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  1.    #1  
    With the Hero Sense UI buzz, it seems that one can finally have a capable Android device with the elegance of the Palm Pre. The UI appears to behave very similarly to the Pre, and some may think it's a wash between the two.

    As an owner of both a G1 and a Pre, I've given it some thought and tried to summarize the differences between the webOS and Android UIs, keeping it relevant to HTC Sense.

    It's really a blog post and it's a bit long and unedited, but I hope some will find it useful.

    Launch an app:
    • webOS: Start typing or swipe out launcher and find icon on launcher screen
    • Android
      • App: swipe app drawer and tap or start typing and tap, or locate icon on a screen
      • Widget: find an available screen, hold down and select from a list


    Close an app:
    • webOS: swipe off screen
    • Android
      • App: automatic, not available to user
      • Widget: drag off screen into drawer


    Rearrange apps:
    • webOS: drag and drop
    • Android
      • App: not available to user
      • Widget: drag and drop


    Switch between apps:
    • webOS: swipe between cards
    • Android:
      • App: hold down home button, tap app icon if available
      • Widget: swipe between screens of widgets


    Access single functions:
    • webOS:
      • Music controls: dashboard
      • Wireless settings: universal menu
      • Search: start typing (automatic Google suggest in browser only)
    • Android:
      • Music controls: widget (need to find screen first)
      • Wireless settings: settings app or widget (need to find screen first)
      • Search: start typing (universal Google suggest)


    Launcher vs. app drawer and desktops:
    • webOS: launcher can be hidden or shown, and is divided into screens of icons
    • Android: app drawer can be hidden or shown, but only desktop screens can be navigated and they need to be populated with icons first. Desktop screens cannot be hidden. Drawer also serves as widget and icon "trashcan"


    Notifications:
    • webOS: one liners, for example, system messages or incoming text, are shown immediately, and then collapse into an icon. Notifications of email messages are shown as icon first and can be expanded to see sender and subject and launch the app. This provides real time updates without a widget
    • Android: icon shown on top of screen. Summary of notifications can be seen by dragging down notifications drawer. Email notifications require launching app to see sender and subject.


    A few observations:

    In webOS, the cards metaphor is an easy and simple way of launching, switching between and closing apps. Start typing to launch is a very handy shortcut.

    In Android, the app drawer is a general place for all apps, which can be organized within but the drawer is a single long scrolling window. Grouping is available only on desktop screens, which are always open. If your device has a physical keyboard (G1), you can open the drawer and then start typing to launch from within it (you still have to tap the icon).

    From everything seen above, it's clear that launching, switching between and closing apps is more complicated with Android. There are fundamental reasons behind it:

    Android is a mobile OS that's general enough as an embedded OS for other uses. It needs to manage available resources on whatever device it is running, and this means managing running apps for the user. Because running apps are outside the control of the user, there is no sense in the user organizing them spatially. For this purpose, widgets serve as lightweight apps that can be arranged spatially, and run under the user's control.

    On the original G1, or basically, the Google Experience variant of the Android UI, widgets were not widely used, and were extremely basic. HTC's Sense UI went further and tried to make the app switching scheme easier with widgets and a higher number of screens. In the Sense UI, widgets stand in for apps for the purpose of switching activities. They are anchored to desktop screens, which the user can move between using swipes, an effect that resembles switching between cards on webOS. While these are only widgets, not apps, HTC likely worked with the assumption that most of the time the user is passively monitoring information via widgets, viewing Tweets, incoming email etc; and only occasionally entering information or performing a more complex operation with the data. When this is required, a full app is launched.

    Aside from the redundancy and potential confusion between apps and widgets, the user must also organize their running widgets on screens ahead of time, just so they can switch between them. They must also locate screens which have available space for the widget. HTC is presuming that this is not imposing on the user, because organizing widgets is desirable in general. In practice it does impose additional effort as the user most often wants to launch something quickly. And further, the user has to remember on which screen a particular widget is located. For example, if they wanted to pause music playback using the music widget, they need to remember where they placed it or have to look for it in all available screens.

