27
Oct
editorial-the-android-4-2-tablet-ui-looks-just-like-a-giant-phones-and-thats-fantastic

Yesterday my colleague and fellow Android fanatic David Ruddock took a long look at what was revealed in the leaked Nexus 10 images, examining what will almost certainly be the Android tablet interface for Jelly Bean 4.2. I have a lot of respect for David, but in this case I think he's wrong. And since there's little doubt at this point that the Samsung Nexus 10 will have the same basic UI structure as the Nexus 7, I'll go so far as to say that Google is wrong too.

nexusae0_nexfron1

Having used my fair share of Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich tablets, I've come to love the user interface, which puts both navigation, status and settings all along the bottom bar. Not only is it an efficient use of screen real estate, it's well suited to devices that are primarily used with the thumb and forefinger: when you're using a 10" tablet with two hands, or even a 7" with only one, all of the controls that aren't contained within an app are literally at your fingertips. I've never liked the way that the Nexus 7 separates system functions, forcing you to use two hands when it might not otherwise be necessary. It's great on a smartphone, where your thumb can cover pretty much everything, but on a tablet, it doesn't feel natural to me.

unnamed

And yet the Nexus 7, and soon the Nexus 10, use this "blown up smartphone" approach, presumably after Google looked long and hard at the ICS UI and found it wanting. The reasons for the change on the Nexus 7 were clear: Google positioned it as an entertainment device from the very start, and has done well out of it. I was upset at this direction, mostly because it capitulated to the prevailing idea that tablets are consumption devices and nothing else. Make no mistake: tablets are primarily consumption devices, but they have the potential to be so much more. The slate tablet has exploded into the marketplace because (keyboard issues notwithstanding) it's an incredibly natural way to interact with digital content, and hardware and software has finally reached a point that it's both technologically and economically sound.

wm_IMG_0672

But people still see tablets as the device that you have fun with, toys for consuming written words and videos, and little else. The potential is there; many a developer has tried to unlock the creative capabilities in mobile software, and hardware vendors like Asus (with the Transformer line) and Samsung (with the underwhelming Galaxy Note 10.1) want people to use tablets as the primary tool for digital interaction. As well as some of these have worked, the prevailing use for tablets among consumers on both the high end (the iPad and a few struggling Android tablets) and the low end (Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and the Nook) has been for entertainment.

When rumors of the iPad finally began gaining validity in 2010, I was actually excited: I thought Apple would be bringing its OSX platform to the slate, with much more thought than Microsoft ever gave to "tablet PCs." When it turned out that the iPad was just "a giant iPhone", I was disappointed, and that disappointment has continued to keep me away from iOS as a whole. When the XOOM was revealed, I was ecstatic: here was a device clearly thought out for doing more than just smartphone tasks on a big screen. Consolidating the control functions of the user interface into a single, flexible element, not unlike desktop operating systems, was a step towards a future where tablets could not only compete with laptops, but eventually replace them, as many a would-be Techstradamas had predicted.

xoom

In 2012, Google has let go of this idea, promoting the Nexus 7 and the Google Play Store in much the same way that Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have: content is king, and utility is an afterthought. Not that it's impossible to do advanced functions like, say, creating a PowerPoint slideshow or editing a simple CAD document, but that's clearly not what this and other, smaller tablets are intended for.

kfhd

Let's examine the differences on my own Nexus 7, which I've equipped with the AOKP custom ROM, capable of manually switching between these two interfaces. On the left, we see the "default" Nexus 7 UI, easy and comfortable to any Android phone user, but which wastes massive amounts of space on both the bottom of the screen (beside the nav buttons) and in the notification bar, which will only rarely be even half full. That space is put to better use in apps and on the homescreen, especially on a 10" device. What's more, accessing settings or notifications in this smartphone UI requires moving one hand to the top of the screen.

two bars bad one bar good

On the right, we have the standard ICS 10" interface: navigation on the bottom left, within easy reach of your thumb, and both notification and quick settings on the bottom right, also easy to reach with your thumb. It's a little more desktop-style, and certainly more intimidating to the uninitiated, but ultimately it's a much better use of space and allocation of function. (Some of my fellows, notably Cameron, vehemently disagree with me on this point.)

nexusae0_sc2

There's little to no doubt that the Nexus 10 will be revealed on Monday the 29th, with the "phone" interface on display in the recent leaks. And in all likelihood I'll buy one (or something similar) in the near future. All this speculation is a chasing after the wind. But I can't help but think that in Google's haste to be more accommodating, and indeed, more like Apple and Amazon, they're denying and delaying the full potential of tablets in general and Android in particular.

Oh well, it could be worse - at least it's not Surface.

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Greg Sanders

    Why can't it be a setting for 10"?

    Either way you two now have to fight in mortal combat to settle this.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/108482452903817442299/posts Andrew Bone

    why would it look like that? I think it will look like the Nexus 7 in portrait mode

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    At least it's not Surface? honestly as much as Windows 8 blows Surface looks stunning hardware wise (apart from the screen) compared to what Google has for us.

    • moelsen8

      Yeah I'm with you. The apps aren't there, but when they are (and they will be with all the money Microsoft's throwing around) the Surface/Windows RT (and eventually full-blown Windows 8...) will make for one hell of a tablet. Microsoft office alone is a huge plus. Unfortunately, Microsoft's probably priced themselves out of the game, at least right now.

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        Office is coming to Android next year apparently so that huge plus won't be there =)

        • moelsen8

          fair enough. was that confirmed? i know there were rumors bouncing around for a while.

          either way, the Surface looks stunning indeed. first tablet that's ever really wow'd me.

          • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon
          • Christopher Lee

            I really could not agree more. I usually really appreciate the level of analysis at Android Police, and this post is no different-- save the completely unneeded swipe at Microsoft. If you're going to say the interface is better than the Modern UI Microsoft has developed, I'd like to see the same degree of care taken as has been present in the rest of the posting (which I find strange, considering author gave iOS a fair look).

            Personally, I do agree with all of the points made here; wasted space is a personal headache for me, and having huge amounts of useless space next to the navigation bars is visually offputting for me. I don't think it necessarily looks bad, but having controls in thumbs-reach is a big thing for me. As I mentioned in another comment though, I hope someone tweaks an existing ROM so we can see how this might work in practice.

            So far as tablet user interfaces go, this has been my overall take (before anyone leaps to the conclusion that I am an Apple/Microsoft shill, I own a Nexus 7 (stock/rooted), an ASUS Transformer TF300T, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (CM9), a HP Touchpad (still on webOS, though I dabbled with CM9), a Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0 (custom Gingerbread ROM), an iPad 3 (jailbroken on iOS 5.1.1), an iPod Touch 4G, and now a Surface. My phone is a CDMA Galaxy Nexus on stock/rooted):

            With iOS there's only one system element on the screen at any point in time-- the status bar. It's thin, presents some useful information (time, signal strength, battery), and is generally unobtrusive (changing color to suit the running app). Since iOS only uses the home button (as well as fluidly implemented multitouch gestures that stock Android completely lacks-- fortunately rectified on rooted tabs with GestureControl), it gets away with no navigation on screen. However, the notification center (while nice-looking; I don't object to Apple's use of a linen background that much) is laughably underpowered compared to Android's, and not being able to see some indication I have a notification somewhere-- anywhere-- until I punch onto the home screen is infuriating.

            For the record, I don't terribly mind that iOS has no widgets-- I've actually found them much more helpful on my phone than on my tablets, since when I'm using a tablet I usually have a task in mind and launch straight into the app. Were Chameleon launcher a bit cheaper (and a little less tacky-looking; I appreciate the text-centric interface in many ways, but the graphics just don't jive with me) I might be more tempted. The lack of control does bug me though (although this comes down to hiding stock apps (*cough cough* Android stock please implement this feature) or removing them outright (Newsstand, Game Center, FaceTime, iMessage, lookin' at you!). Single biggest fury of the iOS tablet interface though-- with all that space to work with, no one could figure out how to a) display my WiFi SSID? Really? That's important if I'm using network-specific apps (like a DLNA streamer), and b) Why on EARTH would you not include readily accessible settings toggles? I understand the iPad was designed as a consumption/presentation device but holy crow is it a lot of useless work to just turn WiFi off.

