Oct. 9th, 2011

Apparently all the Android kids are getting real excited about the impending launch of the next release, Ice Cream Sandwich.

From the previews, it's not really doing much for me. Functionality-wise it doesn't appear to be any great improvement on the previous version, it's basically just a shiny new skin. And yes, Android does rather need an overhaul in this department, but even so…

The original iPhone moved the target considerably. In many respects it was "just" an evolutionary step on from PalmOS, in that it presents a grid of icons on a touch-screen, each one representing an application. The hardware has a lot more grunt now, and the user interface has a lot more shine and polish than PalmOS could manage back in the day, but it's essentially the same paradigm.

Android pushed this a little further, instead of having a grid of icons you've got a grid in which you can freely place icons and widgets. This is useful in that it allows you to bring the information you most want at a glance right to the front, and it recognises that what I want up front may not be what you want up front: I want to see my next couple of calendar entries and some weather info, you may want Twitter or Facebook updates. Different needs, both can be fulfilled on the one platform.

Each version of Android has pretty much just tweaked and polished this approach. Same for most of the replacement launchers.

I think it's time to reconsider just what the phone/PDA user experience should be about, and surprisingly (perhaps) Microsoft seems to be on to something. Instead of having a set of silos and switching between applications to get at data from different sources, Windows Phone uses activity-based "hubs", pulling in data from relevant sources and displaying it all together.

"People" are associated with accounts on various services, so viewing a person's record in the "People" hub gives you all of that. Sending short IM/text-message type messages shouldn't really care about the underlying transport, so it's all in one "Messaging" hub. Apple are kind of going this way with iMessage, but just for a change Microsoft are being more open about it: they're not trying to build a new IM platform, they're using several pre-existing platforms.

webOS was doing some of this, but seems to have been poorly managed, both by Palm and then by HP.

Ice Cream Sandwich appears to be just more of the same. I think this activity-based UX is an excellent idea and would like to see it implemented on platforms other than Windows Phone. Fortunately the mobile OS space has become one where each vendor "steals" from the others, so with any luck this will happen. But ICS? Really not very exciting.


Abort, Rephrase, Ignore?

October 2011

2 345678

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags