What we say

Android Home Screen Design (with Video)

(If you want to skip the details below, you can go straight to the video and features list on the product page).

In previous posts we’ve talked about how, despite some growing pains, we thought Android looked very interesting as a phone platform in the medium to long term. That’s definitely starting to take shape with recent handset announcements showing how UI innovation can be done on top of Android.

However, none of the designs so far seem to provide quite what we’re looking for in a phone interface. Hoping that there are other people out there like us, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Ideas on Purpose to show what our ideal home screen would look like. After several iterations we ended up with this:

The main idea is to separate your personal information from things of general interest. So, emails, phone calls and things directed specifically at you go above the status bar, while feeds and public information go below. Then, depending on the situation, you can drag the status bar up or down to indicate what type of information you’re more interested in. The newest entries of each type are prioritized in the layout, so you always see the most recent items possible given the space provided. The video on the product details page shows this in action.

There are a few principles and ideas that led us to this design:

  • The home screen of your phone should strive to show you as much relevant information as possible.
  • The interface to accomplish this should be information centric, as opposed to application centric. The iPhone is the current best case example of an application centric interface. Almost the entire screen is taken up with beautiful icons that tell you next to nothing. Rather than a number on an icon showing me how many new emails I have, I’d rather see some of those emails.
  • The existing Android design with various widgets on a home screen is visually distracting from the purpose of those widgets: quick access to information. We wanted a uniform look to allow an increase in information density without overwhelming the user.
  • Apply color coding across the entire interface to allow visual grouping of information by type. This also allows for higher information density by providing underlying structure and consistent cues to the user.

This project exists as a prototype and is currently the home screen for my phone. Being a prototype it has lots of bugs, but it seems to prove (at least to me) that the design works. This project is also an example of some of the strengths of Android as a platform. The access to information made available by system apps is truly outstanding. Not to mention the ability to have a 3rd party app become the home screen without low level changes to the OS is pretty amazing.

You can find further details, including a video of the interface in action, on the product page (the video is also on youtube) . There is also a PDF summary of the features that’s suitable for printing. And thanks again to Ideas on Purpose for taking our terrible drawings and turning them into something beautiful.

  1. 1
    Lawrence on 09/16/09 at 19:28:14

    Yeah, this is pretty nifty. You demo this thing during google IO right?

  2. 2
    Randy on 09/16/09 at 19:35:09

    I LOVE this idea. I was a bit skeptical after just seeing the screenshot, but after seeing the video, you guys are really onto something here.

    I think I’d like to see the “Draggable center bar” independent of everything else, meaning that it is more of a pure separator (not affecting the height of the colored bars). Then people could swipe to remove the different colored bars they didn’t use or something.

    Also, there’s a widget out there which I can’t remember the name for that does something similar (not really, but kinda) where it makes your main screen more useful. It has some more info on it and I think you can have a Twitter widget on it as well.

  3. 3
    Taylor on 09/16/09 at 20:46:48

    Looks like you guys made some nice updates since Google I/O. I’m going to share this with my readers.

    Any chance you could get the video up on an Android-friendly player like YouTube?

  4. 4
    Patrick on 09/16/09 at 20:57:31

    The concept looks great. Android could definitely use a true “home screen”, and not just the current desktop model. You claim that you are using the prototype as your personal home screen on your android device—is there any plan to move this prototype idea into production?

    This is definitely something I would pay for as an improvement to my device.

