back to article Google accidentally reveals new swipe-happy Android UI

Google has inadvertently revealed a new way to use Android phones, to be revealed in its forthcoming Android P update. The new UI option makes a phone more "swipeable", lessening the reliance on navigation bar buttons. The UI was leaked by Google itself in a screenshot previewing Android P. After the 9 to 5 Google blog noticed …

Anonymous Coward

"recents - swipe right"

I assume "laters" still uses the power button

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Mandatory viewing...

for any GUI designer:

https://youtu.be/BGGOn-H7s3Q

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Please no

Gesture only UIs fail on discovery. To quote Luke Wroblewski, who has been working Google for a while, obvious always wins.

Rule of thumb: anything that sounds like it won an award for being clever is going to end up being poor UX.

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Re: Please no

Unless a Gesture GUI is self evident and obvious, it's a fail. It's been tried MANY times since 1970s. I worked on one in the late 1980s.

There are only a subset of the GUI things needed that are obvious gestures.

Also almost all most need two hands or a stable larger than phone screen on a desk.

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Re: Please no

You obviously haven't tried Sailfish OS, have you?

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Re: Please no

I'm old enough to remember getting my hands on a mouse for the first time. Double-clicks weren't discoverable at all; it had to be explained to me how to do this magical thing. You could make a similar argument for long presses -- I can think of game puzzles where the "puzzle" is holding down a button in the environment for several seconds. (Or several minutes, for one Uru puzzle.)

Discoverability is important. But I think its reasonable to have a few platform wide gestures. Think about language: you're not expected to discover the basic words, but once you've been taught them you can discover the rest.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Please no

Please - I want to be able to look at the screen and pick from available options. I don't want to try random squiggling to see what may or may not happen, and then have to memorize which squiggle did the thing I wanted.

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Devil

Discovery is a problem

I'd like to give a special mention to iPhones for this gem: In order to save a PDF of an email, you need to use a "3D touch", aka press harder, on the print preview:

Create a PDF of an email on an iPhone 6s

As a bonus, this only works for phones that support 3D touch, so if you have an iPhone 6 or older, you can't save a PDF of an email.

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Re: Please no

Discoverability is important. But I think its reasonable to have a few platform wide gestures.

I'm not against gestures per se – Opera introduced the swipe for the browser years ago and I miss it – I am against gesture only.

The research demonstrates that some monkeys never learn and, depending on the context, those monkeys are us…

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Re: Please no

You obviously haven't tried Sailfish OS, have you?

You obviously didn't read my post very carefully, did you?

I may well give Sailfish a try on the Gemini but if it's gesture only then I can guarantee that it will remain just a try. I work with lots of different systems and keybindings and gestures are the first items to fall off the stack because the monkey brain just can't cope.

Feel free to think of me as an idiot who just doesn't get it if it helps.

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Re: Please no

Yes. Gestures may be fine as an optional way of interacting, but they should not be the primary or only way of interacting.

"anything that sounds like it won an award for being clever is going to end up being poor UX."

Well, to be fair, a poor UXes seem to be in fashion these days.

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Re: Please no

"I think its reasonable to have a few platform wide gestures."

Sure, but there needs to be a button-based method available as well. I think gestures are a pain in the ass in many circumstances. I don't mind if they exist, but I mind a lot if they're the only way of accomplishing a task.

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Re: Please no

It's not just "discoverability". What matters just as much is repeatability (without frustrating average user, e.g. force touch and forwarding an sms on iPhone). Opera was a browser that brought mouse gestures to desktop browser, gestures only few mastered so it never proved to be of particular value and - having not much more to offer - the browser never gained much traction. Nobody's going to read the manual or spend time watching youtube just to perform basic tasks.

Now, give me real home button, audio jack and (u)SD card slot.

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Coat

Re: Discovery is a problem

Aren't you supposed to touch smarter, not harder? (That's what she told me anyways. After complaining my UI element wasn't very discoverable. But I digress, and this is not SFTW,S? anyway. I shall get my coat.)

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Re: Please no @Manu T

"You obviously haven't tried Sailfish OS, have you?"

I have - I have a Sailfish phone. It is my spare - the gestures are unintuitive and unreliable. I couldn't give it to my wife to use, for instance - too much to learn too quickly. I appreciate that it is one of the best gesture-based OSs on the market, but it is rubbish as a concept.

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Re: Please no @Brewsters Angle Grinder

I agree completely about discoverability. There is some evidence that a lot of older people struggle with the "new" tech because a switch is no longer a switch - depending on length of press, number of presses, etc, it does something different. How did we get to a world where you need an instruction manual for a simple switch?

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Pirate

Hopefully the extremely useful assissant and privacy bias of BB10 also gets copied into Android as well.

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Anonymous Coward

..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

25% of users are either happy running whatever they have or cannot be arsed to pay for a new phone just to get an upgrade. OEM cannot be arsed to update OSs in old phones, so...

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

It would be higher if the stupid stuff didn't (a) break, or (b) become incompatible with most main apps. See iBooks on iPhone.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

I think that the android touchscreen radio/mp3/gps/younameit device in my car runs Lollipop. I could probably update the software, but why bother?

The only contact it has with the outside world is:-

1) GPS signals

2) FM/shortwave radio signals

3) The USB slot

I consider the first two things to be adequately secure, and gaining access to the 3rd would require my car keys and knowing which panel to prise off of the dashboard to gain access to the USB slot. Plenty secure enough, so i'm happy to ignore security updates, and i'm perfectly happy with the existing functionality, which was something of an improvement on the cassette tape player that it replaced.

So why bother doing updates?

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

The only contact you're aware of it has with the outside world is:

FTFY.

I've not kept up to date with Android Mobile, but the last few years have been littered with places where some researcher somewhere finds out that if he overinflates the tyres to 200psi to overload the anti-burst sensors, he can tap morse code onto the command line of the car's OS with the door handle; or that if he triggers the alarm at EXACTLY 01:03 then the car will listen for instructions from the Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station.

Wasn't there one a while back where you could override the braking system using the CD player because the CD Player was connected to the CANBUS?

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014. @Peter2

If your device has no other connection with the outside world, it probably also isn't counted in the survey that yields the 25% statistic. I would dare imagine that what the survey really reveals is that 25% of devices from which they were able to detect traffic are running the four-year-old version of Android.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

FTFY.

I've not kept up to date with Android Mobile, but the last few years have been littered with places where some researcher somewhere finds out that if he overinflates the tyres to 200psi to overload the anti-burst sensors, he can tap morse code onto the command line of the car's OS with the door handle; or that if he triggers the alarm at EXACTLY 01:03 then the car will listen for instructions from the Lincolnshire Poacher numbers station.

Wasn't there one a while back where you could override the braking system using the CD player because the CD Player was connected to the CANBUS?

It's installed in a 19 year old car that doesn't have a tyre pressure monitoring system.

The door handles are physical linkages, so feel free to try and signal to the car with them in morse.

The car OS (such as a car from 1999 has, ECU etc) is not connected to the stereo.

The stereo is a standalone unit sharing only power from the alternator with the CANBUS.

The only connection to the ECU is via ODBII, and for that matter it's only writable when the ignition is set to position II, ie battery on and engine off. With a key that not only turns the lock, but has a transponder on the access list. (which apparently is a bit of a bugger if you lose both of your keys, plus the reprogramming key that you can't otherwise use)

The alarm unit is a series of seperate modules, with the alarm, immobiliser being different units.

Wasn't there one a while back where you could override the braking system using the CD player because the CD Player was connected to the CANBUS?

Probably, but not on my car. The designers on mine were commendably paranoid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

Not to mention that not every phone-owner is an app-addict. Most of the silent majority can't be bothered to install any app at all. They only use it to call and text. Even email and webbrowsing are usually ignored.

A lot of (older) people even ask their younger siblings to e.g. look up something for them, instead of doing it themselves despite the fact that they too have the same smartphone. I demonstrated and explained numerous times how easy it is to search for something with Google's voice search. Yet my parents still ask me to look for it when we're away and they want to search for something.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014. @Peter2

The Google statistics only count phones which have connected to Google Play Services within the last month, I believe.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

25% of users are either happy running whatever they have or cannot be arsed to pay for a new phone just to get an upgrade. OEM cannot be arsed to update OSs in old phones, so...

Thats 25% of lazy cheapo thrifty users, and probably 75% of cost effective miserly OEMs then....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

Isn't that their problem?

Running Oreo 8.1 April 2018 patch here...

