Without a doubt, the key technological revolution of our time has been the rise of mobile computing. With iOS and Android leading the charge, the way people communicate has been transformed.
Of course the most significant competition in the space is the one between the two dominant mobile platforms: Google and Apple. Together, they make up the lion’s share of the mobile market. The fierce competition between the two has been the driving force behind the incredible pace of development and innovation the market has seen.
Apple vs. Android
Much has been written about the key strengths and weaknesses of the two platforms — with everything from design, to openness, to fragmentation serving as fodder for debate between the two sides.
What can’t be argued is that the two platforms have a strikingly different approach to UI, with Apple providing its own, highly refined solution, and Android countering with more flexibility and options from third parties.
The way in which Android allows developers to imagine all new ways to interact with the mobile phone is a particularly interesting area of development. The innovation and entrepreneurship in the space offers a unique look into ways that mobile computing may evolve in the future. By default, the various launchers, homescreens, overlays, and other Android interface solutions have to provide a unique take in order to stand out from the default Android or OEM offering.
Here are some of the more interesting ways developers are reimagining the mobile interface:
drupe – People-centric drag and drop
drupe adds an overlay meant to put your contacts in the spotlight. The makers of the app believe the current mobile experience is too focused on apps despite the fact that most of the actions users take on phones are interactions with other people. Whether its calls, text messages, or social posts, these conversations float across multiple people — but are usually with the same people.
The drupe interface places dots over your screen at all times serving as an invisible access point, enabling you to use it whenever you want. drupe’s display has your contacts on one side and your apps on the other, all in one screen, so when you want to interact, you simply swipe the desired contact to the app you want to use.
Additionally, drupe enables you to create a drupe group and communicate with it across apps. Beyond that, drupe analyzes your usage and predicts who you’d like to communicate with by dynamically building and updating your ‘favorites’ list. It also lets you see a unified recent log in a cross-app manner and search for contacts from all your apps.
Start – Get to the stuff you use most, faster
Start allows users to get to the apps and information they want, as quickly as possible — right from the phone’s start screen. Whether it’s the most used apps, information, or news, users can access it all in one place. The app is highly customizable so users can create the experience they are looking for.
Additionally, Start just rolled out a big new feature — lockgames. This means you don’t even have to unlock your phone when you want to pass some time playing with your phone. Think of these small, light games as the new modern version of doodling on a legal pad. This is perfect for those moments in meetings when a coworker has been rambling on for a little bit too long.
Expect to see Start on a lot more phones — the developer has teamed up with leading mobile operators to bring Start to millions of devices, offering these partners new ways to engage with their users.
Cover – It’s all about context
The idea behind cover is that your phone should change depending on your context. So you should see one set of information and apps in the morning, and a second set when you arrive to work. The app learns your patterns and behavior so you should have the information you need, when you need it.
Cover also provides functionality for the lock screen letting users take a peek into apps without having to open up their phones. This should speed up the whole process of staying up-to-date with the flood of information coming into your phone.
Aviate – See the information you need at the right moment
Perhaps one of the best signs that this space is making waves is the entrance of the other big tech players. Aviate is an Android launcher that was gobbled up by Yahoo!. It takes the same focus on organizing apps and proving information in context as some of the other players on this list, but it now has the backing of one the first innovators of the Internet. It also shows that the traditional web companies are looking for a stronger foothold on users’ phones.
Whatever you think of the battle between Android and iOS, it’s worth it to pay attention to the innovation coming from these UI innovators. They are playing on the edge of mobile innovation, looking for the next big UI shift and hopefully getting there first.
Do you have a favorite Android launcher or interface? Let me know in the comments.
This article was written by Ilya Pozin from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.