  5. 5
    anakin78z on 09/16/09 at 21:38:07

    Funny, just yesterday I was thinking about when someone would create a home replacement that doesn’t mimic the current home.
    Overall I like it, but I feel it’s missing something. It’s currently very to the point, which I get is the whole idea, but I think it’s lacking an element of fun/personalization. Maybe it’s as simple as adding a background image ( quick test – http://bit.ly/JD4bc ). Other things that come to mind are relevant imagery, such as displaying the pictures of contacts whose calls I missed. I know you’re trying to keep visual clutter to a minimum, but a few little things might be nice.
    I’m also missing personal shortcuts though, to applications, contacts, etc. If there could be a way to add those in somehow, I think it would add a lot. Maybe if you hit menu once, it would bring up your shortcuts. Hit it again and it displays all applications.
    Also, I’m not sure why the app icons currently only show up below the middle bar. You might as well have it fill screen.
    Another idea: Dragging the middle bar to the top or bottom is nice, but flipping through the different contexts (twitter, rss, stocks, etc.) seems annoying. Instead, could we just drag the appropriate context to the edge of the screen and have that bring up the full screen view? So if I wanted to see just the stock info, I would click on the stock information, then drag that down to the bottom edge.
    Finally: Would there be a way to implement simple ‘widgets’, or rather, show application information, such as music? Having certain shortcuts on the home screen (such as skip to next song) is quite handy.

    -z

  6. 6
    james harris on 09/17/09 at 03:28:38

    When will it be available? Looking for beta testers?

  7. 7
    Dmitry on 09/17/09 at 09:29:23

    I don’t like it.
    Too overloaded with text. Dark text. And those color stripes. And b/w icons with colored overlays. And oh my, purple text!?
    My first intention was ‘how to turn this thing off and get my clear and bright(!) desktop back’.
    I suggest making it more bright (shiny) decrease number of text entries, increase font size and assign different (bigger) font sizes to information that is obviously more important, like missed calls.

  8. Matt Hall on 09/17/09 at 15:42:14

    A few replies to the questions so far:

    For everyone asking when this would be released, we’re not sure – maybe never. It’d take a lot of work to make the prototype we’ve got now into a tested and reliable product. I’m not sure we could get a return on the time investment just by putting it in the market for sale. It’s still a possibility, but for now we’re just trying to gauge reactions and get feedback before we do any more.

    @Dmitry: It sounds like you’re totally happy with your current home screen, so this wouldn’t be for you. The changes you wanted there opposite to the goals of the design.

    @anakin78z: User customizability also isn’t really the point for the design. Although you could imagine a super customizable UI that would be awesome, this isn’t that. The goal here is to provide users with something that’s well designed right from the start, so when you see the phone in the store you immediately want it. The average person isn’t interested in customizing their phone to the degree the active Android community is. Just look at the average Blackberry you see on the street, it’s almost always stock. So we want to provide a great experience for those users. It’s also difficult to provide a good uniform design and also support real customization, they’re almost impossible to achieve together I think – which is why the iPhone is the way it is (and is a huge hit).

    @taylor: We’ll upload the video to some other sources today and will post and update with links. Thanks for the suggestion, makes sense.

    @Randy: An interesting idea. It’s kind of the main feature of the design to have these compressible info sections, so I doubt we’d make the status bar free floating, but it’s something to consider. Being able to customize what information is presented, and in what priority is definitely something we’d support.

    @Lawrence: Yup, we demoed an earlier version of this at Google IO.

  9. 8
    Robert on 09/17/09 at 22:48:11

    If it did get release it is definitely something I would look into. It is simple and provides the user a good chunk of info they need. The couple of questions I would have is
    How power hungry would this application be?
    Would this Home Screen have the Twitter/Stock functionality built in?
    Would they be plug-ins?
    Or would they link up with existing apps on the phone which provide that information?

  10. 9
    James Aguilar on 09/21/09 at 16:33:58

    Even though personally I have moved on from Android I like it. You Larva Labs guys are smart cookies.

  11. 10
    RickO on 09/21/09 at 17:06:51

    Love the concept and execution. This is exactly what I’d like to have as my iPhone home screen.

  12. 11
    Josh on 09/21/09 at 18:00:05

    Amazing idea guys. Our mobile nature these days would so much more efficient if something like this was an option or standard.

    I’m not to sure why everyone wants to customize their phone. It gets emails, browses the internet, takes and makes phone calls and provide usage of fun or productive apps. Do you really spend time navel gazing as such at your phone?

