Android Home(s)

A look a various home screens on Android

June 1, 2013 - 2 minute read -
android design facebook

This is a blog post I wrote on Squirrel Park April 8th, 2013.

From left to right, Slidescreen, Chameleon, Facebook Home

Facebook isn’t the first company to think about the home screen experience on Android, but they are certainly the biggest. Some thoughts on what’s been done before and what we might expect in the future?

On the week of Facebook’s Home launch I find myself thinking about the home screen I have on my phone. My home screen is actually quite simple and boring. I have four rows of icons on the center screen with four apps I anchor at the bottom. I’m not a heavy user of widgets, although I absolutely see why people enjoy their widgets.

My home screen wasn’t always like this. A few years ago I used an application, Slidescreen*. This was an information oriented home screen replacement for Android with an extremely intuitive interface. It provided a nice overview of phone calls, text messages, calendar events, e-mail, twitter, reader and more. Simply swiping the center bar allowed you to expand on any one of the sections. When I look at my phone throughout the day this is the information I care about. I don’t need to see a large grid of icons taking up my whole screen.

Since Slidescreen* there have been other applications working on similar concepts. With the introduction of lock screen widgets in Android 4.2 DashClock has been amazing to use. Just by flipping my screen on I can get an overview of unread counts, weather, upcoming events and a bunch of third party plugins. There’s even the Chameleon launcher, which aims to be a home screen aware of what context you are in throughout your day. I backed the kickstarter project, but I haven’t been excited by the latest versions. For me, it is too crowded and doesn’t take advantage of the screen to display data in a clean and simple way.

Facebook’s latest Android offerings are extremely interesting. I am not a happy Facebook user, I try to use the network as little as possible. I’m probably not going to be a Facebook Home user because I don’t care enough about my feed content to have it there all the time, but I love the fact that companies are thinking about this type of experience. Currently, this is something you’ll only find on Android. There isn’t another platform that enables a developer to provide such an immersive experience. I personally would like to see more offerings like this. The ability to see timely information on my home screen is what I would love to see the most. I think the latest from Facebook will inspire developers to create immersive experiences that stretch outside the bounds of the “app”.

*Slidescreen is an application that is no longer actively maintained.