system— a free, open source-based ecosystem at its most basic level. This basic level of the OS includes the bare minimum: a simple to use user interface complimented by basic Android apps and functions which co-exist with a device’s hardware in pure harmony. The basic level of the Android OS is meant to be cracked open and developed further whether it’s to improve aesthetics like icons, launchers, transitions, etc. In addition, devices with vanilla Android generally come with unlocked bootloaders (bootloaders are basically sections of your phone’s storage with specific partitions) or are easily to unlock with few steps. Amateur users and developers can crack open the bootloader and manipulate or change the Android OS. So in essence, vanilla Android is developer-friendly. It welcomes those who love to tinker and encourages further development of the OS which in turn— helps with its evolution. There’s also another side though: while developers appreciate vanilla Android most, there are more than a few Android users (including yours truly) who aren’t focused on development of Android— but rather interested in taking an Android device and making it “truly theirs”. This means taking the basic Android UI and throwing on an allotment of add-ons like say widgets and icons or changing the appearance of the UI to help those type of users distinguish their Android device from another Android device.

(Photo courtesy of Android Tapp)

While many Android users have an idea of their intentions for Androids, OEMs and manufacturers have another idea, so let’s talk about what a custom UI is. They are focused on addressing the perceived trends of today and tomorrow— the fastest, latest hardware in its devices, but keeping things especially simple and social-centric at the same time by mandating custom UI layers or “skins” on their devices. Let me explain: most consumers are not aware of the performance or benchmarks in devices— nor should they be aware. If an average consumer hears dual or quad-core, lots of RAM, high megapixel camera, that will raise their antennas and spark their interest. Similarly, the average consumer is focused and interested on what’s visually appealing– and we all know nothing is more appealing than a bunch of useless and resource-hogging icons and widgets on a device which distinguish it from the competition to the average consumer. Let’s face it— Apple’s iOS is one hell of a nice UI, yet it’s simple, clean and visually effective. Vanilla Android is well… generally not so attractive to the human eye (although Android 4.0 is a step in the right direction). The major OEMs realize this and take the basic platform of the Android OS, jazz it up a little bit by including a skin such as Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense UI and Motorola’s (MOTO)BLUR. Now that you have an idea of what a skin is, let’s talk about what type of devices have which version of the Android ecosystem.

 

There are few devices which operate on vanilla Android. The general thought is Google developer devices— specifically the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and XOOM WiFi— are the only ones that operate on vanilla Android. However you’d surprised at the number of devices that also run stock Android despite them being sold by OEMs such as the T-Mobile LG G2X (also known as the LG Optimus 2X) and the Motorola Triumph prepaid smartphone on Virgin Mobile. It’s no secret that Google developer devices have stock Android because well— you can’t really tweak and tinker on Android as easily if there’s some pesky custom UI lurking on top. However, the fact there are a handful of devices with vanilla Android sold by OEMs should raise the question: why are these devices being sold with basic Android? Is it because it would be cheaper to developer this type of device? My opinion in a simple word: yes.

Now let’s get to the inclusion of custom skins on the vast majority of Android devices and why they are there. As indicated before, manufacturers need to take the basic Android platform and make it better which will help them make a profit. That means having Samsung for example, take Android and include some useful functions like its Task Manager which I believe is away and by far one of the best custom UI utilities out there. Or it means HTC using its Sense platform to make Android visually attractive by including such gorgeous widgets as its famed Clock and Weather widget. These devices with the custom skins coupled by the fact they are on tailor-made devices consumers make it a no-brainer for the manufacturers. They are achieving Google’s ultimate dream which is to simply take Android and evolve it while simultaneously getting its reach to as many people as possible. In addition, senior executives will be quick to point out its the various wireless carriers who prefer their devices to be customized— likely because of an easy means of including carrier-branded junk apps in addition to a manufacturer’s custom UI which again– is set to enhance a user’s experience on their mobile network. While the various OEMs and manufacturers provide users with a custom and unique Android experience, there are major pluses to manufacturing and marketing stock Android devices to consumers.

