Six Ways Android OS Could Match iPhone’s Polish
Even with Android 2.2 Froyo is making it big into prime-time, that doesn’t mean Google can rest on its laurels. The search giant is making big moves to refine Android’s user interface and experience as much as possible. Read on about Google’s latest efforts, and six areas on where Android needs some polish…
First, a tip of the hat to TechCrunch for describing some of Google’s Android strategy. The next Android version, dubbed “Gingerbread” doesn’t have a version number (2.3 or 3.0?) but there’s a concerted effort to make the Android GUI as silky smooth and useful as possible…
…Google wants to put an end to the desire of handset manufacturers and carriers to add their own UI layer on top of Google – things like Sense, Motoblur, Ninjablur, etc.
What’s more, Google wants Android experience to be closer to the iPhone experience. Seems like open source platforms — from Android to Ubuntu Linux — are constantly chasing Apple’s user experience and design polish.
But neither Google nor Canonical (promoter of Ubuntu) can lock down OEM hardware to match Apple’s control on integrated hardware-software design.
Six Potential Steps to Success
So how can Google possibly tweak Android to run even better and look great? Based on my own experience with Android 2.2 (code-named Froyo), here’s a few ideas that may or may not already be implemented on the Gingerbread dev team…
- Make all icons, fonts, graphics etc… scalable to the highest resolution possible: Using 1024×768 (iPad sized) as a boiler plate for the ‘biggest’ device out there, you won’t have to worry about scaling issues on devices — big or small — as screen DPI increases.
- Increase the fluidity of screen motions: Imbue screen transfers with a sense of speed and movement. Right now, Android either ‘slides’ or ‘stacks’ windows on top of each other. It’s not a big deal, but can give the feeling of clutter.
- Continuity of the ‘back’ button is needed: Sometimes, pressing the back button inside an app will load you to the previous in-app screen, but other times it will kick you back to the home screen. Example: opening a text message directly from the notification bar, and then pressing the ‘back’ button — in hopes of returning to your list of text messages — instead, will kick you to the home screen. Technically, the home screen was where you were, so you went ‘back’ to it, but I already have a home button for that.
- A better stock music player: For all of Android’s high-points, the music player is the lowest. You can’t sort by genre, the buttons during playback are not ergonomically positioned either. The scrubbing bar sits above the Android devices ‘hard keys’ and under rewind/play/skip buttons. And they’re all tiny. Bad choice. I frequently miss-tap things with my fat fingers.
- Better cross-app connectivity: iOS4 has a great ability to ask if you want to open a file in another app that’s capable, while inside a different app. Right now, Google’s implementation of this is to ask you what you want to open a file with, but it would be nice to have a default choice, and then tell that app to re-open the file in another app of your choosing. Right now, you either set a default, and deal (or re-assign), or don’t set a default, and get constantly pestered by Android about which app should handle the file.
- Make it look sexy: Android’s icons and theme right now are a little bit cartoony. I want the device to look as every bit expensive and gorgeous as it really is. ‘Live Wallpapers’ don’t exactly scream “futuristic industrial design.” Give me some OS eye candy. Not bubbly colorful icons.
That’s my two cents, anyway. If any of you out there in cyberspace have your own thoughts on how Android could be improved, I’d love to here them in the comments section. As my personal experience with Android 2.2 shows, Android has a lot of potential.