In February 2011 Google released a tablet-only version of their Android operating system codenamed “Honeycomb”. This included changes to user interface to support large screen devices, and was incompatible with phone-sized devices.
Due to this fragmentation of operating system versions, with a wide range of use-cases for designers to consider and few guidelines to follow, various complex solutions to similar problems have been developed leading to inconsistent user interfaces, a difficult job for developers and most importantly disappointing experiences for users.
This is an important issue as iPhone development targets two known devices with a very consistent layout and style guidelines. The Android platform has often been accused of fragmentation and these difficulties for developers can make it difficult to compete.
In October 2011, Google released a new version of their Android operating system codenamed “Ice Cream Sandwich” (ICS). This release combines the tablet-specific changes of Honeycomb with updated mobile phone functionality to create a single operating system which runs on a remarkably wide range of Android devices.
To support these changes to the user interface, Google have released a design guide to enable designers to “learn how to design exceptional Android apps.”.
This website highlights the new and innovative features available when creating Android user interfaces, with suggestions how to cope with the differing target devices when designing apps.
It may be a while before manufacturers are able to provide “Ice Cream Sandwich” for their devices, but app designers have been given a great system to work with in Ice Cream Sandwich and designers now have good resources available which should result in a great wealth of exceptional apps over the coming years. Based on the new devices announced at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, manufacturers agree and see a great future for the Android platform.
Ice Cream Sandwich is certainly something we are looking forward to incorporating into our Android app development processes going forward.