Monday, September 24, 2012

Boring Android UI

I am an Android user for a year and two months now. The only Android device I have ever owned is the Samsung Galaxy SII. Before that, I had installed nitdroid on my N900, but it was mainly for fun and the ability to show off how great the N900 was. My only previous experience with smartphones UI was with devices made by Nokia: E65, N95 and as mentioned, the N900. The first two had:
  • A home screen with a single row of the most useful apps, similar to the bottom row usually found in modern smartphones.
  • A menu of all of the other apps, which is basically a grid of icons and folders containing icons. Exactly like what can be found in modern smartphones.
The N900 was more refreshing, as it supported widgets, kind of like what you can find on Android devices (hi Apple, people love having widgets, seriously).
So when I got my Android device, I felt at home right away with the new desktop environment, which originally was the TouchWiz launcher. Actually, I can't understand Apple's claim of Samsung copying its UI from them, since it reminded me much more of the Nokia UI, but never mind...
After playing around with the device for a while, I figured I should be switching to other launchers, to get a richer experience of what can be done with the Android desktop. But seriously, other than effects and perhaps smarter widgets, there was nothing more to it.
Recently I tried Launcher 7, which is supposed to mimic the Windows Phone experience on Android devices. Since I have only one friend who owns a Windows Phone device (and he is a MS employee, so you cannot credit him for actually buying the device), I wasn't very familiar with the Windows Phone UI. After a using it for a while I was really impressed. This is a really fresh smartphone UI, which doesn't resemble anything else out there, and most importantly - doesn't resemble the UI I had back in 2007.
Does it mean I suggest you all to start using Windows Phone? no. It does mean that there is place for innovation which I hope will happen as soon as the new Windows Phone devices will start gaining market share.

Update: in the week that past since I wrote the first draft of this post, I've demonstrated Launcher 7 to several other Android users and all of them were really impressed as well. I guess there's something to it...


  1. I'd love to try a new launcher, but I can't bring myself to install a UI that wastes 1/6 of the screen on an empty bar with an arrow. I find that inexcusable.

    1. Hannan, I think that by your point of view, a screen should be fully utilized - no pixels can be wasted with a black bar. But come to think about, some of the best interfaces out there shows that having some blank space can actually do good.

      btw, I think that this bar was removed on the new Windows Phone OS, yet it isn't utilized for more items, merely the icons got enlarged.

    2. Removing the bar and enlarging the icons is a wholly positive move.
      The main problem with the black bar is not the utilization of the screen. The main problem is that it treats the user as an idiot. After the first 2 minutes of use YOU ALREADY KNOW that you can slide the screen to the right. After those first 2 minutes the black bar serves absolutely no function. That's the problem.

  2. I agree about the place for more innovation, but regarding Windows Phone devices gaining market share, I'll just add another data point - I know just one more friend who used a Windows Phone, and yes, he was also a Microsoft employee.