Mobile apps have undergone big changes since the first smartphones. As our devices get faster, screens get crisper and users get smarter, developers continue to bring more innovative design to their user interfaces.
At their core, these new and improved UIs are trying to make our smartphones easier and more enjoyable. Here are four recent Android app redesigns that have struck that balance perfectly.
Mimicking the improvements of Gmail’s desktop platform, Google has given mobile users the same ability to perform common functions without leaving their home screens thanks to slide-out navigation. With a few swipes of a finger, users can access a series of hidden menus that allow them to efficiently label, rearrange and search the contents of their inbox without ever missing an update. The discrete menus provide the reader with a larger viewing area without sacrificing any of the functionality.
Gmail isn’t the only program that’s trying to make a more consistent user experience across multiple devices. Skype 4.0 sees the VoIP service rebuild its messaging app from the ground up to provide a familiar user experience across all platforms. The cleaner “conversation-first” interface and swipe-activated tabs makes for a faster and more reliable chatting experience.
When a smartphone app exhibits innovative design, your eyes should be just as drawn to the aesthetics as your mind is drawn to the increased usability. This principle is on colorful display in the new Imgur app for Android. The image-centric app does a sublime job of reeling your eyes into the action by simply filling the screen with colorful snapshots, but maintaining quick, gesture-based navigation. The only downside was their decision to allow ads, which was recently — and quickly — reversed.
Nothing has greater impact on user interface than changing the command input methods. The switch from keypads to touch screens opened up a whole new world of app design that continues to produce new innovations. SwiftKey 4 has similarly revolutionized mobile device interaction with its unique take on text entry, using one continuous finger motion to spell words instead of selecting individual letters. Seamlessly embodying the principles of innovative design, SwiftKey 4 makes our mobile devices easier to use by helping us become more efficient at basic device input.
Of course, the list of innovative design doesn’t end with Android. The Windows phone debuted with eye-popping “live tiles” that served as a functional, yet aesthetically appealing design direction. And Apple recently unveiled its newest iOS version, ushering in sweeping changes to the core user interface and no doubt introducing many new features with it.
Hardware design innovations have been just as prevalent, as seen in the HTC One’s front-facing speakers and Sony’s decision to incorporate a waterproof shell into the world’s slimmest smartphone (the new Xperia Z Ultra). Whatever the next generation of mobile devices look like, designers and developers will continue to push the envelope in terms of finding the best way for us to use our phones.