The following post is an individuals personal opinion and vision of Android.
In October 2011, Google launched Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which completely transformed Android from an ugly iOS cousin into an OS that had distinctive identity. As Matias himself explained on the stage, “We wanted to break away from the past”. He laid out pretty aspirational goals “Enchant Me”, “Simplify my life”, “Make me awesome”.
Indeed 4.0 was enchanting but there are things in 4.0/4.1/4.2 that can be better and make Android “Simple” & “ Awesome”. Matias also mentioned “4.0 is just the first step towards these aspirational goals”. So it is right to assume that engineers would be hard at work in Google towards achieving the same, possibly for Google IO 2013 reveal.
Till then I want you to see my design concepts for making Android “Simple” and “Awesome”.
Simplify my life- This is one aspect of Android which always bothers naive users outside the geek circle. It starts right with home screen, Shortcuts, Widgets etc. I have talked and observed naive users using stock android & other skins but there has been 1 consistent behavior. Rarely anybody uses more than 1 screen or at max 2 to put app shortcuts on the home screens. Everybody uses App launcher.
Further, Most naive users rarely use widgets. They tend to use already configured out of the box widgets and even then don’t know how to remove them. Story is even more cumbersome for carrier branded phones which are overloaded with unwanted widgets & app shortcuts. The whole experience is too complex. Its a lot to chew for them.
My solution is simple to overcome both these problems. There should be 3 main components to the home experience. Home, AppBoard, WidgetBoard.
1. Home: There should be 1 home screen with non removable widget, which I will be visiting later in the post accompanied by 4 shortcuts of the most used app/Folders & a permanent Dock.
2. AppBoard: There should be no launcher. All apps should always be on the right from home. It should be your AppBoard where you find all apps all the time.
3. WidgetBoard: There should be WidgetBoard always on the left of home. WidgetBoard should be the place you always go to access your information quickly via widgets. Adding a widget should bring up widgets list and touching the widget should add it on the WidgetBoard in the available space or it gets added on a new page on the left.
Below is my redesign. It shows 1 Home, 2 pages of AppBoard, 1 WidgetBoard page with quick controls and Music widget already added. Another page showing “Add Widget” experience. You will notice home wallpaper being shown in full resolution and glory on Home but when you move to either AppBoard or Widgetboard, it gets blurred to surface the content that matters to you. (Click on the below image to see full resolution)
Make me awesome – This is the part you all know and love. Some think it is working great for them. Some say it has potential to work great in future. I say both. I am talking about “Google Now”. Again this feature in its current implementation is behind the search box. My redesign shows “Google Now” as permanent widget on Home that cannot be removed. It cannot be removed because it makes you awesome and it should be right in front and center, always accessible and visible. It shuffles cards as per relevance. Its slick. Its translucent.
So, No launcher. Apps on the right. Widgets on the left. Google Now as home screen.
Overhauled System apps : Apart from the redesigned home experience, I think a lot of effort should go into redesigning system apps. They should be slick. It should look like part of the Google family. That is exactly what I have done. My redesign is purely derived from Google’s style language and Google’s iOS Gmail app. Yes, its Google’s light palette. I really want Android to use light palette. It just looks slick and approachable.
1. Redesigned Dialer.
2. Redesigned Call log.
3. Call log with items tilting on over scroll similar to gallery app.
4. Contextual Settings screen. I think every settings page should be contextual.
5. Redesigned incoming call screen.
There is one thing I want to pass onto Google. No matter how great an OS looks and operates, how good system apps perform , OS is defined by 3rd party app support. I firmly believe Google should take “Play Store” under review umbrella. I do not know if “Play store” alone can be brought under reviewing terms when OS itself is open sourced. But Google definitely should do it.