I really don't see how it's Google problem..

Perhaps their phones are too good and don't need replacing every 12 months like the Apple ones seem to...

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Flame

Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

That's because the upgrade process for Android devices is utterly retarded. The person who came up with the idea that such things must only be upgraded by "flashing roms" should be taken outside and shot.

For something that is supposedly a Linux-based system, upgrading is ridiculously convoluted. Frankly, updating a badly neglected Gentoo system is easier, and for anyone with experience of this, and the endless battle with circular dependencies that ensues, they'll know what a damning indictment of Android that really is.

Is there some particular reason why we can't just update individual system libraries and other core components, like a normal OS, as and when it becomes necessary? Why the all-or-nothing approach? Why can't Google just have a repo with individual system update components? Why can't they do a rolling-release, like other Linux distros?

If this is because every single component of Android has a hard dependency on the same release version of every single other component, and therefore the only possible way to upgrade it is all at once, then I submit that it may in fact be the worst operating system of all time. Certainly is has the least stable ABI, so unstable in fact that it might just as well not exist at all, because it's functionally pointless.

As much as I love the convenience of having a computer in my pocket, the stupidity of Android, with its dozens of partitions, mysterious data locations and read-only, rootless mentality, really makes me despair.

Please, for the love of Goat, can we just have a normal Linux distro on a smartphone, as standard, but with a touch-oriented UI? Four partitions: boot (not "recovery manager"), system root, usr and home. Stick GRUB in boot, the OS in system root, apps in usr and user data in home. Then just have Play Store use apt-get as a back end, and include individual system components.

Maybe then we wouldn't have millions of people using hideously outdated versions of Android riddled with supposedly unpatchable security vulnerabilities.

Really, is it that hard?

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

"25% of users are either happy running whatever they have"

I'm betting on this. The newer versions of Android haven't actually brought compelling reasons for people to want to upgrade, and upgrades are disruptive.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

"Most of the silent majority can't be bothered to install any app at all"

I never install a new app that I didn't right myself without some serious consideration, research, and weighing of how much I actually need to have the app installed. Given the state of apps these days, to do otherwise is risky.

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Re: Really, is it that hard?

You don't know the half of it. In the last few days I've resurrected an old phone, HTC One X, so that I can give it away or use it as a spare. I was somewhat overzealous at my first attempt at wiping it, in that I erased the operating system.

Fortunately, when it was my main phone, I'd installed a 3rd-party "recovery", TWRP. To do that, I'd had to apply to HTC for a code to unlock the bootloader. Why was the bootloader locked? Security? I don't know.

A usual manufacturer's Android has no root access and the system partition is mounted read-only. To replace a library, say, you'd need a special procedure more complicated than "sudo apt install libxyz". And there isn't one.

I actually installed the last available Cyanogenmod for it, an unofficial CM12, or Android 5 build. Potentially, I could now re-mount partitions read-write and update individual system files, although I'd probably break it.

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Re: ..amazingly, one-quarter ... continues to run a version... released in 2014.

"I really don't see how it's Google problem."

It's Google's problem because it's Google that really wants people to be using whatever their latest release is.

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Look!

A new feature.....for our new OS.

And errrmmm....we'll think of something else you didn't know you wanted.

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Anonymous Coward

Lollipop?

My organisation ran a mobile roll-out a few years ago - apparently with no thought for hardware cycles, security or, well, much really.

We are 'about' to have those KitKat-based phones replaced. Yes, really!

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Anonymous Coward

To be honest

I get on much better with Android because I don't have to guess if I can long press, short press, swipe and all that other sh*t. iOS apps can be like a hall of mirrors where you can see the doors but you just cant get to them. No on-screen hints as to what you can do.

I can just about manage to press the indicated parts of the screen. Its not that hard, and its certainly not a problem I need fixing.

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Re: To be honest

Every now and then I'm forced to use an iPad at work, and I must look like a fecking chimp - randomly flapping my hand across it with varying numbers of fingers, muttering "I'm sure this worked", staring at it, licking it, biting it, then finally flinging my poo at it.

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Re: To be honest

With gesture control it's very important to do things in the right order. Licking then biting THEN flinging poo at it...

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FAIL

How Do You Get a damned update?