            The Android tablet UI for me is really quite sleek. I'm an enormous fan of the Holo design language-- to me, a minimalist, industrial design is a huge plus. Everything is cleanly presented and accessible to your thumbs. Many people have said that you almost always wind up holding a ten-inch tablet in one hand and manipulating it with the other. This happens a lot, it's true, and for that the Nexus 7's blown-up style interface works quite well. However, does it necessarily provide an advantage over the current tablet UI, which is easy enough to use with a free-floating hand AND with your thumbs at the device's base? Pulling down on the notification shade does have a viscerally satisfying element to it, and I do admit the value of consistency-- but unless the new layout makes things easier to use, I just don't see a huge point to it.

            Mind you, I'm content with the Nexus 7 the way it is; I often use it to take down quick notes or manipulate a calendar, in which case I'm always cradling the device in one hand and pecking at it with the other. For that, notification shades beat pop-up menus-- although am I the only one who finds its placement in landscape mode downright bizarre?

            webOS gets largely the same pass as iOS-- it's use of a hardware button largely helps it avoid the question of on-screen navigational elements altogether. That, coupled with so-so multitouch gestures. While the card multitasking system works incredibly well, I don't see why HP/Palm shot themselves in the foot on the gesture front.

            webOS does do right what Apple does not-- providing easy access to settings toggles (in a very nice and attractive looking way, I might add) and easily accessible and visible notifications. I actually like webOS' notifications better than Jelly Bean's in one regard-- how they handle multiple events from the same source (stack them, and allow them to be dismissed one at a time or all at once).

            Windows' Modern UI works extremely well on my Surface. I'm a huge fan of their new task/information-centric interface, and it actually matches my work paradigm more or less perfectly. Live Tiles are surprisingly useful and engaging, easy to hit, and the whole thing gels quite well. Multitouch and multitasking are both better handled than in any other tablet I've seen, and everything really gels together just right, including the access to some crucial system toggles with a swipe in from the right.

            If anything though, the Modern UI has the opposite problem as the one outlined in this article; there's not enough space dedicated to the UI. What do I mean? Try finding the time on a Surface-- you can only see the clock/battery/signal strength by swiping in from the right. Not obtrusive-- until you just want to glance around to see how much time you've been wasting on YouTube.

            Android's design is clean and beautiful, but I feel it still largely follows the desktop paradigm established for keyboard-and-mouse workflows. At present, I definitely prefer the Modern UI way on tablets. Please note though that I'm talking about the stock launcher-- other launcher replacements do solve some of my qualms, and Android remains infinitely more configurable (*cough cough* locked down browsing on Windows RT *cough*).

            Overall, so far as tablet UIs go: Android (Tablet) ~ Modern UI > Android (Phone) > webOS > iOS.

          • Laurence

            Thanks, this was an interesting post. And I share your concern. I can see the advantage of using the phone UI in terms simplicity and ease of use, but the wasted space irritates me, especially since Android already has so much persistent UI chrome compared to other mobile OSes.

            My ideal solution would be something like this:

            - Keep the back / home / task-switcher buttons on the left side of the screen.

            - Put a phone-style permanent row of icons at the bottom of the screen, including the app drawer.

            - Keep the notification tray on the bottom right, but change it from a pop-up menu to "pull-up" menu that you access using a gesture; essentially a mirror-image of the pull-down menu on phones.

            That way you get rid of the all the "four-corners" style of navigation that has been subject to criticism, you cluster all the major navigation controls near the bottom of the screen, and you maintain the more visceral style of accessing the notifications.

          • Christopher Lee

            I feel that Android recognized the use of negative space after Ice Cream Sandwich, moving away from the largely tacky neo-futurism of Gingerbread and embracing clean lines over crowded graphics. But the way the navigation bar is on the Nexus 7 does irk me at times, unlike on a phone were not much space is being lost. This is the one area in which physical buttons help out-- more screen estate available (although hideable software buttons might well be a solution).

            I don't know that I would like a dock on tablets, nor am I actually 100% convinced that four-corners is bad-- it makes it somewhat easy to strike different UI elements without fear of crossing them. But I'd be more willing to have everything on the bottom than go to an oversize phone layout (though I readily acknowledge its advantages, and I won't mind overmuch if they try it-- so long as they remain responsive to user complaint).

          • tsunami1609

            The task switching is simple and easy to use. Everything in Windows8/RT just takes some getting used to, but once you do it's awesome.

            The multitasking (both task switching and split screen) blow away the competition, right now at least. The only advantage Android has in that section is task killing, which is a bit faster and more intuitive. It could be that I just haven't gotten used to the Windows way of doing it, though.

            There can be argument made all day over the live tiles, but even though it's the picture representing WRT, it's not what the advantage is. With the surface this is the first time my mind has ever had the issue of comparing a tablet to a full out computer. With the Nexus 7 and ipad (which I own/have owned), I'm very aware that I'm using a tablet, which is fine. When I have issues I think: "Oh man, iOS/Android does that way better than this implementation". But with the surface, I'm much less aware of the tablet I'm using, and when I find issues my mind goes to: "Oh man, OS X/Windows 7 does X better". I think that alone is a testament to the power of Windows RT.

          • Christopher Lee

            @tsunami1609:disqus Valid point! I think the task killing method in webOS is one of the easier ones; Android is just as good. I feel that Windows RT/8 would handle it well, but because a down-swipe is also the gesture for positioning apps, the kill gesture (swipe to the bottom of the screen) always is a bit more finicky/awkward looking.

            Personally, I've felt that thus far, tablets are best for interacting with extant data or repetitive tasks, but the convenience of the Surface is really, really pushing me to think that the divide can be bridged. I really love my TF300T, but I feel like I'm carrying a netbook with me (a.k.a. the dock needs to be attached if I'm going to use it for productivity); with the Surface, having the keyboard available is a given.

            I think operating systems of all form factors could learn some lessons from each other: while desktop operating systems have very different inputs and often tasks, there's no reason they can't adopt some of the innovations pioneered by tablets so long as they make workflows more efficient.

            So far as desktops go, I'm strongly set for Windows 7 as the "best," but Spotlight beats out Windows' search, I like the notification center in Mountain Lion (well, in some ways; much more useful on a laptop), and the Unity environment on modern Ubuntu distros is also a big hit (GNOME shell not so much).

            Android needs gesture support. I don't mean drawing letters or symbols; I've always felt that's a bit gimmicky. But both Windows RT and iOS are light years ahead on this front, and there's no reason why that should be the case.

          • MicroNix

            So how did the looks of Surface stun you? All I've seen is the metro UI on every screen shot so far and metro is not stunning in the least bit (at least not for me). There has to be a lot more behind it than what can be easily emulated on Android for it to be "stunning" in this current generation of tablets. To me its nothing more than a large multi-use widget (metro) and apps. Not seeing where the real kicker is for these other than paid media hype.

          • Cel Halcyon

            I believe that one's just your opinion, on Metro not being stunning.

          • MicroNix

            For your sake and Microsoft's sake I'd like to believe you on that one but there's been plenty that don't like the 1996 AOL look of metro. It only took Microsoft 16 years to emulate AOL...I'd say that's quite an accomplishment for Microsoft.

            See for yourself:

            http://imgur.com/r/windows/d1Rd8

        • Lien Wee Hoo

          The Win8 Pro version will give huge difference (Macro supported, attach email). So i believe Surface will easily get a market share, especially among Power User & Enterprise.

