By Joe Levi | April 9, 2013 9:48 PM
“Get ready for a simpler Google Play.” That’s what Google had to say in a blog post about the upcoming version of their Play Store.
“The new design focuses on bigger images that jump off the page. Similarly themed content is grouped together so you can hone in on a magazine to read or an app to try. As you move down the page, new recommendations continue to appear so there is always more to see and explore. We’ve also simplified purchasing so you can breeze through checkout and get to enjoying your movie rental or other content.”
Google has been progressively improving and simplifying Android’s User Interface since the beginning. Only recently did they radically change the way we look at and interact with our devices when they released Google Now. To recap, Google Now sheds the stereotypical smartphone UI for a simplistic, card-based display with emphasis on searching — especially by using your voice. Google Now emphasizes white-space, separating dissimilar items not with borders and boxes, but with graceful negative space and elegant typography.
Google, it seems, is applying the same stylistic hints and graphical metaphors in the update to the Google Play Store app that Stephen Schenck showed us earlier (complete with the .apk if you want to install it for yourself). Top-Level categories are gracefully called out at the top of the app with featured sections beneath them. After that, simple headlines call out sections containing informational cards and a simple “SEE MORE” button. Titles — whether apps, music, books, TV, or movies — are arranged either by popularity or relevance to you, depending on the section. In short, the new Play Store, like Google Now, presents information that is both timely and relevant to you in a very open and organized fashion.
Why Stop There?
With a new version of Android in the proverbial oven, it shouldn’t be difficult to apply what we’ve seen in Google Now and the new Play Store to the entirety of the Android experience. What could that mean for the apps and UI to which we’ve become accustomed?
A New App Drawer
Instead of being arranged in a drawer, tray, or folders, imagine your apps laid out under simple headlines and arranged by your preference, type of app, or commonality of usage (perhaps even by time of day or geo-location). Icons may give way to much larger banners, but because irrelevant apps are hidden “below the fold” you can see what you’re looking for easier and get to it much quicker.
A Better, More Integrated Dialer & Contact List
In stock Android, the Contacts and Dialer apps are very intertwined. Taking from Google’s recent UI cues, imagine a Contacts app that is the Dialer — and the Dial is the Contacts App. People are categorized and arranged, not alphabetically but by social circle (based on your Google+ circles, perhaps?), by company, and by frequency of use. While you’re at work, people that you work with are featured. The same goes for school, home, church, or sporting events in which you participate. Your phone knows where you are and what time it is, and uses this information to present your contacts to you in a manner that’s better organized for where and when you are at any given time.
Again, the remainder of your contacts don’t go away, they’re just hidden below the fold, waiting for you to swipe the screen to see them.
We’ve already seen what the new Calendar app may look like, it’s the Events Card in Google Now. Your day is presented to you chronologically, but appointments aren’t bars in a list or squares on a grid. Instead, they’re presented in a card stack with your next appointment on top, and later meetings further back.
This is where things get dicey. We’re all familiar with Android’s home screen. Almost every OEM and 3rd party launcher out there is just a variation on the same theme. Could Google do away with this tried-and-true UI metaphor and replace it with Google Now? Or perhaps a launcher that instead of panels has cards containing widgets and links to apps, organized and titled however you want, but still using the card metaphor in its implementation. Should Google do something that radical? If so, OEMs would have a lot of catching up to do.
Google Play News is on its way here. Based on CSS rules that we’ve been able to dig up it will be color-coded yellow, but Google hasn’t tipped their hand on what the icon will be just yet (we suspect it will look like a newspaper). We do know, however, that News will be a first-class citizen in the Play Store, right alongside Apps, Books, Games, Movies & TV, Music, and Magazines. As such we suspect Google is teaming up with major news outlets to sell subscriptions to eNewspapers.
What’s more interesting, perhaps, is that Google could utilize these subscriptions to feed current and breaking news from your subscriptions to cards on your home screen, or Google Now, or your notification shade — or all of the above.
Could They Go Further?
Cards are an interesting concept. They’re concise. They hold all the relevant information that you need at a glance. Information cards with their ubiquity of design could very easily be displayed on the homescreen of your smartphone or tablet… or pushed to Google Glass… or even to a Google smart watch. These last two have dramatic implications. One we know to exist, and we know utilizes a “card” metaphor. Development of cards for Google Glass is (currently) very basic, relying upon OAuth 2.0, JSON, and REST-based services. It’s probable that a Google smart watch would also include the same communication mechanisms and presentation metaphor — if it ever comes to exist at all. If not Pebble 2.0 or another smart watch could easily become such a product.
It’s All About Simplicity
Google’s emphasis has been on reducing clutter and simplifying the user experience. They’re focusing on ease of use and elegant designs across the board. Google Now and the new Google Play Store are excellent examples of how this is working to their advantage. I suspect we’ll see the next iteration of Android picking up these cues, becoming more simple, more relevant, more timely, and significantly more elegant than anything we’ve seen before.
What do you think?
Is Google going to revamp their entire UI to be card-based? Am I completely off my rocker? What do you think the design of Google Now and the new Google Play Store means for the future of the Android OS?
We’d love to hear what you have to say! Head down to the comments and let us know!