My vision for the Nexus 5 and Android 5.0 KLP

I bought my first Nexus phone, the Nexus 4, a couple of months ago when the second wave of stock became available and am loving the smooth and beautiful user experience of Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and the gorgeous design and great in-hand feel of the LG manufactured handset.

As much fun as I am having with it, I have, I suppose, like most of us here, been thinking ahead about the next evolution of Android and the Nexus phone. Where will Google take both properties to next? For months now I have, off and on, been sketching on pieces of paper some ideas I had about what I wanted to see in the next version of Android OS and the hardware that will be used to show it off. They were rough and never very presentable but with Google I/O just a few weeks away now and finding some spare time on my hands I finally put together some admittedly still very basic drawings on my laptop that I hope will serve to illustrate my ideas better than my crooked hand drawn scratchings.

I had some design choice in mind when I set out to do this:

  1. Free up screen space by removing the on-screen software navigation keys. I thought about doing away with them entirely by moving to a completely gesture based UI but realised that would probably require an almost complete reworking of the whole Android UI paradigm. As you will see below I settled on PIE controls as I thought I had found a way to integrate the hardware design to make them more intuitive and discoverable for the average consumer.
  2. To keep Google Now and Google search at the heart of the OS by keeping them only one swipe away from where ever you may be or whatever app you may be using.
  3. To begin to tie together all the various design elements Google had developed across Android and iOS. I started with Google Now and Google Search.
  4. To take inspiration from what is already working and great about the software and hardware and not change things for purely for the sake of change.
  5. Hmmm I need to think of something to round out my list here... :p

Please excuse the quality of the drawings - e.g. I know the fonts are all wrong, the left and right bezels should be only half as wide, there are lots of missing icons etc. This is the first time I've done this.

The boot screen



I wanted to use the Android logo as a reflection but my skills aren't up to it yet.

I'm sure someone can come up with something much cooler but all I really want to emphasise is the characteristic black monolithic look of a Nexus phone. Think of this as basically the N4 without the chrome strip and with much smaller top and bottom bezels.

PIE controls (Stage 1)



If I could draw it I would have split the PIE control into 3 for back, home and multi-task. I also would have drawn it a little narrower so that a fourth menu key is added to the right of multi-task when needed for older apps and does not shift the orientation of the main 3 keys.

But what's this: there's Google on top and... a glowing blue arrow in the bezel?! The arrow is how I think Google can make PIE controls intuitive for the average consumer. This arrow is a motif that I'll build upon further in the hardware (more on that later).

Note, it isn't a capacitive button. It is the notification LED, reshaped. So still blinks like a notification LED in various colours and at various speeds when you get notifications, but it also hides away when the screen is off and when booting to preserve the all-black aesthetic and also stays out so you can be immersed in the video you are watching or the game you are playing. When viewing pictures, it could change colour to match the overall hue of the photo being viewed (just like the Sony Xperia ZL, SP and U). Elsewhere, when you are using your phone, it stays lit just like any capacitive key visually to remind the user that the navigation keys are one easy swipe up from the center bottom bezel.

Swipe up quickly and you'll hit "Google" to get to Google Now, just like you do now. This is Stage 1 of the PIE swipe...

PIE controls (Stage 2)



Stage 2 of the PIE swipe comes in when you hold your finger on "Google". When you do that, it opens up the search box. From here, you can lift your finger off to begin typing your search: the PIE controls disappear, the search box flies to the top of the screen, recent searches hang down from it and the keyboard automatically slides up, just like the current search screen. If you change your mind and want to go to Google Now, just continue up higher with your finger to "Google" as before.


Alternative PIE design: The arrow in this design could be turned into a capacitive button you tap to go home. The pie controls would only be triggered if you start moving your finger up (detected by the screen) or if you hold onto the arrow. In this case, the home key on the pie could be replaced with an app tray button. The capacitive function of the arrow home button could be disabled to prevent accidental presses by an extra long press (say 3 seconds) on it which dims the current app and triggers a screen tip telling the user that accidental touch mode has been activated, the tip to long press again to turn it off and the OK and Cancel options. The new pie layout would be displayed with the home button where the app tray button was, and an animated hand swiping up to home. Accidental touch mode is basically the setup described in my original post above.

Multi-tasking concept: Swipe up from either side of the bottom corners (really just to the left or right thirds of the bottom edge) in one continuous motion to cycle through your running apps in chronological order as if you were scrolling. Each app thumbnail could glow or enlarge in a vertical 3D carousel like effect as you move through them. Once you’ve found the app you want to hop back into you could simply swipe into the center of it (having never lifted off your finger) or if you have a lot of apps open and you can’t reach all the way to the top of the screen to get to the last one, you can lift off your finger to scroll through the list like you do now and then tap on the app you want. If you change your mind you would simply swipe all the way back down. You can already multi-task through the PIE controls as described above of course but this would a "surprise and delight" feature that power users would really appreciate.

Google Now



I know it's not perfect but just go with me here with this mock-up of Google Now.

You'll notice the microphone icon is gone from the search bar. This was intentional as I've relocated it to the red circle in the action bar down the bottom (just imagine it there). This is meant to look like the iOS implementation of Google Search which IMO is much better looking than the one on Android. I've always thought it looked awkward lighting up in the top right corner. For this same reason, I would get rid of the microphone icon from the permanent search bar on the homescreen.

Design iterations for the back of the Nexus 5

I think these are pretty self-explanatory but you'll notice I've added in an extra element. I've taken the same arrow from the front and added it to the back as a second notification LED. This will only blink when you have the phone faced down and is capacitive so that you can touch and hold to stop it from blinking so it doesn't distract if you are say in a meeting.

Why haven't I gone with the Nexus "X" logo? I just don't think it looks good on its own. To my mind the arrow looks a lot better and ties in well with the one on the front.

In this first design, I've placed it high so that it becomes in a way a logo in itself. And since it can also represent the letter A, I think it serves as a nice subtle reminder of the OS it is running. :)



In this second one, I've brought back the more prominent silvery "nexus" logo but placed it vertically. Most people take photos in landscape after all. :)



The next two designs were inspired by the DBrand Titanium skin for the Nexus. A actual brushed aluminium backplate would be nice if signal issues can be prevented. Otherwise I wouldn't mind a soft touch titanium-skin-like finish.





So, what do you think?

Is this something you'd like to see in the next Nexus and major Android release?

Would Google take the gamble and ditch the permanent on-screen navigation keys for PIE controls like these?

Which back design do you like best?

What do you think about adopting the arrow as a quasi-logo for Nexus devices?