For quite some time now, I have been musing the question: how would I design a mobile operating system? I sketched a simple idea in my mind, with the following criteria:
- No home-screen.
- Maximise vertical space.
- Make app switching and notification checking easy.
I feel that the first point is the most important (hence the title); I believe the idea of a desktop or home-screen is an outdated concept that should not have been ported to the world of mobile operating systems. It has become our comfort blanket, a place we can return our phones’ screen to so we know where we are, but is it required? With a few simple changes, I maintain that it is not. Why don’t we just turn our phone screen off when we’re done looking at it? Keeping this in mind, I began to construct my idea using Moqups, a wire-framing web app.
I started by separating the main components of an Android phone (I have used iOS but prefer the Android-way of doing things):
- Top status bar
- Bottom navigation buttons
- Recent apps menu
- App draw
- Running app
Status bar and navigation
Without a home screen (and how this will work will become apparent throughout) the home button isn’t required. Putting aside Android widgets, the home-screen, recent apps menu and app draw provide the same primary function: launching and switching between apps. Combining these three components means we can ditch the recent apps button. With this added space, the status bar notifications and connection/battery information can be moved to the bottom, removing the top status-bar and maximising vertical space.
In a world where phones are getting bigger, no longer having to reach the top of the phone for the notifications could be a very welcome feature.
We keep the back button as this is key to Android navigation (and I like it!). This all produces the following screen:
How do I launch an app?!
Swiping up from the bottom (like the action that currently takes a user to Google Now on Android, or the control centre on iOS) will slide up the app menu, overlaying the currently open app. This will consist of:
- A favourites-bar, a key component of both iOS and Android.
- Recent apps stack, from Android Lollipop.
As a nod to iOS, I’ve included notification number badges on the favourites. I believe these would be a nice addition to the stock Android UI.
The page containing the rest of the installed applications can be found by swiping up again from the bottom/favourites-bar. The “Close” button takes the user down a layer each time: app draw > recent apps > running app.
The notification icons are stored in the right-hand section of the navigation bar. Tapping these opens the full notification window. I imagine this animation as an expanding circle from the bottom-right corner, revealing a window like the Android lock-screen widget: DashClock.
Below the current notifications are the persistent notifications, like weather and upcoming events (akin to the iOS Today screen).
Note the navigation bar changes when the notification window is open:
- The time moves to the top, grows, and reveals the date.
- Connection details move to the very top.
- Battery details vertically centre in the navigation bar, revealing exact percentage.
- Notification area of the navigation bar dims, as full details now available on screen.
If there aren’t any apps open, the notification window is shown by default, without a close button.
When the phone is locked, a variation of the notification window is shown; less detail displayed to protect privacy (this would be optional). Swiping-up from the lock symbol unlocks or shows pin-entry form.
The only item remaining is quick settings, which I can imagine being displayed by tapping the time/battery area. I’ve had a (very quick) look at what would be involved with hacking Android to create DGH but this is well and truly out of my current coding reach. However, if someone were to take this idea and run with it, I’d certainly be an avid backer! Fingers crossed.
You can find the full DGH Moqups project with comments on UI items here.