As soon as phones became more than just phones, but small computers, music and movie player, personal agendas and more, the concept of interface design was born. People needed the same type of user experience that they were used to in computers: simple, easy to understand commands, quick to find menu options and redundancy when they perform settings changes (the well known “are you sure you want to delete the file?”).
The Early Beginnings
The first interface design for Android smartphones was not much different from the general menu of a mobile phone. The user experience in terms of intuitive and easy to use menu was nearly zero. The camera settings could not be changed and the overall look of the icons of the menu had the same retro, rugged and unpolished aspect of regular phone icons.
From September 2008 (the launching of the Android 1.0 version) to April 2009 (Android 1.5 Cupcake – the first distribution named from a dessert, which would become the signature name for all future versions) there were no significant changes in the intermediary versions.
First Signs of a Smart User Experience
Android Cupcake had a few great and innovative things in terms of interface design: first of all, there was the integrated support for a third party virtual keyboard. Then, there was the widget support. In terms of smartphone as an entertainment gadget, the widget support is like the first PlayStation for video games.
With the Gingerbread version, release, we get the first signs (pun intended) of implementing hand gestures instead of push buttons as a way of interacting with the device, thus making the physical keyboard of the phones obsolete and making full sized touchscreens the norm for smartphones.
Expanding Interface Design from Utilitarian to Sleek Look
2010 was the release year for Android Gingerbread which marks the moment when smartphone user interface stops being simply utilitarian and allows the expression of style and personality through the introduction of the home screen, various themes and color schemes. Icons are styled and reduced in size and split screens allow the user to arrange his apps and widgets according to frequency of use.
An Overview of Mobile User Interface
The smartphone and tablet start taking the place of the computer and laptop for many people. Mobile data and fast 3G (even 4G) wireless internet allow users to keep their work, personal life, social networks and hobbies organized inside a hand held device with no buttons and no keyboard.
For interface designers the challenge is to improve the ease of access of functions and files with as little hassle as possible. Voice commands, hand gestures and increased control over the interface look and organizing the icons are the cardinal rules of a successful mobile platform. Friendly and personalized user experience is no longer a special feature, it is a norm which makes the difference between being on the market and being a part of history.