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January 9, 2011

Android Addresses UI Shortcomings

It's amazing to see how much Android's user interface has changed ever since Matias Duarte was hired by Google to improve Android. Matias has previously worked on Sidekick, Helio and Palm's WebOS, so Android is a perfect fit for him. In only 9 months, Matias Duarte and his team managed to address a lot of Android's UI shortcomings: a virtual keyboard that wasn't good enough, an uninspired interface for multitasking, the hidden menus that required to click on a soft key to display them, inflexible soft keys that were restricted to a single orientation.

Here's, for example, the navigation bar that replaces the hidden menu for common actions in Android Honeycomb:

The Gmail app currently available in the Android Market requires to use a hidden menu to perform common actions like composing mail or going back to the inbox:

Here's a comparison between the Froyo keyboard and the Gingerbread keyboard. According to Google, "the Android soft keyboard is redesigned and optimized for faster text input and editing. The keys themselves are reshaped and repositioned for improved targeting, making them easier to see and press accurately, even at high speeds."

In an interview with Joshua Topolsky from Engadget, Matias says that Honeycomb is the future of Android in terms of user experience. His job is to make Android's interface so good that companies like HTC or Samsung don't have to spend so much time improving it. The stock user interface will raise the bar high enough to be more than a solid foundation.
You're not working on one product, you're not saying "we're one company, vertically integrating and making one product and we're going to focus on one market and we're going to try and meet that particularly need." But instead, the idea is that there's a common problem that every company that wants to succeed in making computing better, making computing mobile has and that's the fundamental platform problem. We're not only going to try to find a way to get everybody to benefit from it, we're going to do it for free. We're going to work on building this common tide that rises all boats.

It's interesting to think of Android as "the tide that rises all boats", a platform that accelerates mobile development not just for smartphones, but also for tablets, media players, digital cameras, TVs, cars, appliances and much more.


  1. beginning to see success in the marketing of products online such as, knowledge and information services for local and international business are the novelty of time now takes on these links

  2. i wonder if that redesigned youtube thing will end up being the new youtube in the future? would be nice of all of google's sites got an upgrade like that.

  3. It's amazing not to see the differences in this post.

  4. Why doesn't google just buy and incorporate great interface apps? The Better Keyboard app is still superior to the redesigned one shown above (it includes a better way to use special characters, and nice gestures).

  5. wow, josh from engadget is horribly annoying and interrupts matias constantly.

  6. The Matias video is perhaps the best explanation of Android in the history of Google. Whenever the real designers and developers of almost any Google product do a video, they do a better explanation than the corporate communications and press stuff.

  7. I've used 'small mobile technology' for a lot of years now (from and through early Psion products, various HTC phones running WM and Android, and a Samsung Android phone).

    I've now given up on them. Too many quarts are attempting to be shoehorned into a lot less than a pint pot. I have now got to the point that I am now more than convinced that things have become chronically counterproductive.

    A small phone has a small screen that inevitably has a small interface. Why would anybody seriously want to watch movies on such a pathetically equipped device?

    I do a lot of travelling (all across Europe), so genuine mobile computing is important to me (and you won't catch me travelling with a stupidly vulnerable to damage pad/tablet device either!).

    After a lot of experience of 'not' watching movies on my phone that has lots of movies on it, and similar, my direction has now completely changed.

    I have a telephone to do 'telephone things' with great RF performance and battery life (a Nokia 6303i, which also has a backup satnav facility with very good spoken directions).

    I do the 'Smart' stuff with a device that allows 'Smart' without it being 'Stupid' and counterproductive.

    A highly ergonomic 10.1" Netbook. I can angle the physically separate from the screen keyboard, for maximum typing comfort, and I can angle the screen for best ergonomic viewing. When I finish, I can close the lid and both the screen and the keyboard are protected.

    Movies are actually worth watching (stunningly so, in fact). So much so, I fitted a 500gb hard drive to fit more in, and also have a 2.5" USB drive to take even more with me. Wifi performance is terrific. Using real applications, like a wordprocessor, spreadsheet, or database, is a piece of cake. Browsing the web is actually a pleasant experience. Battery life is excellent, and I can watch 4 full length movies with ease. Off 12v, it recharges in an hour.

    Just what are we trying to do with 'Stupid'phones and 'Stupid'tablets/pads, again? Seems like a pathetic attempt at seeking problems to market for half baked ridiculous and eventually very dead end, 'solutions'.

    All highly unsatisfactory, unergonomic, and chronically overpriced underperforming 'bling'.

    It's your wallet, try and supervise its emptying, with your eyes open and all the lights in your head turned on.

    Bring back the Psion 3a. I'd buy another in a heartbeat (3 months use on AA alkalines, and tough enough to do over 15 years before it died in an accident).


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