My supposedly updatable Motorola G4 Play is still stuck on 6.0 even though it was supposed to get 7 sometime. How will it ever happen is what I would like to know from the lazy blighters in Lenovo. Happily I never put anything important on the telephone brick, so I guess the old OS is less of a concern.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How Do You Get a damned update?

IMHO Google should stop pushing for a new Android every year. They should rather release a new version every 2 years. A version that works properly and don't need fixing 2 weeks after it's release (where these fixes never reach the majority anyway).

IMHO I think that

1) Most o/t advertised improvements don't warrant a "new" version anyway. It's ridiculous how people and websites exaggerate the importance of each new version.

I mean "project butter" to improve UI smoothness should be an update for ALL android versions not strictly for a new "version". The same with "Doze". IMO an improved cpu-governor is to be a basic part o/t OS no matter which version and is more of a OS bugfix then a full new OS version.

2) With these rapid release cycles most of time they discover bugs after 2 weeks which never get filtered through non Google/AOSP/Android One handsets. So it's obvious that a yearly release cycle is too fast to properly iron out bugs of Android. IMHO a 2 year cycle should radically improve matters and allow handset-makers to update more handsets. Most manufactures need more time to push the new versions to their handsets. At which point the low-end models are obviously left behind.

It's all Google's own fault.

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Re: How Do You Get a damned update?

"IMHO Google should stop pushing for a new Android every year"

I agree. But I think that's true in the software world generally. This "rapid release" stuff is nothing but trouble.

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Reminder:

A user interface is like a joke - If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.

Swipes trade off usability for discoverability: If there's no on-screen clues, then the less technical users will be stuck high and dry. Not impossible to do, but it takes a level of UI Designer not seen that often nowerdays...

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Re: Reminder:

"If there's no on-screen clues, then the less technical users will be stuck high and dry."

Not just the less technical users. Being technically knowledgeable does not give you the power to read minds.

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Big Brother

GDPR. Google Does Privacy Right.. erm

They've probably buried deep into the forthcoming terms + conditions that if you swipe in a particular manner that you knowingly confirm to having all your data from you, all your family, friends and colleagues from now until eternity hoovered up by the big Google data Dyson.

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Facepalm

Wot I do...

For my last three smartphones, I spent the first hour turning off all the gesture gubbins. I can't stand it when the phone assumes I want to do "stuff" because I put it down in a certain way.

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Windows

Re: Wot I do...

urph

For my last three smartphones, I spent the first hour turning off all the gesture gubbins rooting it and installing something that will get updated.

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Coat

Pursuing swipability by removing/hobbling .. swipability

Google feeds - you USED to be able to swipe articles to dismiss them. NOW you have to stab at the individual burger menu and tap "Hide this story" from the menu thus summoned.

GMail - you can swipe email notifications, but only to snooze them or to get to the GMail settings (!) where-in you cannot make any further changes to what swipe does. As a bonus, this useless swipe action works equally pointlessly in either direction.

I'm sure things were more swipable in the past but if we are assured this is "progress" then I guess it must be.

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Unhappy

Re: Pursuing swipability by removing/hobbling .. swipability

For that last sentence, you may as well replace 'swipable' with 'usable' - then the sentence generally applies to most modern stuff.

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gesture this

I often use gestures with my Android devices *already*. My favourite is an extended middle finger.

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I can't cope with gestures

I hate gesture control. Swiping left or right to answer the phone gets me every time. My brain simply doesn't remember what direction to swipe. I get confused. All the smart features on the phone seem to mean that when the phone rings the display stays blank for a fair while, so I just swipe and end up cancelling the call. If the display comes up I often try pressing the button (green answer one) only to find I've moved at the same time as pressing and it tries to move the icon.

I can't be the only one who's brain freezes up in a panic when the alarm of phone ring goes off and loses the ability to think. ?

I just want a button that accepts being pressed even when I move a little (and it doesn't try and move the icon instead). In fact, I'd like a button 4 times bigger.

Cancelling the alarm gives me the same problem....and I want the display to immediately come on to show me who is calling rather than wait 5 seconds (especially outdoors).

...perhaps I'm just old and dementia is coming on :)

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As far as upgrading is concerned . . .

My Android is on Nougat, and I have zero options to upgrade outside of rooting the phone, which I have no intention of bothering with.

On the other hand, after having checked, I found that the security package is dated February of this year - so there's that at least.

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