Fancy smartphone lockscreens vs. security

miui_lockscreen

Smartphones have lock-screens that usually require some swiping gesture to unlock. This is so the capacitative screen doesn’t accidentally unlock in your pocket. These lockscreens come in all shapes and sizes; some reqiure swiping left to right, others upwards. A trend started by, I think, Windows Mobile, allows you to swipe-unlock directly into an app. For example, you receive a text message, turn on your phone, see there’s a new message and swipe towards the messaging app to read it. See also screenshot above from the MIUI Android distribution. That’s smart, right?

But what about security? Your smartphone holds your entire digital life. Should your phone be snatched in a bar, the hardware itself might not be the only thing you get stolen — your Google account perhaps being a more severe loss than the $500 phone. Which is why you should have some sort of security code as your lock screen, no matter if that’s a number code or a security pattern.

The short of it is, everyone should go through this hassle to unlock their phones, at which point the fanciness of swiping directly into an app is lost. Would the time spent working on hi-tech lockscreens be better spent improving the homescreen? I’d say so.

Fancy smartphone lockscreens vs. security

miui_lockscreen

Smartphones have lock-screens that usually require some swiping gesture to unlock. This is so the capacitative screen doesn’t accidentally unlock in your pocket. These lockscreens come in all shapes and sizes; some reqiure swiping left to right, others upwards. A trend started by, I think, Windows Mobile, allows you to swipe-unlock directly into an app. For example, you receive a text message, turn on your phone, see there’s a new message and swipe towards the messaging app to read it. See also screenshot above from the MIUI Android distribution. That’s smart, right?

But what about security? Your smartphone holds your entire digital life. Should your phone be snatched in a bar, the hardware itself might not be the only thing you get stolen — your Google account perhaps being a more severe loss than the $500 phone. Which is why you should have some sort of security code as your lock screen, no matter if that’s a number code or a security pattern.

The short of it is, everyone should go through this hassle to unlock their phones, at which point the fanciness of swiping directly into an app is lost. Would the time spent working on hi-tech lockscreens be better spent improving the homescreen? I’d say so.

Whither Web-Apps

icloud_hero

The web changed things. It’s dictated the path of Android, iOS and Chrome OS. All three are operating systems that approach menial computer tasks in an entirely different way:

  • they store things in the cloud
  • they hide the filesystem from you
  • they’ve shed the shackles of the traditional desktop and windowing metaphor

We no longer have to discuss whether it was actually Xerox PARC that invented the “Recycle Bin” concept, we can instead discuss whether we even need one1. It’s exciting. A computer no longer has to have a floppy or a disc drive. In fact, often times you don’t even need a keyboard. In the future, we might not need a physical interface at all, controlling everything with voice and gestures. It’s as if the new way has uprooted us from the rut of putting application links in a dock and discussing whether the window close button should be in the top left or the top right corner. Everything is different, and we can thank Apple first and Google second, for finally bringing us this much needed paradigm shift. In one key area of this exciting new future, however, Google and Apple differ in their approaches.

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  1. The answer is yes, but not for files. Could be for closed tabs, or it could hold an “Undo” history perhaps.  

Android OS vs. Chrome OS

chromevsandroid

Google’s IO keynote is over. One day was dedicated to Chrome OS, another to Android OS — one day for each of Googles operating systems. Here’s what thay said about the next Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich:

Our goal with Ice Cream Sandwich is to deliver one operating system that works everywhere, regardless of device. Ice Cream Sandwich will bring everything you love about Honeycomb on your tablet to your phone, including the holographic user interface, more multitasking, the new launcher and richer widgets.

So naturally, people are asking: if the goal is one OS for all devices, why does Chrome OS exist?

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Android Ice Cream Sandwich is for phones and tablets

Eric Schmidt:

Today I’ll use the commonly used names. We have OS called gingerbread for phones, we have an OS being previewed now for tablets called Honeycomb. The two of them… you can imagine the follow up will start with an I, be named after dessert, and will combine these two.

Nailed it:

It’s a good bet the next version after those two is called “sandwich” for a good reason. I bet it’s because the goal of ice cream sandwich is to unify the base again, so phones and tablets run the same system.

Android 3.0 SDK preview reveals flat UI goodness

Google has released a preview for the Android 3 SDK, and it’s choc-full of UI goodness, including:

android3_mail

What’s so special about Android mail? Well it’s one of the plain apps, an app that is likely to be used the most on Android devices, and it’s got to be designed to just work, and from that perspective, this is one gorgeous piece of UI design. It’s deliciously almost flat, a design trend I expect to see explode like Apples noisy backgrounds. It’s got very few lines, and it’s got a delicious color palette. Dark blacks contrasting gray and white with a splash of accent color — Matias Duarte clearly gets contrast. It’ll look gorgeous on an OLED screen.

Which brings me to the System Bar — that line at the bottom which holds soft buttons for back, home and multitask, the notification bar, a clock, and battery info.

Wait, always present?

According to the SDK preview, yes.

But isn’t that a waste of precious pixels?

Depends on your point of view. The thing doesn’t use more than 48 pixels, and so it’s probably not a coincidence that these screenshots betray a device that’s 1280×800 px in resolution. That’s HD (1280×720) + 80 pixels. So this particular Android device will be able to play an HD video that’s almost perfectly vertically centered, while still permanently having a system bar present. Combine that with an OLED screen which uses the least power displaying the color black, and I approve.

Notes on Androids new Honeycomb UI

It’s CES time, which means a plethora of new slightly improved gadgets to hold us over until the next time we get slightly improved gadgets. For fans of Android and fans of UI design, Google dropped a bundle of joy in this video introduction to Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”. Here are screencaps and anecdotal commantary.

android3_visuals

This must be Matias Duarte’s art style. Or perhaps the movie Tron Legacy designed the new Android?

tron_legacy_poster

No matter, I loved Tron Legacy (please go watch it so I can get a sequel!), I’ll learn to love this as well.

android3_lockscreen

Nice lock screen. It’s still “something you drag from A to B”, but it’s probably not something Apple’s patented this time. Also, there’s a good chance this won’t unlock in your pocket (if you could fit a 10 inch tablet in your pocket, that is). That font though… It’s very 1993. The wallpaper is very 2001 though, which is actually not bad, just very techno.

android3_homescreen

New homescreen still shows select app shortcuts and widgets. So that’s classic Android with a new coat of paint and a nice new ubiquitous app launcher button (so you can launch a new app without going to the homescreen first).

The three buttons in the bottom left reveal potential awesomeness. We’ve been told (at one point) that Android tablets won’t have any facing physical buttons — no permanent context buttons — which in itself is a step forward. But these buttons, to me, look like “back”, “home” and “switch between apps”. Which, if true, spells the not-soon-enough death of the infamous “menu” button. Why is this good? It means that lazy Android app authors can no longer hide settings and help links in a mystery-meat hidden context menu. If they want their apps to be tablet compatible, that is.

android3_chromebrowser

Hey, that almost looks like Google Chrome, doesn’t it? Does that mean improved speed, standards support, bookmark sync, tabs and extensions? Oh my. I can see myself wanting one of these tablets now.

Overall, this looks really nice. Some of it is a bit off, but the sharp diagonals and mostly flat colors aesthetic seems to land in a good place between the delicous but spartan Windows Phone 7 UI and the overly textured and glossy iOS UI. It’s got some growing to do, but this a good place to grow from. The best thing: this UI feels like a serious jab at skin vendors like HTC and Motorola. People are going to want this UI, not “Sense” or “Blur”.