        • Tomi Golob

          Microsoft said it's not true...that's howi remember it

    • ssj4Gogeta

      I don't really care about Surface RT, but Surface Pro with an x86 processor and full-blown Windows will be the one to watch out for. As long as they can deliver satisfactory battery life, you won't have to choose between an "appliance" and a "computer". You can switch between them at the touch of a soft-button. Want to use it as a tablet for content consumption? Use the Metro apps. Want to use it as a full-blown laptop? Use the desktop UI where all your apps from your laptop will work.

      • Xiazer

        Ya, I agree. RT is kinda... odd, but I do see what they are doing. Introduce RT and in a generation of windows or two that will be their main platform and dissovling the x86 platform all together. They'll merge Windows phone and the windows platform, bringing the PC in your pocket to an actual working platform. Probably Windows 9 or 10. I'm calling it now.

        • john

          That's silly. I think the opposite will happen, RT was made as a stop-gap so Microsoft can compete with other ARM tablets, while x86 low power chipsets catch up. Intel has virtually almost caught up with their latest smartphone Atom CPUs, I suspect by Windows 9 there will just be an x86 version again.

          What Microsoft will do however is probably maintain their ARM version behind the scenes, like Apple keeps a fully working version of OS X for ARM always up to date.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          So you're saying that in ~5 years' time ARM processors will be powerful enough to satisfy the needs of the vast majority of users including laptops and high-end desktops; that they'll somehow be so much better than x86 processors that it'll justify Microsoft's completely ditching it, disregarding decades of x86 development; that Intel will be out of PC business by then. I highly doubt it.

          • Cenarl

            I think you over estimate what the vast majority of users are. Apple isnt (mainly) selling ipads to engineers and scientists who need to get work done. Tablets and phones are quickly making laptops a more rare purchase and any modern laptop will do what most casual users will need for years, but in the meantime they are buying multiple phones and tablets pumping huge amounts of money into mobile companies.

            Desktop sales are already looking grim and laptops just saw there first drop off in years.

            If people would buy higher end Android phones with HDMI out and understand you can bluetooth a mouse and KB I would say a lot of them could easily drop their laptops.

            And even further ARM already has some great A15 chips coming very soon and 5 years is a heck of a long time in technology...thats 2 node shrinks and a few cpu architecture changes. You may rethink your statement once we see quad core A15 chips in the spring and summer along with the new mali gpu are capable of.

      • Saauron

        The problem being that Surface pro will likely retail north of $600.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          I'm guessing north of $800. Remember, this is an [Ultrabook + touchscreen - keyboard] that we're talking about here. But it'll be worth it if it can replace your laptop.

    • Magnesus

      Surface at least has Wacom stylus - a necessity for a tablet in my opinion.

      • jm9843

        Not Surface RT. Only Surface Pro.

    • GlennStile

      Not wanting to knock it but "stunning hardware wise" ??? really ... I bought my mum a digital photo frame 3 years ago and it looks identical, even with the little flip out stand bit on the back.

      I wouldn't say the shots we've seen of the Nx10 hardware look amazing either, I really hope it has the same back style as the Nx7 but the (rumoured) spec is certainly impressive.

      The press shots first seen of the SGS3 looked terrible too, but the moment I actually got my hands on one, well..I bought it.

      I'd also take a Exynos 5250 over anything Nvidia, after the debacle that was Tegra 2, no way I'm touching their SOC's for a long time

      • TylerChappell

        Seeing as how it is by a different manufacturer than the Nexus 7, the Nexus 10 is likely to have different styling that follows more closely to Samsung GalaxyTab styling., which I don't find super attractive. =

        • GlennStile

          I know, it's its a shame. It is a nexus device tho so Google should have some say.. Anyway.. Its what's on the inside that counts :-)

          • ssj4Gogeta

            +1 for "Its what's on the inside that counts".

      • tsunami1609

        Well it's not entirely apples to apples when comparing SOCs running different software. Besides, the Nexus 7 runs with a Tegra 3 (and JB of course) and I think it's still regarded as the smoothest experience out there for an android tablet (even smoother -note not faster- than a transformer prime infinity running JB) so really its about optimization.

        It's understandable why you'd want to avoid it, but you can't make a flat out comparison when talking about Android vs Windows RT.

        Also, I won't argue with whether it's stunning or not (personally I think it is) since that's a matter of opinion, but you never claimed that the digital photo frame you bought looked bad......

        Anyways, while many like (and dislike) its looks, most people I've handed it to have claimed that it looks and feels better in person. I have one, and I'd have to agree.

        • GlennStile

          I'm not saying the tegra 3 is a bad processor or the win rt is not smooth. My reason to avoid tegra/nvidia even in android devices is because of their closed source policy. It means when they decide to no longer support a device its a nightmare to work with. Or if you want to mod or build custom roms things become impossible. I Samsung may not have been much better but they are showing signs of opening up

          • tsunami1609

            I see. Well, that's much more understandable from a modders point of view.

          • GlennStile

            First mod... Win RT on nexus 10 :-)

          • tsunami1609

            O_O Mother of God........

            Somehow add the touch cover and kickstand and I'd buy the hell out of that tablet.

  • Владимир Яровский

    My worst fears're confirmed. Google, what are u doing!!!!

    • Paulus Net

      As long as launchers are available, I see no reason for fear.

      • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

        Launchers make no difference. You need a custom ROM to avoid this new layout.

        • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

          Custom ROMs who make this as a setting are even worse. One thing is changing DPI to get tablet mode, but much worse is ability to change DPI per app (Paranoid Android). People then flash those ROM's and go bitch on Play Store reviews to devs, because their apps don't display "properly". Its' a developer nightmare.

          • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

            What are you talking about. That's a whole lot of made up crap right there

          • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

            I for one read different comments from people from Google on G+. And they're not pleased with jerking around with DPI settings and forcing tablet UI in 4.1 and down. So have a coke and a smile and inform yourself.

          • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

            The change to DPI isn't going to work anymore with 4.2 if the screenshots are any indication. Also, it was a lousy hack. You can do this in a much better way by rewriting the interface itself.

          • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

            That has nothing to do with custom ROMs. What you describe is a way to hack vanilla Android 4.1.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dalebloom Dale Bloom

    These pictures are leaked, for all we know this is not the final version of Android 4.2. It is probably way too early to say there will be no tablet interface.

    • Ash Hanna

      boom
      Dale : 1
      people who think 4.2 is done: 0
      lol

    • Daemen

      One of the things that's been brought up elsewhere is that Android decides which UI to use based on DPI. With the ridiculous resolution of the Nexus 10 it's possible that it's DPI is higher than the point at which Android switches to the tablet UI. With that in mind, maybe it'll be fixed in the actual release version of 4.2.

  • http://technoticraccoon.com/ Cristian Colocho

    I still say that it's the super high DPI on the Nexus 10 that's causing Android to give it the phablet/phone layout.

    There's a lot of wholes in that theory, but it makes me feel better, so meh.

    • http://technoticraccoon.com/ Cristian Colocho

      Also, I should add, using the honeycomb one bay layout in portrait on it just doesn't feel right. Even with hacks that don't change the DPI. The nexus 7 feels weird to use in landscape primarily also, due to the narrow screen. It makes good sense on a 7inch tablet, but I can't find an argument for a 10 incher.

  • TechGuy21

    well this is why we have XDA right ? theyy will add tablet support. just like they did for my N7.

    • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

      Sure hope so... but if it's removed a simple tweak won't bring it back,

    • Владимир Яровский

      if the code is cut, it'll not add, N7 and android 4.1 have normal tablet mode. You just have to change dpi in build.prop;)

      • TechGuy21

        there are rom that came it that option even if the code is not there XDA guys will add it themselves

      • Sean Livingston

        Not with Paranoid Droid's implementation of tablet mode. His implementation of it is flawless, far better than just a change of dpi in build.prop. He actually does not agree with why people still use it as it is very ineffective versus his method which he as sourced on his github yet no one uses it. Checkout paranoidroid on xda.