    In webOS the user launches a few apps and since new ones always push older apps to the left, it's easy to remember where an app is. Or, it's always possible to just zoom out and find the card quickly. But the user is not expected to create elaborate groupings of apps running concurrently. Using the music example above, apps can make their essential functions accessible via universal miniaturized dashboards at the bottom of the screen.

    Finally, widgets appear to be filling in for missing UI elements: a wireless settings widget where a universally accessible menu is missing and a music widget where a universally accessible dashboard is missing. One can look at widgets as offering great flexibility, or question the need for them in a more carefully designed UI.

    All this brings to mind Palm's (an Apple's) idea of controlling the entire experience, both the hardware and software to create a compelling product. Android is free and aims to be general enough for wide adoption by various manufacturers and for different purposes. It will likely succeed and it is flexible enough to provide a decent user experience, as seen in HTC's Sense UI. But it's also easy to see Palm's advantage in optimizing its OS strictly for its own purposes, resulting in a consistent and easy to use interface.

    As a consumer deciding between a Palm Pre or HTC Hero, here are what I think are the core considerations:

    If ease of use, simplicity and elegance are important, the Pre is more tightly designed and integrated. But the smallness and focus of Palm in making the Pre can come at the expense of market share and access to apps and variety of devices. Strong competition is likely between Android handset manufacturers, potentially driving costs down and adding more functionality.

    In some way, the question is subjective: can you do more with less if it's well made?

    Should a device be tightly designed and integrated at the expense of variety and number of apps? Or is some degree of loose and generic design better for a larger variety of devices and functions?
    Last edited by sivan; 09/20/2009 at 04:56 PM.
    Palm Vx > Treo 650 > Centro > G1 > Pre > BlackBerry 9700
  2. #2  
    I have both the Hero (GSM) and a Pre (as well as an iPhone) and for me it comes down to this.... WebOS apps will never match the power of native apps on Android and iPhone. Palm will need to allow developers access to APIs to create native apps if they ever want users to experience the full potential of the hardware. PERIOD. Otherwise, WebOS looks and acts cool but it's mostly smoke and mirrors and this you can tell when comparing simialr apps side-by-side on the various platforms. I love my Pre but I am giving a slight edge to Android for this very fact, not to mention customizations and sheer number of apps that Android has going for it.
  3.    #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by jameskk View Post
    WebOS apps will never match the power of native apps on Android and iPhone.
    Why do you think so? Take a music player as an app that works with multimedia. On both platforms you call an API function that will begin playback. The Android app makes this call via the JVM. The Mojo app sends a request message using the Palm Bus. Does it matter how the call is sent? As long as a bit of latency is acceptable, it doesn't matter.
    Palm Vx > Treo 650 > Centro > G1 > Pre > BlackBerry 9700
  4. #4  
    Quote Originally Posted by sivan View Post
    Why do you think so? Take a music player as an app that works with multimedia. On both platforms you call an API function that will begin playback. The Android app makes this call via the JVM. The Mojo app sends a request message using the Palm Bus. Does it matter how the call is sent? As long as a bit of latency is acceptable, it doesn't matter.
    this is a perfect example of what I am talking about... on my iPhone 3GS and Android, I can start the music app and start playing a song (random) in about 3-5 seconds... just did a test and takes the Pre about 30 seconds the first time it loads Music app. After that I can reload the app and start a random shuffle play in about 9 seconds. WAYYY longer than it needs to be.

    and to be clear, for some apps web is fine and works great, like Twitter/Facebook and apps that mostly are polling the web for data.. but for a lot of apps the difference between web and native IS going to make a big difference. I am not saying the Pre will be a fail, I am just saying....
  5.    #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by jameskk View Post
    this is a perfect example of what I am talking about... on my iPhone 3GS and Android, I can start the music app and start playing a song (random) in about 3-5 seconds... just did a test and takes the Pre about 30 seconds the first time it loads Music app. After that I can reload the app and start a random shuffle play in about 9 seconds. WAYYY longer than it needs to be.
    Music app is slow, but it has to do with it trying to load album artworks and not caching them properly, not really due to underlying technology. Just an immature app. But there's no problem starting and pausing playback, which are calls to native audio services.