    There are things we should be envious of the Japanese for having. They should be the pay with phone, QR technology and god knows what else. The ability to customize them with your favorite manga characters is better left dead. Thank god for some sensibility here in the ol’ USA

  13. 12
    Stephen on 09/21/09 at 19:24:23

    This looks fantastic! I hope you guys polish it off and release it, I’d be happy to use this as my home screen.

  14. 13
    David Anderson on 09/21/09 at 20:07:03

    I love it! if you decide not to productize this, please open source it so it can find a life somewhere.

  15. 14
    abu on 09/21/09 at 20:15:04

    I think the concept of an information-centric home screen is really interesting, but has also some drawbacks – basically, clutter and privacy issues.

    Smartphones screens have a limited estate, so you can’t go much further that showing a somewhat noisy collection of snippets of the most recent items for any given content category.
    Sure there’s the neat sliding status bar thingy and the apps shortcuts that help accessing expanded content, but the point is: if you have to interact (slide, click, whatever) to access content in an usable format, how this is different from a classic app centric home screen? Sure you have most of the latest item previewed in the home as a plus, but also a lot of information noise as a drawback.
    If I have to squint to recognize the last missed call number in the home screen, maybe it’s not worth the effort.

    And then there’s the privacy issues. I for one wouldn’t like to have all that personal information displayed right in the home screen when I pick up the phone, or leave it on the coffee table. I’m a bit uncomfortable that anyone could know about my recent missed calls, sms contents, twitter stuff and so on just by looking at my phone without even bothering picking it up and clicking around.

    Of course there are as many user habits as users, so there are surely people who see no problem in this and are truly interested in an infomation heavy home screen, and the concept has potential.
    Anyway It has to be very carefully designed to avoid noise.

    For istance, looking at the date/time widget: the date number is way way bigger than the clock. But I’m sure users will be looking at the phone to know what time is it much more frequently than to know what day is today.

  16. 15
    Greg on 09/21/09 at 20:54:03

    Nice idea – truly different way of using tabs – all of the widgets on my home screen don’t provide the info I really need. I do like the idea of using the priority bar to seperate the things I really need. I think that behavior above and below the bar should be substantially different. A good example is that if I move SMS above the bar, as more conversations come in, it would push the priority bar down, but anything that I put below the bar (email) would scroll message past, but would never exceed one message’s worth of screen height and would not push anything more off the screen.

  17. 16
    Daniel Black on 09/21/09 at 21:27:09

    First…

    foreach ($comments as $comment) {
    if ($comment = “Cool!”) {
    echo $comment;
    }
    }

    Wonderful work, independent of whether it ever sees Userland. A thing needn’t become a Thing to affect its potential ecosystem.

    My question is really more banal than that: Matt, which phone are you using this on? The Hero? If so, I’m probably not alone in my curiosity for a developer’s take on that particular iteration of the platform.

    /me adds blog to Google Reader.

  18. 17
    Erik Fritz on 09/21/09 at 22:48:43

    I have to agree with the majority here and say this looks pretty damn cool.

    However, privacy and visual clutter issues aside, I think it’s cool because because I like my info in text format–unlike my wife, who’s dyslexic and would hate the idea you’ve proposed because, while she too benefits from info being prioritized over applications, her interaction with that info, both visually and cognitively, is very different. She would probably argue that the app icons are actually more informative for her than the screen you’ve developed, as she is able to “read” an icon much more efficiently than she is able to read text. For her, the mail icon with a little red dot, never mind the number the dot contains, is much more informational than a couple of lines of what may or may not be a new email.

    Like I said, I like it, a lot. But then, I’m a readaholic. What I’ve had to learn–to my benefit–is that not all of us are.

  19. 18
    Jerrett on 09/21/09 at 23:20:42

    I’d use it!

  20. 19
    rufphus on 09/22/09 at 03:10:02

    I am not currently an Android user (unlocked iPhone 3G on t-mobile’s network) but I would definitely buy an Android device to use this amazing home screen.