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      This IS tablet support.

    • Djones

      That is until 2013 when rooting most tablets becomes illegal. I wonder how they will be impacted.

      • Tomi Golob

        What the fuq are you talking about? This would happen only if Android stopped being open source and Google starts to sell it. Anyway,rooting is not illegal...im saying this because what you said implies that rooting is something that is borderline illegal. It just voids your warranty

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ciepluch Dave Ciepluch

    It would be amazing if it is able to be toggled or set by profiles. I see a purpose for both, unless they are going to add popup notifications ability to every app. Then the notification bar at the top is no longer an issue.

  • Ash Hanna

    maybe Google is doing a bait and switch.
    get people familiar with Android tablets, then bring back the TabletUI with a wh ole "New and improved TabletUI functionality" maybe to be brought forth in 5.0?
    we can only imagine the things Google has in store for the future for Android users.

    one of the best things about Android is it's diversity and choice for the user. I believe we will see some new rm of tablet UI return in the future of Android.

    • tookieboy

      why the hell would they do that? it's just going to cause more confusion. changing UIs every alternate iterations.

      • Ash Hanna

        to bring in NEW functions and user options?
        why does it have to be confusing that they introduce new functionality and a better UI Than they had before?
        I mean, that's what new versions of Android are about right? bringing NEW things to the table and innovation.
        if they did being forth a new TabletUI I would imagine Google would know what they are doing in NOT making it confusing to the user at this point.
        Google is on a roll lately, almost everything they've been doing wiAndroid had just been "right"
        I trust their judgment at this point if they do plan to bring a new TabletUI

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ciepluch Dave Ciepluch

      This just made me wonder, will Android undergo a branding change at the 5.0 mark? Instead of 5.0 will they go with V (like Apple did with OSX)? I mean, by that point the inovation will have happened and Android will probably be the most stable OS around. (Including stability of OSX and Windows)

  • Ash Hanna

    by the way
    I'm really enjoying reading and discussing these opinions from both sides. both make very valid points.

    which is why I can see that Google will surprise us all with a new and improves TabletUI in Android future. there's just too many things that can be done for us to even guess at what will be coming down the line for Android users

  • Neil Ross Goco

    How can Google convince developers to optimize their apps' UI for tablets when they themselves are staying away from just that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ciepluch Dave Ciepluch

      I think they are getting to a point where they want to minimize fragmentation and gaps between tablet and phone versions. It seems like they will end up making it easier on developers as they will only have to make their apps based on resolution, instead of based on resolution and tablet/phone.

      • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

        That has nothing to do with the changes to the tablet layout.

      • ssj4Gogeta

        This is unrelated to how the apps function. They've just made changes to the system UI which the apps don't care about.

        You can already develop apps which use different UI according to the size, density, orientation, etc. and any combination of those.

      • Adrian Meredith

        You clearly know nothing of android app development. There are no tablet apps just apps. Coding for tablets is no different than coding a landscape view. You target different layouts depending on orientation and density independent pixels. IOS requires separate apps I believe

        • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

          You clearly don't know much better either. It's never that simple. Differences in pixel density throw it all into chaos.

          • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

            In Android pixel density only affects the size of the resources required. Layout is unrelated to it.

          • casperinmd

            People have coded for different screen sizes and resolutions for decades, stop using different size and resolution tablets as an excuse that the platform is hard to code for...period.

            Like ZZ said below, the layout and design remains the same.

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      What a BS. It IS optimized, just not the way you like.

      • PhilNelwyn

        How is this optimized for the larger screen of tablets when it's exactly the same UI as on phones?
        Am I missing something?

        • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

          Yes you are calling the current UI optimized is wrong and sales numbers agree with that fact

          • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

            So you're saying the weak sales are due to the UI? That's a load of crap.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Please could you quote the part of my comment that refers to the "current UI"?

        • Cel Halcyon

          I can only say that when switching to my Nexus 7 from my Galaxy Nexus, I prefer things to stay in the same spot. I tried Paranoid Android to use tablet UI, but I found it to be too different from the phone UI to be comfortable.

          I would swipe from the top to see notifications every time before realizing I had to do the bottom right corner, and then the bottom notifications took so much space it was ridiculous.

          As far as the buttons, due to them being dead center on my phone, i'd always first reach for the center to hit home, and would instead hit empty space. It just was NOT user friendly to have to switch my entire mental paradigm to use my two devices.

          I very much prefer the direction that's being taken.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Firstly, it's not because I don't like this layout that I like the Honeycomb layout, there could be other ways to do it.

            Secondly, a 7" tablet is different from a 10" one, it's easier to reach the home button on the Nexus 7 that it will be on the Nexus 10.

            And finally, you say that you prefer the layout to be the same on tablets and on phones... well, me too, and its not the case here: on my Galaxy Nexus the buttons are on the side in landscape mode, not on tablets, when it would be much more intuitive in my opinion.

          • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

            Who cares what you like ? It's Google's idea where they want to go and they want a unified UX.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Who cares what you care then?
            See how ridiculous this sounds?
            Comments are meant for discussion, if you don't care about other's tastes and opinions, don't read comments...

        • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

          You're missing the fact that you can put a lot more shortcuts on the desktop and that the pulldown menu is optimized, too. It isn't "exactly the same UI", it just works the same way and is not arbitrarily different.

          • PhilNelwyn

            That's true, it's not exactly the same, but it's not optimized either. I think that you're misunderstanding the word.
            A couple of changes doesn't make an optimization, it takes a complete adaptation.
            For example, would you say of a game that it's optimized for your phone if it's only adapted to its processor but not to its screen size?

    • http://twitter.com/tadejkolino Tadej Rudec

      The point they want to make here is that you DONT optimize for tablets or any other devices, framework does the job (IF coded properly). Imagine it like building a website. This move to "phone interface" is just an unification of UX across Android. Plus it worked just fine for the iPad.

      • Mapekz

        That's the complete opposite of how you make modern web sites. Modern websites are made with desktop in mind and using techniques such as Responsive Web Design you scale the site down and refactor the layout to work better on a mobile device. Look at Google.com for an example of a mobile-specific site or Sony.com for one of the better examples of RWD.

      • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

        This new 'tablet UI' is rubbish though. It has SO much wasted space. Like, an indescribable amount. Matias Duarte cannot think this is a good design.

    • Freak4Dell

      Which of Google's apps do not use a different UI for tablets? I'm genuinely curious. GMail changes its UI, and Maps looks different, too. The Play Store also has a different UI. Those are the only ones that I use regularly.

      • Tomi Golob

        Different UI? Only the layout changes...everything else looks the same. To me at least

        • Freak4Dell

          Yes, that's what I meant. The layout changes, so the way the user interfaces with the app changes, hence the UI changes. This is how it should be. You wouldn't want things looking COMPLETELY different...then it would look like a different app altogether.

  • Ricardo Moura Rocha

    Excellent article, that's just how I feel about the tablet world...
    I have a tranformer prime and bought it as a laptop replacement but it's still not there, even though google bought quickoffice and got me excited about the possibilities after that, it hasn't done anything with it so far....

  • RedPandaAlex

    I think whether this change is a good thing is secondary to the main issue- and that's that it's time for Google to provide more options and functionality to the navigation bar. We've had a software navigation bar for years. On phones especially- up until now we've seen no benefit to that. It's just wasted screen real estate where physical buttons would suffice.

    Let us collapse and reinstate the bar with a swipe from the bottom of the screen. Let us add shortcuts to the empty space on tablets. Let us add more items to the Google now ring. And yes- let us move the notifications back to the navbar

    • defred34

      I agree - we should be allowed to collapse the nav bar. Either with your solution, or the one where it collects to a corner of the screen, with a small part jutting out that you can pull out (like Gamecih).