    Something like coverflow will not work on the Pre, it needs to be hardware accelerated but it's a minor thing. The Android music player doesn't load a bunch of artwork so it's available quickly. This is more of an indication of how Palm was distracted by appearance over functionality.
    Palm Vx > Treo 650 > Centro > G1 > Pre > BlackBerry 9700
  6. #6  
    I will say (and no offense to the OP) that this is obviously a fairly biased view of Android (which should be expected on any site devoted to a non-android phone).

    For starters, the newest version of Android (donut, which will be available soon) includes a universal search.

    Also, many widgets aren't only passive ways of getting information... e.g. the Twitter widget for the Hero (Peep) can update statuses as well as read them.

    The whole finding the screen first thing is a way of turning an advantage of Android (widgets) into a disadvantage. There are other things to list, but I'm not gonna dig into them.

    I will say, the universal settings menu is a HUGE advantage of WebOS, as well as the cards, since doing simple things like turning off WiFi and bluetooth can be kind of a pain in Android, even with the widgets.

    I really think people would be better served by trying both and making a decision on their own.
  7. #7  
    Widgets are a personal thing. Some love them, some (myself included) hate them.

    You have to find the screen that they're on, but more importantly they make the UI a mess. I prefer it to be clean and webOS fits this philosophy perfectly.

    I entirely agree with that last line though. Phones are so personal- try them yourself and choose.
  8.    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by rastataoist View Post
    Also, many widgets aren't only passive ways of getting information... e.g. the Twitter widget for the Hero (Peep) can update statuses as well as read them.

    The whole finding the screen first thing is a way of turning an advantage of Android (widgets) into a disadvantage. There are other things to list, but I'm not gonna dig into them.
    As I noted, I own a G1 and a Pre. Not trying to be biased.

    Widgets especially are touted as a killer feature so I'm merely being skeptical.

    On my G1 I find them kinda cool but also a hassle to manage. Having to find a place for them, remove others I don't use, and having them all run slows things down and drains the battery.

    Take any of the Twitter widgets. Using Twidget for an example. It's very small, but I had to clear out my calendar widget to put it on the screen. Okay. It both notifies of new tweets and displays the latest one in its body. On the Pre, Tweed will display the tweet as a notification, and for anything I'd tap to use the app. Is there a need for a widget between the notification and full app?

    Not bashing, just being critical of the hype. I'd love to hear in detail how their advantage can be realized. And I am using both phones, and sharing my thoughts about them.
    Palm Vx > Treo 650 > Centro > G1 > Pre > BlackBerry 9700
  9. shotyme's Avatar
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    #9  
    I think it is a matter of preference also.

    I like the card metaphor. I know exactly what is open and can easily change what I have open in a matter of seconds and keep it that way. The Sense UI is interesting and Android needs it. Motoblur is also interesting and something else that both Android and Motorola needs. As far as multitasking, the Pre does it best and that is what they designed it to do.

    If you like having multiple home screens, then that's you should get an Android. The Pre suits me the best right now. Only wish Sprint had data and voice, but I have Wifi
  10. #10  
    This is a very helpful thread. I'm curious about the differences in the core PIM apps between Android/HTC Hero and WebOS/Pre. Can you elaborate on the calendar, task and memo apps? I'm most interested in the efficiency of adding and editing calendar events in Android. How do you set dates -- with a popup calendar like PalmOS, or scroll wheels like WebOS and iPhone?
    Powered by Palm since 1996...
    Palm Pilot > Palm V > Tungsten T > Trēo 650 > Centro > Prē > Prē F102

    ...gave up and switched to iPhone4 7/15/10

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