Android Jelly Bean, Galaxy Nexus, and WebOS Advanced Gestures
I'm sort of dreaming here, but it just seems to me that the next update to Android is going to bring some similar gestures to what webOS had.
It seems that the Galaxy Nexus is set up perfectly for this with the on screen section for buttons and navigation. It couldn't be that hard to add the following gestures that all existed in webOS
- Back swipe - functions exactly as the back button
- Swipe up - This is a little more tricky, but could be either taskswitching or going home, or some combo of the two. Swipe once for tasks, swipe twice for home, swipe from home to get app drawer.
- Forward swipe - move forward in web browser
- Left to right or right to left accross entire gesture area - switched between tasks in webOS, but unfortunately doesn't make much UX sense with task switching being vertical in 4.0 instead of horizontal like cards in webOS.
The biggest issue that keeps this from working well is the fact that Android went with the vertical layout instead of the horizontal card layout. They've introduced some advanced task switching in Chrome by swiping in from the side, but all of the UI metaphors are a little mixed up. Left to right to remove apps from the switcher, left to right to remove websites from Chrome, but those two features are mixed into separate apps with different mechanisms to get to them. In Chrome you hit a button at the top of the screen. For apps you hit a button on the bottom of the screen. In Chrome you can swipe between tabs, but in an app you can't swipe from the site to switch to another app.
It seems to me that they are going to have a hard time moving away from the vertical layout of all tasks now. They've had it for the main tablet version in 3.0 and now in 4.0 it is clearly the future direction. The only way I think they can make it work now is if they introduce a right to left swipe in from the right side of the screen to initiate the app switcher. That would mimic the webOS functionality that Matias originally designed, but it would all just be flipped on its side.
The final thing that seems to be missing is frankly a good task switcher. It is amazing that a device running a gig of ram and an amazing dual core processor can't even open the task switcher in a decent amount of time. WebOS could do it instantly and the cards would stay live the whole time. I'm not sure if this is a technical issue or what, but it seems like something they really need to get a handle on to really put some polish on Android and make it really a great productivity platform for mobile devices. There is one other problem with the task switcher that I'd like to see the address. It is much more natural and easy to use a UI like that if the swipes that perform the action on the screen actually have a distinct impact. In other words, one swipe down = advancing the list by one app. Just like webOS did with cards. There was no way to swipe quickly and scroll through the entire list. That use case just doesn't make much sense. It is also harder for humans to interact with what is essentially an infinite space. You have to swipe, determine how far your swipe advanced the screen, consume the info and then pick your app. That is fine for something when you are likely to be moving between dozens of apps, but for most people there will be 2-5 apps that get used a lot. So, users need to be able to enter the task switcher, swipe down a distinct number of times and know where they are going to be.
Anyways, just some thoughts. I'd love to hear other opinions. I loved webOS for its UX design and I love Android for hardware, features, and services, but would love to see Matias Duarte work his magic again and make Android as smooth and functional as webOS. It really was beautiful.