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      That would be nice for power users but confusing for novices.

  • Tatsuya

    I can relate to this analysis, from the ipad to today surprise with the new UI.
    I'm disappointed by Google vision. They don't seem to be aiming at a productive Os at all, or worse, perhaps not aiming at anything in particular except forcing their cloud on users in a way or another.
    I hope I'm mistaking and that on Monday they'll show some great features like multi-windows or high-res hdmi output, any stuff like that... but don't think so.

    There is ChromeOs, there is Android... now what?

    • Magnesus

      And a stylus.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phillip-Martin/100000077199240 Phillip Martin

        Never. You have a index finger, use it

  • http://Twitter.com/eggoespada Eric Gonzalez

    I strongly believe Google is heading to the right direction. But i also feel they need to make better use of the screen real estate, without making the phone experience and tablet experience so foreign from one another.

    Simply put: they need to take better advantage of larger screens in a manner that's not to confusing.

  • cviniciusm

    I agree with you, Jeremiah Rice.

  • Ádám Vincze

    I agree with you on this..

  • defred34

    I agree with you basically on everything. Had to check my address bar to see whether I was really on Android Police or not. One thing comes across clearly though: the combined nav+status+notif bar gave Android tablets a desktop-like feel. Now, they are giant, oversized phones not unlike the iPad to the iPhone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaelgonzalez2012 Michael Gonzalez

    I would like the idea that someday tablets would replace laptops however I believe we are far from that point. Sure a tablet is great for web browsing, email, basic gaming, and social networking, but what about professional power users. Developers like myself can't write code in Visual Studio or Eclipse, we can't use it to create 3d rendered objects in 3D Studio Max or Maya, we can't record and lay down tracks then edit them with Cakewalk Pro Audio, Sound Forge or Fruity Loops. For those users nothing short of a powerful laptop will do.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      I agree. We'll have to wait until we can fit a reasonably powerful processor in a tablet. Haswell ULV is sub-8W already and Broadwell will drive it down further. I'm wondering what the battery life on the Surface Pro with Ivy Bridge will be like. If it's somehow good enough, Google will be at a disadvantage due to not having a full-blown desktop OS for power users. Maybe they'll partner with Canonical as they're already building a version of Ubuntu to be run on top of Android.

      • Adrian Meredith

        In what way is it not a full blown desktop os? Being Linux based I would argue its more of a full blown is than windows.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          It uses the Linux kernel, yes, but I wouldn't call it a full-blown desktop OS. For starters you don't have multi-window support. Besides, AFAIK, the Bionic C library that Android uses isn't fully POSIX compatible.

          But what I really meant when I said a "full-blown desktop OS" was an OS which was already well-established and had lots of well-known desktop software. If they partner with a standard Linux distro, that can be achieved. Of course, they'll have to use an x86 processor to really take advantage of the huge software base.

  • TheMystro

    Will this unification of tablet and phone UI make all development easier? Or is that unrelated?

    • ssj4Gogeta

      No, this is completely unrelated. What they've changed is the UI around the app. The apps will still function the same way.

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      Unrelated. The framework is already there. You can use the same code for tablets and phones since ICS (4.0). This is just about making Android phone users feel right at home.

  • casinrm

    Personally I'm OK with the system buttons in the middle. The reason is that when I'm typing or playing games, having them too close to my thumbs made me accidentally press them too often. But I would prefer that Google use the Galaxy Nexus style of rotation and leave the buttons on the right in landscape. Also, I don't understand why the all apps button isn't a system button on the bottom bar. It would eliminate the necessary extra tap of home>all apps.

  • CeluGeek

    FINALLY!!! Someone with common sense speaks about this tablet UI nonsense!

    Tablets are used for different things that phones. They are held differently too. The Honeycomb / ICS tablet UI was perfect in the ergonomics department and screen space utilization department. Now those of us who are actually productive with our tablets will have to suffer, because gamers hate having the Back, Home and Multitasking buttons too close to their gamepad controls??? Now I have to use two hands to access notifications because Google keeps underestimating people's intelligence???

    The only silver lightning is, sadly, that Android devices take so long to get OS upgrades (if they ever get them) that I'll probably be enjoying my ICS tablet for many months to come before worrying about a Jelly Bean upgrade downgrading my user experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/billy.cao.775 Billy Cao

    Here's a crazy thought. Why not allow the option to pick which UI you want to use? The AOKP ROM allows you to force the tablet UI on the phone. Personally I would love to be able to use the hybrid UI in portrait mode and the tablet UI in landscape mode.

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      It would be difficult to avoid that some newbie accidentally activates this option and thinks his device is broken.

  • casinrm

    And just curious, why does the home screen need a bottom dock at all? Can't the apps and shortcuts just be put in the nav bar? Sort of like W7's task bar?

  • JensAstrup

    Personally, what annoys me most is the spacing between the app icons on the dock. It looks like iOS, not like Android.

  • http://twitter.com/binglut9 Brian

    The 10 inch ui sucks no one bought and why was thought because it sucked. People returned those devices Google needed to so something which is good.

  • ChristianAhlin

    The wasted space is on purpose so you don't hit any buttons while you are gaming. They are making content king and tablet less important.

    Good imho, the tablet isn't an office device (at most a field device). Otherwise it's phone+chromebook that has the best office utility.

    • defred34

      DAFUQ is wrong with you people saying Google placed the nav buttons in the middle because of GAMING!?! Two things:
      1) Only about 10-15% of ALL Android users play games that require input that could make them accidentally hit the nav buttons (games like virtual d-pads etc)
      2) I have been an Android gamer for over one year on my phone and tablet. I agree, on my phone I have hit the soft keys a few times, but I never remember doing it on my tablets. Once you're familiar with the layout of your tablet, there's no reason to be hitting the softkeys while gaming...unless you're a retard that is.

      • ChristianAhlin

        "you people","10-15%","retard".

        I rest my case.

      • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

        I'm impressed by your ability to pull statistics out of thin air.

        • Freak4Dell

          74.9% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

    • RedPandaAlex

      You don't make content king by adding another black bar to the screen and taking that space away from the app.

      • ChristianAhlin

        Movies and games are often full screen. I'm mostly talking about centralised buttons (thumbs for app action). The other bar signals to me that notifications and settings are less important than what my right thumb can/should do in app.

  • Raghav Baijal

    I think that the new interface is good. Eventually, they should do away with the three buttons at the bottom & replace them with gestures. For example, Home could be a swipe up from the bottom bezel (Like the Playbook). Multitask List of thumbnails could be a swipe right from the left bezel. Back button should be specific to apps.

  • boogie_monster

    I never thought I'd ever say this, but if this is final and in 4.2 tablets and phones look the same I'll definitely be getting a Microsoft Surface!

    • defred34

      I'm with you there buddy. Just d/l-ed Win8 on my laptop, and the potential is there on a MSFT Win8 tablet. Bye bye Google...so much for making you tablets become toys like Apple's and not productivity tools. Eventually, Apple will take the toy market and MSFT the productivity market, it'll leave Google with no marketshare in the tablet space. Serve 'em right then (I still hope they change though!).

      • boogie_monster

        Yeah I installed win8 yesterday too, and to be honest, at first I though that boy it's gonna take a while to get used to it but after just few minutes I liked it. there are still some flaws tho which will be corrected in few updates I believe. but I agree with you about the tablet marketshare, Google will lose it all if they do this horrible mistake. but Surface is the one for productivity.

    • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

      Fully agree. Microsoft is doing something right with their tablet and you know it's going to be a lot smoother performance wise. I want Android to succeed, but Google is screwing up here.

      • boogie_monster

        yeah I went to Microsoft store yesterday and checked Surface out. it is a little bit laggy but to be fair it just came out so I believe after few updates they get rid of the bugs, and to be honest I think the "PROMISED TABLET" is Surface not iPad and not even Google's. so sad that Google lost their vision.