There are significant technical and especially financial benefits of having stock Android devices. The technical benefits are simple: the hardware of various Android devices would have freed up resources and not be overwhelmed due to a skin’s demand for constantly processing data in the UI. That means users would be able to see things such as improved transitions and even different applications opening up faster. Take this for example: you get a new device— even if it’s a single-core chip— and you flick through various homescreens or scroll up and down only to find it’s a millisecond behind with responsiveness when there’s a skin operating. You then find a launcher alternative such as ADW Launcher or slap on a custom ROM which takes out the unnecessary features of most skins only to find your device moves significantly faster? Yup that’s just the benefit of your device operating as it should at an optimal level. You see Apple’s iOS constantly being highlighted and featured in commercial advertisements, so why don’t Android OEMs highlight their custom “enhancements” on television ads specifically? My take— the skins stink. The skins are awful and not as appealing as the simple and basic layout Apple has.

It doesn’t stop there either folks. Stock Android devices generally get updates in a timely and immediate manner. Conversely, everyone should realize that when Google releases a new version of its Android software, it takes OEMs up to 18 months to push new Android updates to its devices due to you guessed it— the custom skins that have to be modified with the new Android software which is understandably no easy task. In addition, the mobile carriers must sign off and approve the proposed updates with extensive and costly testing before the update can be pushed out to its customers. All of these aspects of development and research is not cheap by any means and is very costly. Instead of wasting potentially millions of dollars on the R&D of custom skins on advanced devices, manufacturers need to take advantage of stock Android on their devices. Once that is done, they wouldn’t be so focused on spending millions on marketing and advertising on rolling out useless updates, but instead focusing on the quality and improvements of its device’s hardware. Moreover, if OEMs and its carriers are trying to brand devices as unique, why have multiple devices of a brand be based off the same skin? These devices with the same skins, but different hardware and price points make it confusing for Android users to choose… which ultimately puts the devices on the chopping board within months after not selling well and putting pressure on the manufacturers to push out more phones which also will be a bust and won’t sell well. It’s just a sad cycle and not what the effect of the Android platform should be.

And that’s the bigger picture everyone: OEMs need to take a step back and think about what Android is for consumers. The basic answer is that Android is a platform that lets its users customize shape what their mobile experience should be. OEMs should indeed offer some devices with their custom skins because yes— they may offer a few things that other competitiors may not. But when you offer every device with the same customization which tend to not only affect a device’s performance, but also ultimately wastes money and time with the costs of research and development. Every other person has an Android device, but not all Android users care about useless enhancements manufacturers force us to use, so why not cut back on the use of skins or at least give users’ the option to customize their device in their own way— without having to resort to hacking? Just a thought for you all to ponder.



Google Docs for Android update brings real-time collaboration, Improved UI

Posted by wicked February - 22 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off

The Google Docs app for Android just received another hefty update today. Bringing with it tons of changes such as real-time live collaboration for editing, an improved user interface, new layout tools and more. It keeps getting better and better with each update and this real-time update is a big one that many will be happy to see.

Both phones and tablets will benefit from this massive update, and it also brings the mobile app even closer to having many of those awesome desktop features we all know and love. Here is a few of the changes but you can see more from the video provided by Google.

— Create, view and edit Google documents with our new Android editor
— Rich text formatting (bold, italics, underline, font color, background color)
— Layout tools (bulleted lists, numbered lists, indentation)
— Real-time collaboration – see edits from others in seconds
— Cursor presence and highlighting

Here is a quick video from Google showing off and highlighting some of the key new features such as real-time collaboration. Being able to see edits from other users in a matter of seconds will help users and business needs everywhere.

It appears the new user interface and some of the layout tools only apply to certain parts or types of documents. Using spreadsheets you wont have some of the newer changes shown today but this is probably the first of many updates as they continue to expand the capabilities and ease of Google Docs. This application is getting more powerful with each update. Check out all the previous changes from our timeline below and hit the market link to get the new Docs today.

