One of Samsung's claims to fame is a feature meant to improve productivity on mobile devices. One that users of stock Android and manufacturer skins alike have been yearning for for a while. That feature is multi-window, which allows users to run two apps on the screen at once, dragging and dropping between the two.
The problem is no one has been able to get it right yet. A company in the mobile space - in this writer's opinion - has yet to perfect the balance between utility and intuition when it comes to multi-window functionality on tablets (or phones, though I haven't used the Note 4 yet), but a post to Android Internals in March confirmed that Google had been working on the programmatic side of multi-window in stock Android.
Google+ got a somewhat unexpected bump to version 4.6 today, an update that brought with it plenty of Material touches. Since we first reported on Material Design (at the time known as Quantum Paper), we've expected that Google's own apps would be undergoing their own gradual transformations in updates leading up to the launch of Android L. The Google+ app got its first round of material changes earlier this summer, but today's update starts its journey through the last mile.
A couple of months ago, we shared an early look at an impending Play Store update that saw more "materialized" content listings, but the rest of the interface remained largely unchanged. The new, more image-focused interface made thoughtful use of increased white space and introduced some really fun tablet layouts for content listings from movies to books, music, and apps.
This time, we have an early look at the Play Store's upcoming 5.0 release.
Pandora is currently rolling out a redesigned version of its Android app that may just cause more than a few double takes. The Internet radio service has looked largely the same on Android for a few years now, but the UI introduced in 5.5 is strikingly different - at first, at least. This change is stark, but it's only surface deep.
The Pandora app has been stripped of its blue gradients.
All the Voice Over IP talk in the last day or two has focused on a certain Google property, but Hangouts isn't the first one available on Android, and certainly not the most full-featured. Seven months after being acquired by Japanese retailing giant Rakuten, mobile call and text app Viber is getting a major refresh. Version 5.0 has a new look for both phones and tablets, but the big news is that the app now supports video calling.
Releasing the L preview was an important leap forward for Android as an ecosystem, but, outside of a single almost meaningless update, we're probably not going to see any new builds up until the final L release. I can sort of see why the Android team doesn't want to put out builds with incremental fixes, saving all the improvements for a grand finale unveiling, so in the meantime, any glimpse at their progress is very interesting to us as well as developers working on porting their apps to adhere to the new Material Design guidelines.
The first beta of Paranoid Android 4.6 has been made available for download and it includes a feature the team has been working on for some time. Dynamic System Bars (DSB) allows the status and navigation bars to match the action bar color in apps. If you've ever used the Tinted Status bar mod for Xposed, this is a similar idea.
As with Holo before it, Material Design has triggered a deluge of app concepts, mockups, and fancy animations from various enthusiasts and designers in the community (myself included). A key factor that is often left out of these presentations, however, is a detailed and thoughtful explanation of design choices and UI considerations that went into the finished product.
As a designer, explanations of your design thinking are critical when presenting new designs, not just to those that would actually be building the app (they need to know the details), but to a broader audience of end users and even other designers.
For a while now Microsoft developers have been working on adding handwriting support to the Android app. The feature, which appeared in the newly released beta app last month, lets users add notes in a way that is sometimes more convenient or useful than typing. Writers can use their fingertips or a stylus and then tweak their notes with a number of options. The feature is particularly useful for scribbling thoughts in the margins of a scanned document.
Google knows using YouTube on a TV could be better, so the company has started to push out an updated version that fits in more with the company's latest sense of style (Android TV, anyone?) and, more importantly, makes content easier to access.
YouTube looks great on a TV, but it's not as easy to browse as other media services such as Netflix and Hulu, where users can just shift through movie titles and the latest shows without having to go through all that much effort.