        • jm9843

          Don't buy into the hype. The Nexus 10 will be a much better tablet than Surface RT.

          • boogie_monster

            I agree with you, and I believe that Nexus 10 will definitely be a better tablet. but why on earth would you change a perfect layout for the tablets and put a phone interface on it? now with ubuntu running on Nexus 7, I can't wait to put some Ubuntu on my Moto Xoom.

          • jm9843

            I like the large screen optimized tablet layout too (fellow Xoom owner) but I don't think that it's perfect. For 4.2, I think it's the right move to have a consistent homescreen between phones, 7'' tablets, and 10'' tablets. The more important way that they should be optimizing for 10'' tablets, imo, is "user profiles" (already confirmed) and running multiple apps side-by-side. For the latter, they should heavily borrow from Microsoft's approach with Windows 8, although I think that it would have naturally evolved to be very similar anyway. Basically, hit the task-switcher system button and then drag the thumbnail to the right so that it expands to take up either 3/4 or 1/4 of the screen while the current app with focus takes up the remainder. Maybe add a button to the system bar while in this mode to quickly swap the two view ports?

            I'm rambling a bit here, but my hope is that Google surprises with 4.2 and adds both of those capabilities. Users will come to accept, even appreciate, consistency with the soft buttons and location of the notification shade. There are still plenty of ways that Google can push a progressive UX with great interaction without making it disjointed between different device sizes (e.g. inventive use of the system bar/soft buttons).

          • boogie_monster

            I agree with most of the things you said here, like user profiles and windows like multitasking (that one was actually pretty neat) or maybe even moving the app launcher button to the bottom of the page. but to be honest, I really loved the tablet notification style, having the clock on the lower right and tapping on that brings up all the things you usually need. but adding a bar to the top and having a pull down notification is just a waste of space and design, I was laughing at ipads for having such a stupid notification bar, I know I'll eventually get used to it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a right approach.

          • tsunami1609

            How do you figure? Do you mean software wise or hardware wise?

            I won't form an opinion on which is better until the Nexus 10 comes out, but Google has a lot to do to beat it. Right now, the advantage android has software wise is a better notification system (which I doubt anyone will beat in the near future) and less of a learning curve. And more apps, of course - I miss Chrome slightly :'(. The advantage of the Nexus 10 is its absolutely absurd resolution. It may be lighter, but we don't know yet (I bet it will be thanks to Samsung plastic - not that I really have a problem with the plastic). Speed, battery life, performance etc is still unknown.

            The surface, however is silky smooth in normal use, has a great task switcher and great split screen not to mention better productivity. And the hardware is phenomenal IMO. Durable as f$*k, looks good, and let's not start on the keyboard kickstand combo.

            So I can't imagine the Nexus 10 being a MUCH better tablet. I imagine it will either be a little better in its own way, not as good in some fields (I don't want to use the word "worse"), or just different.

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      What a BS. Windows 8/RT has the lowest information density of all. How is that an improvement?!

      • boogie_monster

        I'm not sure what you mean or if you meant to comment on my post! but I understand that you are a hardcore android fan and I myself like android as well, but I want my tablet to have a different UI than my phone! and I think Microsoft did it right on their windows 8. I don't like windows phone for your record I just like the way surface is! and if Google decides to go with phone's UI for tablets, well then I might change my tablet. (not phone!)

  • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

    I fully agree with the author. There's no reason to use up more screen real estate than necessary. Similarly this is why I hate software buttons on phones. The phones that use soft keys never seem to compensate by making the screen larger, and end up with bigger bezels (Nexus 4 I'm looking at you).

    • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

      Why couldn't this be a preference/setting? Don't tell me that would lead to fragmentation by any stretch of the imagination... we're talking about a simple yet polarizing difference here.

  • atul john

    i like the older UI better.... I can do most things using just my thumbs....it's simply more usable...with the new UI, we will have to keep using our index fingers. Total Fail!

    -
    Motorola Xoom on JB

    • http://www.binarybulge.com/ BinaryBulge

      Yep, it's simple: Most people hold the tablet on its ends, and the buttons are all the way in the middle. Unequivocal fail. Optimized my butt.

  • defred34

    Just a note guys. The chances of Google screwing up is high, and it looks like Google will have to pull out from the tablet market soon. They OS is STILLL laggy after many many years. iOS is FLAWLESS (mind you, I use an Android tablet as my primary mobile device). And now, Windows 8 (or RT) is also flawless like iOS AND more functional.

    Google really needs to make the tablet experience more distinct, and not merge them! For example, multi-screen apps (like what Samsung has already done rather well) is screaming to make an appearance. Google really shouldn't dumb down the experience, because then they're no better than Apple. One main reason many came to Android was because there was a richer experience here, unlike on iOS where everything is so, starightforward.

    • storm14k

      Really? Is this why Goolge has chewed into 50% of a tablet market Apple once held to itself? What idiot would pull from a market where they are growing?

      Sorry but there is nothing to iOS to begin with. Its an app launcher. If tablets are going to become productivity devices Android would lead that charge over iOS. Talked to a few friends that have N7's that are iPhone users and they hands down like Android better. The connectivity between Google services and other Google connected devices is outstanding to them. iOS doesn't stack up.

      But tablets are most likely going to live as second screens and consumption devices which Android handles just fine. There's not that much needed at the OS level to handle that. So what tablets really come down to is price. Its not a productivity device no matter how much some want to believe that and for many the average price isn't justified. You could have a decent laptop for the price of some of these tablets. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire sold not because of their size (which Apple seems to mistakenly think) but their price. The price fits that of a companion device and the N7 made it sweeter with a nice screen. If the Nexus 10 comes in at some price bucking current trends by a good margin expect it to eat into iPad sales even further. This is all a race to see who can make these things at a price that fits their usefulness.

      • defred34

        Wow, 50%? You pulling that out of your ass? Apple still has over 60% tablet marketshare, and of Android marketshare, 50% is owned by Amazon. So, Google's version of Android is only on at best 20% (high estimate) of devices.

        • storm14k

          So I take it you read the new you want to read huh. Directly after Apple's earnings call a report came out showing tablet market share where Apple was down to the 50's. And whether you want to count the Kinde Fire as Google depends on what you're looking for. If you're going to say it doesn't make profit for Google then you might as well not talk about Android at all. They don't intend to make direct profit and they open sourced it to allow exactly what Amazon did....make their own version. Their goal is to increase web usage beyond the desktop/laptop. Looking at it from Apple's side it doesn't matter if it Google or Amazon flavored Android. Its Android tablets murdering their tablet market share and Google makes Android no matter how Amazon rebrands it.

          So again...why would you pull out of a market where you are growing? Hell lets say Google only has 25% of the market. Apple has just barely broken 30% of the market in phones and did so at a snails pace. So Apple should pull out of the market right? GTFOH

    • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

      Flawless?! What a BS. Wonder why the Surface RT has mediocre reviews? It's the OS, stupid.

      • defred34

        I meant flawless as in smooth-flowing OS with NO lag. Read the context of my sentence. Sure, its a God-damned new OS, so the features are lacking but the foundation has been set in stone.

  • Himanshu Mendhe

    I completely agree with this article. Google is trying to push tablets as content consumption devices where they can be much more.

  • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

    The dynamic space area with the N7 tablet layout is way longer than that. I got this point trying to stretch it to its limit before getting bored (it was STILL adding notification icons):

    http://i.imgur.com/NZPwE.png

    The Honeycomb layout only shows 5 icons, so in this case the new layout actually has higher information density.

  • Jay T

    I keep hearing people say that the new ui is so that you dont hit the buttons while gaming. There's a much better way to do that, though. Put a lock button in the middle of the old tablet ui. The way you can lock your softkeys when you need to, but still have them easily accessible.

    • defred34

      Google should have hired you a long time ago, no jokes. Your idea is simple, practical and more importantly, sensible. Google's lacks sense in every manner.