Market Link

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Google makes Android 4.0 Holo theme requirement for Market access

Posted by wicked January - 3 - 2012 - Tuesday Comments Off

With Android 3.0 Google first introduced their new look and feel to Android with Honeycomb. Google has put in tons of resources and tons of work to get their UI where they’d like it for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. A new post on the Android Developers Blog has details about the new Holo UI theme and mentions that it will be a requirement for Android 4.0 devices moving forward.

Now for all those HTC Sense UI or Blur fans don’t get too worried just yet. This doesn’t mean that custom user interfaces will be going away (although I wish they would) it just means that key aspects of the user interface will remain in-tact in order for devices to get access to the all important Android Market and Google Apps. This is actually an excellent step and something Android has needed for a long, long time.

This should not only help developers, but also make updates beyond Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich easier and faster for those like HTC with Sense UI. Although many things will still be changed key elements will need to be in-line with the Holo theme from Google. This new system will also help developers easily build applications and worry more about their app and less about different skins, or UI changes that may break or cause problems with their application. Here is Google’s final thoughts:

Android apps running on 4.0 and forward can use the Holo themes and be assured that their look and feel will not change when running on a device with a custom skin. Apps that wish to use the device’s default styling can do so using the DeviceDefault themes that are now in the public API. These changes let you spend more time on your design and less time worrying about what will be different from one device to another. Finally, Android’s resource system allows you to support features from the latest platform version while offering graceful fallback on older devices.

Custom changes like colors or even menus will now be system wide making things more familiar for users, not to mention make third party apps look and feel like an integrated part of Android as a whole. With backwards compatibility and more this should really help the application and UI side of the fragmentation problems in Android. More details are available from Google themselves at the link below.

[via Android Developer Blog]

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Google engineer tells us why iOS will remain more fluid than Android OS

Posted by wicked December - 7 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off

We may be die-hard Android fans here at Android Community, but we’ve all at least given iOS a chance to shine its light. One of its best features is handling UI actions perfectly, thus leaving the user willing to wait for longer page loads. Over on Google+, Google engineering intern Andrew Munn explained to us precisely why Android OS will never be as fluid as iOS or Windows Phone 7 devices.


What it boils down to is that Android OS renders all graphics continuously – and on the same priority. What differs in iOS and WP7 is that graphics rendering is queued for when it’s needed. This is why when we open many applications at once within Android, we see the device start to slow down as it tries to keep up. In iOS, if an application isn’t done loading and you start touching your screen, it will only finish loading when you release your finger. This also helps keep the device from working to hard on multiple tasks – which eventually drains your battery.

Put in Munn’s words:

It’s not GC pauses. It’s not because Android runs bytecode and iOS runs native code. It’s because on iOS all UI rendering occurs in a dedicated UI thread with real-time priority. On the other hand, Android follows the traditional PC model of rendering occurring on the main thread with normal priority.

Personally, I love the way Android OS allows loading simultaneously to UI interaction. I’m pretty good at gauging the device’s capabilities to the point where I’ll know when the system may start to slow down. Also, hardware just keeps getting better and better. There will be a time when Android’s “sluggish threshold” is much harder to reach than currently.

[via SlashGear]

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ROU UI video teases a new experience for Android

Posted by wicked October - 10 - 2011 - Monday Comments Off

The extremely wide array of options and customizations of Android is one of the many things that makes it great. From custom ROM’s, themes, and the ever popular home launchers. What we have here is a teaser video of the new and upcoming ROU UI Launcher for Android, it looks extremely polished and impressive. While currently still under development, it is coming soon and I can’t wait to check this out when finally released.

ROU Launcher is still under heavy development and is in the pre-alpha stages but hopefully we get a beta release sometime soon so we can give it a spin and check it out. After watching the teaser video (below) this looks to be extremely impressive and could give many popular launchers a run for their money. TeamROU can be followed on Twitter by clicking here, and they expect it to be fully ready by the end of the year. I’m hoping a beta APK gets released before that because this truly looks very nice.

ROU Launcher video

Are you ready for a brand new experience? That is the question they start the awesome video off with, then continue to show everyone why we should be both ready and excited for the new experience they have in store. We should be able to get all the details right from Twitter and they plan to have their own website up shortly. For now feel free to follow along at the XDA development thread for the latest news.

[via XDA Developers]

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