  21. 20
    Patrick Monnig on 09/22/09 at 03:27:20

    This design looks really sleek and sexy. I’ve seen it pop up on a few Android blogs, and I can definitely see myself purchasing something like this. Hope it makes it out of prototype!

  22. 21
    sunshinewonder on 09/22/09 at 04:37:58

    I went from a Windows Mobile device to a G1 and I’m not at all happy with a bunch of meaningless icons. I’ve got a couple widgets stuck on my home screen that give me some of my information (my very critical calendar and the weather) but I’m always having to poke the device every time some message comes in to see what it is. The home screen you show would be amazing for me and it couldn’t possibly tie up as much resources as the widgets use.

    All day long at work my phone is propped up on my desk with the screen powered on so I can see my calendar and messages as they come in. Something that I look at all day long and that keeps me together would be worth purchasing a business-minded home screen replacement for.

  23. 22
    JP on 09/22/09 at 04:49:06

    I’d use it. More importantly, if it was fast and stable, I’d buy it on Marketplace!

  24. 23
    Maurizio on 09/22/09 at 07:05:52

    I find it really amazing… I think it could be implemented also as an advanced lock screen in order to have a quick look on all the activities/sms/etc ongoing.

    Keep up the good work!

  25. 24
    ?ukasz on 09/22/09 at 07:16:48

    WOW, this is just amazing. This is the homescreen I’d love to have on my device.

  26. 25
    Nils on 09/22/09 at 07:57:51

    I’d defenitely use it!

  27. 26
    tylerstyle on 09/22/09 at 12:09:30

    I would definitely pay 3-4 Euros for such an app. Hands down. I want it now!!!!

    So. If you aren’t willing to code it…
    GOOGLE, can you hear me?
    Make this a reality. We need a technically awesome UI. I don’t care if its studded with pretty pictures and such. I want this information intensive screen.
    Going into different Apps to see my Mail/Sms/Tweets/Calls, etc is a waste of time in many situations. This would remedy that and serve much better as a starting point on a communications device.

    Tyler out!

  28. 27
    Adam on 09/22/09 at 16:45:11

    Love the sparklines. Tufte-inspired?

  29. 28
    balachandar on 09/22/09 at 19:44:27

    How much? how do i get it? When?

    Comeon guys. This is highly potential. I’ll be willing to pay upto 5$. Go, get us this live.

  30. 29
    Davest on 09/22/09 at 22:09:04

    Very nice work…I hope that you decide to keep going with this and make it available.

  31. Matt Hall on 09/23/09 at 02:36:05

    Lots of great comments have been coming in since we posted this, and tons of beta requests. Trust me, you don’t want this on your phone yet :) To make something that would be useful and great as the interface you use most on your phone is a lot of work. I think we’re fairly realistic about how much work, so we don’t want to promise that we’ll finish it on our own just yet. To reply to a few other comments:

    @Adam: Yes, the sparklines are very Tufte inspired. His books are like manuals for good user interface, truly amazing.

    @Daniel Black: The skin we used for the video is the HTC Hero, but really it’s running in the emulator there so I could get a clean video. The real app is currently running on two phones: an HTC Magic that Google gave us at I/O this year, and an ADP1 G1. It actually runs a little faster on the G1 from what we can see, not sure why though.

    @abu: Privacy issues are a real concern, definitely. I personally like to have as much info on even the lock screen of my phone, I don’t really care. It’s always in my pocket anyway. I imagine the ideal option would be to have several options for the actual lock screen: a secure lock screen option that doesn’t show any info, a summary view that shows only how much info is new (but no specifics), and then the full home screen view but locked to the last status bar location. I could imagine a few cool visualizations for option #2 where you could get a feel for how important the new items waiting for you are, but without revealing to other people what the actual items are.

    And in general to the other comments about how it ruins the design to drop back into standard Android UI when you press on an item. Yes, we agree. The ultimate version of this idea is a full customized version of most of the Android stock apps to integrate with and to look like the main design. This would be a lot of work for a company our size, but not as much for a company that makes phones. If you work at one of those companies and like the design send us an email, we’d be interested in talking to potential partners that can help us make this more complete version a reality. This kind of deep customization is not really possible if we were to release it as a home screen replacement via the market.

  32. 30
    poinck on 09/23/09 at 10:21:18

    It would be very sad, if it will never be released. It looks fantastic. I think this is the best piece of software i’ve ever seen to come up on android. Hopefully on the T-Mobile G1 as well. (o:

    Are using the Android NDK to do this?

  33. Matt Hall on 09/23/09 at 12:49:25

    @poink: Nope, no native code in this. It does need optimization though, it’s a slower than I’d like when you move the status bar. From my quick profiling though it’s mostly our layout taking the time, so we would just need to take another look at how we’re doing that I think.

  34. 31
    segle on 09/23/09 at 16:24:56

    I think this is a great concept, and it deserves to be on the market.

    I understand your difficulties, and i know the market is stille young – not very attractive to newcomers … But still, a home like this is a better way of organize and use an Android phone.

    Widgets are just not quite good at their task, and each of them slows the phone. But a Home app with enough information like your prototype is a good start, I think.

  35. 32
    poinck on 09/23/09 at 17:47:24

    Yes, i’ve read some guiding principles for the layout. It sais, let android itself do some rendering with customized ui objects; not with ui objects from scratch. it looks like you’re doing that already. so maybe you have reached some hardware limitations of G1 and G2.

    I think, it’s more than fantastic; it looks like a new era of using a phone in todays life. maybe a future android device will have this home screen as default. It would be nice. (o:

    I am java programmer myself but had not enough time to develope something with the Android SDK. you and your team; di your best ! (o: i would spend 10 to 20$ but the best thing would be, to open source it. *smile*

  36. 33
    poinck on 09/24/09 at 09:38:28

    Is it possible to copy the design concept for other apps? I don’t want to run into licence issues when I find time to develop an android app.

    My motivation is: Currently there is no good looking notes taking app, no good looking stopwatch/timer app and no good looking compass as well; the most android apps could be much better. you prooved that this is possible.

    I’m sorry, if i am disturbing, but i really like the idea!

  37. 34
    Jamie Martin on 09/24/09 at 11:14:46

    I’d love to Beta Test this as well!

  38. 35
    jim on 09/24/09 at 23:42:43

    Please bring to the marketplace. The Android platform in danger of becoming a teenagers social toy. Bridge the gap with the business users and you will find a huge community willing to pay for such an app.

  39. 36
    Ben HP on 09/26/09 at 13:36:29

    I’ld gladly pay for something like this (assuming reasonable price) and I’m sure many of my friends with android phones would too

  40. 37
    Steve on 09/26/09 at 13:50:30

    YES! This makes the HERO a real business phone!
    i need this home screen, i want this home screen! ;-)

    If you need some beta testing, please let me know! ;-)

  41. 38
    mike on 09/27/09 at 03:35:26

    WOW.

  42. 39
    William Furr on 10/08/09 at 19:22:11

    I’d use this almost exactly as is. It’s beautiful, functional, and more immediately useful than the default home screen.

    The main thing I would want control over would be which feeds show up where.

    I’d also like to see feeds for the apps *I* use on a regular basis, like Remember the Milk. Maybe an API so other folks can provide the info to you?

  43. 40
    AG on 10/15/09 at 19:13:38

    I’m planning to purchase the new Motorola phone on Verizon running Android 2.0 and I would love to have this home screen and look on my phone. I think this would be an excellent ‘adult’ UI instead of the standard Google interface or Motorola’s Blur. I hope someone helps you provide “a full customized version of most of the Android stock apps to integrate with and to look like the main design”. It would be well worth the purchase price.

  44. 41
    Diane Gamble on 10/20/09 at 04:24:15

    Love the IHS design… wish it weren’t a prototype! I use my phone for business and just bought the HERO. I’ve forever had a Palm… but went with hero over pre. I love Hero’s (android’s) apps but hate the cumbersome way to stay organized!