      • Walkop

        Thats what ASUS did with the TF300 and TF700. Works awesomely.

  • http://www.androidradar.de/ Leif

    I like it. The corners, where the old Tablet UI buttons were, is an area where most people hold there tablet and where you also find many game controls. Because of this you could easily hit those buttons by accident. This was a problem and some like ASUS had implemented an additional button-lock feature just for the android system buttons in their 10" Tablets. Everytime I gave my 10" tablet to someone like my dad or friends or so they hit those system buttons by accident. With the buttons in the middle now you won't hit them so easy by accident which is very good.

  • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

    The "dynamic space area" with the N7 tablet layout is WAY longer than that. I got this point trying to stretch it to its limit before getting bored (it was STILL adding notification icons). The Honeycomb layout only shows 5 icons, so in this case the new layout actually has higher information density.

    • GazaIan

      Holy notifications

  • http://twitter.com/cabbieBot cabbieBot

    Completely agree with this counterpoint. Great opinion piece.

  • Djones

    I'd bet we will see more and more decisions like this as time goes on, that really annoy a lot of hardcore android users. A obvious past one was removing the microSD slot from the Nexus line. The second has been them pushing off dealing with split-screening apps, which by all rights Android should have been the first OS to do natively (now Windows RT can claim that title).

    They are an advertising company so Google responds to market pressures. Right now Apple controls the market so it's not surprising if they follow in their footsteps. If Windows 8/RT get's big then they could easily move more in that direction. It is very reactive, unfortunately. I really hope that they take a more proactive role in defining this new tablet space, going forward.

  • MicroNix

    So wait, let me get this straight.

    When Honeycomb was released and quite different from Gingerbread, everyone complained that how can Google go on with such a fragmented UI approach. Then ICS came along and started merging elements together and was praised as it began unifying the UIs of phone and tablet. Now we're even getting closer to having the UI experience be the same and Google is flogged for it??

    Well, there is just no pleasing you Austin Powers!!!!!!

    • Freak4Dell

      That's an excellent point. It just goes to show that people will always find something to complain about.

  • Freak4Dell

    Regardless of what other manufacturers are throwing into Android (often in ways that don't end up working right, e.g. the Note 10.1), Google has deemed that their tablets will be media consumption devices. Until Google changes that vision, that is all that Android tablets will be. I would rather have something more productive, too, but the core OS simply doesn't support that. Until it does, the UI will not change anything. Most people will just get used to it, and the few that don't will go and buy something else (which also looks like a giant version of the phones running the same OS), and nobody will miss them. This will be more intuitive to users who have an Android phone and are just now picking up an Android tablet. Everything is in the same place. It makes more sense.

    Also, I'm not sure why you're saying it could be worse, like the Surface. The Surface is the only tablet that can actually be considered a productivity device. You can have true side-by-side multitasking out of the box. Granted, it's only with a few apps, but it's better than nothing. The only Android tablet to have anything like this is the Note 10.1, and your colleague's review already pointed out how badly that was implemented. The major difference is that the core OS supports it on the Surface, rather than being an addon, like the Note. Of course, the Surface as a whole is a bit buggy, but it is a first generation device. It will get better as it's updated. I still don't like the UI at all, but it makes the most sense on a tablet, vs. a phone or a desktop, so I think I could live with it. I have no need for another tablet, so I will be sticking to Android for a while longer, but if I were after something that handles productivity, I would be after the Surface over an Android tablet any day.

    • storm14k

      The surface is not a productivity device. People are questioning whether Win 8 is even a productivity OS. Before you can even get to software concerns you have to realize that the issue is input. Typing on a slab doesn't cut it and you can only do so much without typing. You add a keyboard and you might as well have a laptop. The only benefit left is that you can pull the screen off to easily....consume content. Google has it right and are catering to the strength of the device type at the OS level.

      • Freak4Dell

        The Surface is much more of a productivity device than Android tablets or the iPad. Regardless of whether Windows 8 slows down productivity (it does, which is why I don't like it), it still has productivity as a core principle of the OS. Android and iOS do not have that. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, though, and I agree with you that Google is doing it right. They realize that their OS is primarily for content consumption rather than creation or a mix of both, and they are taking the steps to make a better experience for that purpose. Now, I would love to see Android become more of a productive OS, but I'm not going to be upset if it doesn't. My point was simply that Jeremiah completely contradicts himself when he complains about how Android doesn't focus on productivity enough, yet he thinks the Surface is worse than Android tablets. Worse is subjective, of course, and I certainly have reservations about all of the variants of Windows 8, but when it comes to productivity, the Surface simply does it better.

        I also agree that by adding a keyboard, you might as well have bought a laptop, especially when you are paying almost the price of a laptop. The biggest problem I have with the Surface is that it's way overpriced. At $600, I don't want a tablet that can act like a handicapped laptop. I can definitely understand the benefits of being able to remove the screen portion, and ideally, I would want a laptop that can act as a tablet. I want to eventually see a wide array of options in the convertible tablet arena. Something where, when docked, it acts as a screen for the normal computer parts in the keyboard area, and when undocked, it acts as an independent tablet. This would work best with Windows, since it's unlikely any manufacturer is going to make something that runs both Windows and Android. There's convertible tablets that have come out recently, but I'm waiting for some manufacturer to really perfect it.

        • storm14k

          If you're talking about the Surface hardware itself I don't see it. Its a slab like all the other slabs with a soft keyboard. But there have been tablets like the Transformer that have had keyboards. If you mean the OS its only in the legacy desktop mode. The metro UI is only slightly better than the other two since it does allow multiple apps to be shown on screen but its still pretty limited. I will say it has potential though. A slab can only get you so far.

          I once wanted a convertible tablet but the more I looked at them and thought about it they didn't make sense. I'd have to carry the keyboard around all the time in case I needed to really do something and would probably just end up leaving it attached. I'd be better of with an X1, MBA or the like. I now really just want a tablet for more portable media consumption and some gaming. Its worth whipping one out for video or reading over a laptop of any size. I think they will also find usefulness as control devices of various sorts. A/V center, home automation....even gaming second screens and controllers. I think tablets can fill niches here and Google should be thinking on this now ahead of the others.

          • Freak4Dell

            No, I'm talking about the OS. All tablets are pretty much the same as far as hardware goes, and as we both agreed on, without a keyboard, the productivity is limited. When you add a keyboard, it essentially becomes a laptop.

            Whether it's slightly better or a lot better doesn't matter. What matters is that it's better. It has an advantage, plain and simple. Just ask Vin Diesel...he knows all about how winning is winning, regardless of how much you win by.

            I can't think of a single flaw of an ultrabook with a detachable screen, other than price. If you don't want the keyboard portion, just leave it at home. If you don't want to detach it ever, then don't detach it. I'd love to have the option, at least. It cuts down on the number of devices I have to buy, which reduces the overall cost.

        • http://twitter.com/physicalist09 Physicalist

          Productivity is not at the core. The desktop is clearly an afterthought.

  • cy_n_ic

    Good thing theirs custom roms so everyone can have the ui experience they like best. I can see ui switching becoming standard options soon

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    This is a shame because I do like the Honeycomb, ICS and Jelly Bean Tablet UI. I guess Google want to reduce fragmentation, because iOS uses the SpringBoard throughout all the devices.

    Personally I think this is counter-intuitive because the tablet UI did work well on the larger devices and looked slick too.

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Why won't they make it configurable?
    Even ye olde Windowze allows you to drag the taskbar around the screen. Android is all about configurability, so what's the matter, Google?
    I, for example, would prefer those soft buttons embedded at the left side of the top bar, and no bottom bar at all, whenever I run fullscreen app, but duplicated at the bottom bar when I run other apps or in the home screen. And please don't tell me it's not productive or intuitive, I like it this way, and I don't want anyone to shove his design ideas down my throat.

