Everybody is tweeting about #JollaSpec, and a lot of UX suggestions were already posted. It is time to post my own suggestions :
Being intuitive is a bit vague, so I will just deal with two or three points that I really want to emphasize.
While I was a kid, I had a toy telephone, and I used to pick-it and put it near my ear in order to answer. And when I grew up, that is what I have done with all the telephones I have got, when suddenly, mobiles phones came out, and I lost this intuitive, and naive gesture that is just “pick my phone, put it near my ear, and talk”.
I understand that, in order to save battery, and because these devices are small, they cannot embed some fancy sensors that can detect the ear. That was until the iPhone came. But the iPhone did not profit from it’s proximity sensor to reenable this gesture.
I had to wait until 2012 that Digia release an app for my N950, easy answer, in order to get this gesture back. The only drawback of that app is that the phone is still ringing for about 1s while put near the ear, making me temporary deaf. With all the battery of sensors that a modern smartphone have, it should be easy to have this gesture instead of some big buttons on a touch screen that do not work with gloves, or that can be accidentally triggered while searching for the phone in a bag.
More related to UI now (and not UX), there was always something I feel wrong with Nokia’s swipe UI, it is it’s inconsistency about going back and closing apps.
Today, all smartphones interfaces are based on a page stack. A first page with a list of options bring the user to a second page, and to a third etc. When the user want to go back, there is always a back button, either a key, as on android or windows phone, or a software key, like on the iPhone, and Meego swipe. That’s good for navigating in an application, but when you have to close or minimize it, confusion starts.
On Android and WP, while you are on the main page of an application, pressing the back button bring you to the home screen, closing the application. That’s good ! Intuitively, an application can be seen as a page that is stacked over the home screen. Pressing back is just removing this page, so going back to the home screen. But when you stacked a lot of pages, it become quite tedious to quit the application, and you have to press again and again in order to remove everything from this stack.
And sometimes, you just don’t want to remove a page from a stack.WP browser is quite clever most of the time. When you launch it, it restores the last page that you were visiting. But how to close it ? You have to press back, and then going through the browsing history (that can also be seen as different pages stacked). Basically you just loose the page you were on. It is nearly impossible to close the browser on a page you want to read later ! Fortunately, there is a “home” button that can be used. But then, the app is simply minimized, not closed. So, you have a choice : either close the app, but loosing the page you are currently on, or minimizing it, loosing battery life. The second option seems to be better, but I want to have all the options …
Meego swipe, and the iPhone give this choice, but bring a split between going back and exiting an app. It is quite unintuitive that you have to exit an app by swiping, or clicking on the close button on iPhone, but that you are going back by pressing a software button.
My idea is just to keep the idea of a stack of pages, a bit like what Blackberry is doing with BB10 :
I did not used any Blackberry dev alpha device yet, but it seems to be possible to navigate through the page stack by swiping from the left to the right.
My idea is to unify Nokia swipe and Blackberry cards. Here is an awfully drawn picture to illustrate that :
The application is not displayed fullscreen. Instead of that, there is always a small thumbnail of the homescreen, and the other pages in the stack. When a swipe gesture is initiated from a page, all pages that are covering this one are pused out. You can minimize an application by pushing the pages that are covering the home screen, or go back by pushing out the latest page.
The close gesture from Nokia Meego can be added to (swipe from top to bottom), so all the operations, that are going back, minimizing, and closing, can be done with the same gesture.
Strangely, we are calling smartphones devices that are quite dumb. There is no intelligence in most of them, except, maybe, from the iPhone’s Siri, or Android Jelly Bean. But even Siri, and Android failed to do something that is quite trivial to accomplish, yet very convenient : guessing habits.
When I go to university, I always turn the mobile to silent mode, and I restore it while leaving. But, sometimes I forget, and it ring during a course, or I miss an important call in the metro. And then, I really want to shout at my N950 : “I do this nearly all the time, but you are still passive, why you don’t understand ?!”. But it is just a small aluminium brick, it won’t understand.
What if it was able to do that ? If my phone collects some statistics, (and do not send them to Google or Facebook and co), and learn from that. What if, suddenly, it was able to displaying a popup like : “I have found that you are in EPFL, based on GPS and Wifi, I know that at EPFL, you always want me to be in silent mode, I’m doing this right now !”. This would be wonderful.
And no, this is not science fiction. Most of the tools are here to do that : statistical tools for guessing correlations between events, a huge battery of sensors, enough processing power and storage. Only a good app, that is able to have a good use of all of these features is missing. If Jolla brings it, it is definitely a gamebreaker.
UI wise, this intelligent daemon may take form of some notifications, or better, something that can be integrated in a notification drawer as on Android, or the Event view in Nokia Meego, listing all the rules that were learned, and asking the user to confirm them if the phone is not unsure. Of cause, the user may still revoke them, if suddenly, these rules are not valid anymore.
There is plenty room of improvement in the mobile world. As I said, the so called smartphones are still quite dumb, and I guess that they are going to be smarter and smarter.