  45. 42
    Max on 10/31/09 at 17:11:24

    Your idea seems awesome!!
    I hope you will developpe it so can use it on my phone one day.

    This is exactly why i didn’t by an iPhone and put my hope on android. The homescreen of the phone should be a summary of all vital informations.

  46. 43
    Rezajune on 11/03/09 at 15:50:18

    A phone with a bunch of silly pretty gadget is worthless to a person over the age of 25. This intelligent home screen would destroy the outdated Blackberry market. I would easily pay up to $20 to have this homescreen just to take me away from being a blackberry user.

    Please develop this. I remember when I purchased the Tour from Verizon without a Today theme, there were complaints on every forum and people asking for it left and right.

    Please develop it.

  47. 44
    ckochan on 11/12/09 at 02:24:20

    I’ve been searching for a home screen like this for my new Droid. I echo the positive comments above. This is a product that I would buy if it were available.

    Powerful, beautiful, elegant concept.

  48. 45
    lifeafter2am on 11/21/09 at 15:49:35

    This looks like an awesome homescreen! Coming from a Blackberry to Android would be so much easier for me with an app like this, as I am used to having everything displayed on my home screen, and I definitely miss that.

    Please make this app!

  49. 46
    Frank Innes on 11/21/09 at 22:04:18

    I would very much want such an application. It is similar to a screen for the Palm Treo DateBk application which I used until I bought a Verizon Wireless Droid.

  50. 47
    Dave H. on 11/22/09 at 04:59:05

    I’d buy this in a second – let us know if you need testers!

  51. 48
    ari-free on 11/23/09 at 18:23:32

    Information is the next dimension in UI, not flashy 3d effects. I would want to go even further: instead of the random pile of app icons, sort them into categories.
    Some other ideas:
    Don’t always show me my stocks; I don’t always have room for that. But show me once they go up/down more than 5%. That’s important.
    I get tons of emails because of all the mailing lists…I only want to be notified about the important ones, like the one from my boss. Weather: doesn’t really matter if it’s 65 or 75 degrees but I really gotta know if there’s a big storm ahead.
    Link to eBay: tell me if I just made the winning bid.

  52. 49
    Paulie S on 11/26/09 at 02:19:51

    I just upgraded from the palm treo to the andriod and this is
    kinda simular to the app on the palm which I truely miss.
    I am use to having everything displayed on my home screen. I would definetely buy this app. Email if you need a tester and/or when you release it. Also it would be nice if
    it had an option to increase font size in each colored
    category and a speech feedback option to boot.

  53. 50
    John on 11/30/09 at 23:00:59

    Bring it! Icons and a nifty desktop is not want I want to see … I want information. This looks great, please continue to develop and bring it to us!

  54. 51
    Christina on 01/30/10 at 08:03:40

    I plan to return my droid tomorrow. My main complaint is that it does not have a screen like the one you are proposing (plus the on/off switch is annoying me. I have to be able to connect a beep with information as soon as possible and your app would do that nicely. Sux for me : ( back to my beloved moto Q for now.

  55. 52
    Shelley on 05/07/10 at 02:13:03

    This is exactly what I am looking for. I hope you follow through with it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Larva Labs previews Intelligent Home Screen – Android and Me
  2. homemanagement.co.in » Blog Archive » Larva Labs - Android Home Screen Design (with Video)
  3. Larva Labs Intelligent Homescreen: het ideale Android homescreen? - Android - Androidplanet.nl
  4. Mobile Tweaks | Larva Labs previews Intelligent Home Screen
  5. androfun - Larva Labs previews Intelligent Home Screen
  6. Larva Labs’s Proposal for an Android Home Screen | GeekStream Mac
  7. Intelligent Home Screen | Nerdlike.com
  8. Larva Labs' Intelligent Home Screen to Spice up Android | AndroidGuys
  9. HTC HERO Arrived today :D - Page 19 - HEXUS.community discussion forums
  10. links for 2009-09-22 « Boskabout