  • henywatty

    The dynamic space picture on the right looks suspiciously like the Acer A500 interface.

  • oneillperson

    Google should implement the old AND new layouts! The old one is better for using 2 hands, while the new one is better for 1 hand and gaming. So they could allow users to switch between them instantly by using some kind of gesture.

  • DJ SPY

    I feel the same way you do. Unfortunately it seems Google's is forgetting about setting itself and Android apart from Apple and just be the same as Apple with this "giant phone UI" mentality. Just look at Chrome for Android. It's almost like using Safari. It sucks. What ever happened to Android giving us the full desktop full internet experience? There's non of that with Chrome for Android. I love how the "Buttons" are laid out on my ICS Xoom. It makes perfect sense and its more intuitive than having them dead in the middle and the other stuff at top.

  • Batman

    I think the point this article makes if valid, but at the same time it isn't a big deal to me, especially on a 10-incher, with which you have to use two hands anyways.

  • http://photo.katzmatt.com Matt Katzenberger

    This person is talking sense!

  • Jorge Ivan Sanchez Gonzalez

    at least it's not Surface? I like the Surface

  • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

    Sorry, but that made no sense at all. You went on and on about how people don't use tablets (primarily) for productive work. Then you suddenly jumped into 'earlier bottom left-right. now center'. So, that's the reason people aren't using tablets for productivity? If Google adds the navigation buttons on the bottom left and notification etc on bottom right, people will see tablets as productivity powerhouse and it'll start a new era of tablets...? What are you talking about, sir...?

    Don't get me wrong, even I hate this "blown up phone" look on a tablet. Hell with uniformity of look on all kind of devices. I'm buying a different kind of device, I want a different look on it. And I don't want to do hand exercise every time I want to tap something. That's why I don't like this UI. Not because it won't let me do productive work.

  • Simon Belmont

    Yeah! The phablet UI on the Nexus 7 was already a bit disorienting for me on a 7 inch tablet (been using the tablet UI on CM9 for my Nook Color for a long time now).

    But, using the phablet UI on a 10 INCH TABLET is downright ridiculous. I guess Google is going for consistency for Nexus tablets, but at least let us choose out of the box!

  • nospam

    "Oh well, it could be worse - at least it's not Surface."

    And I thought Android Police was doing pretty good lately with quality posts, then you say that. Thanks for reminding me that this is also just a shitty bias blog.

    • defred34

      Yah, pretty biased there. I presume the author never personally used a Surface yet, but he's come to such biased conclusions. Shameful journalism at its core.

  • Brandon Price

    I did prefer the old tablet interface, but I don't necessarily see this as a step away from content creation and serious productivity. Think with me, for a second. What if, upon docking this tablet, the navbar disappeared? And the two pulldowns for notifications and settings were opened with clicks as easily as dragging, on the left for notifications and the right for settings? Now, suddenly, we have a desktop OS. All that's needed is some mouse/keyboard optimization. Using a tablet interface on a desktop sucks without that. But, to be honest, using Windows 8's Metro or whatever they're calling it now is just as bad on a desktop as Android, but MSFT is going to push it on people anyway. Who knows, this could be the year of the Android desktop.

  • WatSon9000

    My thoughts:
    1.Though the Honeycomb tablet UI may have given you slightly more screen real estate, it was poorly thought out. Trying to correct all the issues with the UI would have just turned it into an absolute mess; It's for the best that they threw it out, imo.
    2. With this UI everything is more consistent, better organized, and accidental presses are reduced.
    3. There's no phone vs. tablet UI. It's the Android UI, which just happened to start out on phones.
    4.I'm just guessing here since I haven't measured it out, but the between the status bar and the nav bar, the remaining space may be exactly 16:9
    5. The home screen experience is improved, imo, with the inclusion of a dock and a less daunting space to fill with apps and widgets. I've always found trying to fill in 5 (or more) 8x7 grids in and attractive and thoughtful manner without having too much dead space or clutter needlessly difficult.

    • defred34

      Some thoughts:

      2) Seriously, are accidental presses that common? I've seen this being mentioned so many times in this comment section already.
      3) Yes, there is phone UI and tablet UI. Google said as much with regards to the GB-esque phone layouts and HC-esque tablet layouts.
      4) You *may* be right there actually. Currently, most Android tablets are 16:10. The current nav/status bar takes up some vertical space, so it becomes close to, but not exactly, 16:9. This may make it exactly 16:9.

  • Vandré Brunazo

    I'll humbly disagree with the article. The position of buttons in Honeycomb is something many people, myself included have been complaining. And I'm glad they're changing it. In fact, I bought this up in one of the Android Developer Hangouts a few months ago, and Google engineers told us they were very aware of the problem. And were currently trying out different solutions internally. They even mentioned giving the user the option to move the status bar up.

    The problem with the Honeycomb button position is that it's too easy to accidentally press the back, home or notification buttons. This is a *huge* issue for games. But it's overall a problem for every app. I mean really, who here owns a honeycomb tablet and never got frustrated because you quit an app to the home screen by mistake? Or when you're playing a game and click the notification in the middle of the action?

    Of course, your points are valid, there are more wasted space. So it's a trade-off of space vs less mistakes. It's not a perfect solution. Each user might prefer it differently. On an ideal world there would be an adjustable setting somewhere that let's us change that if we want. Let's hope that's the case. Worst case scenario, rom yours. I am personally keeping mine like that.

  • http://twitter.com/disengageauto Andwele

    I realized after reading both articles I don't care that much about the location of the notification bar and the navigation bars. They are experimenting in order to see what gains the most traction. The Nexus 7 has exponentially more traction than the Xoom interface so they should stick with it for consistence and cache. Hopefully this will mean a redesign of google music to bring back the damned notification bar in landscape.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

    A question for those who do android coding: is this UI due to a more streamlined code, thus probably one reason why Google choose this?

  • http://www.twitter.com/LeDavidMoreno HappyNacho

    Explain me how a supped up phone interface on a 10in tablet is worse than MS surface in a Non-biased way.

  • Sergio Gabriel

    I couldn't agree more.

  • http://twitter.com/jordanlong20 Jordan Long

    3 cheers to jeremiah rice

  • http://twitter.com/LakeDubVT Lake

    What icon set is being used with the AOKP home screen?

  • sootie

    You lost me, you want tablets to be more productive and more based around getting work done than they are for consuming content then finish the article by saying at least its not surface? WTF?? surface was designed from the ground up as a tablet to get stuff done on, it might end up being rubbish but as far as the interface and interactions with the tablet are concerned it sounds like its aiming to be exactly what you want.

    i had a longer rant planned but im bored with typing one handed (broken wrist not fap sickos)

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    I've opened a feature request about that on Android bug tracker: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=39547 please star and upvote it.
    This proposal is consistent to the new system UI ideology, so it might get accepted, and I don't think Google will accept more radical changes, like an option to switch back to the Honeycomb/ICS system bar.

  • Sergio

    I see a near future where notification bar is always in the top of the screen and nav buttons are replaced by gesture based interaction. And that will be in every smartphone, phablet or tablet in both portrait and landscape modes. Maybe they're trying to unify before taking the leap.

  • premnath

    i'm using galaxy tab 2 7.0.i hate that jelly bean UI.i want to go back to ics.can any one help me

  • cloudpt

    "as many a would-be Techstradamas had predicted": Is it me or is this the greatest usage of Latin plural in a mad-up word ever :P I'm not sure the whole grammatical side is sound, but it does sounds neat. Anyway nice article, totally agree.

  • Eduart

    This article had no point at all. If it did, it was hidden beneath whining and uneducated shots at Microsoft. Give me my 5 minutes back.

  • Alex Ohannes

    Are you sure you even have the tablet UI turned on? I know posting this comment is probably pointless now, but did you have the "ro.property.tabletUI=true" line in your build.prop file?