/e/OS and the (not)Android user interface

Here I’m talking about the /e/OS approach regarding the user interface, and upcoming changes.

It might seem odd that at /e/, we put some energy and some development effort into the end-user user interface. We are a pro-privacy, deGoogled, mobile operating system, right?

The reason behind this, is double:

1- one is pragmatic: we want /e/OS to get the widest possible adoption, and for this, we need a beautiful OS, with a modern, clean and attractive UI, and the best possible user experience.

2- the other one is not pragmatic, and even a bit selfish: since NeXTStep was born, I have a personal taste for great graphical interfaces. And this already impacted my two previous projects Mandrake Linux, which has been the first desktop Linux distribution, and Ulteo, which was a desktop delivery solution.

/e/OS is based on the open-source Android operating system, which has its own launcher. It’s usable but can’t be considered as very attractive. And looking at the big smartphone names on the market (e.g. the ones that sell a lot of smartphones, like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi), it is quite clear that they put a lot of efforts to bring a better, more attractive, user interface into their OS. Something sometimes very far from the traditional Android user interface.

So I have explained since the project inception (read “The design point”) that /e/OS would care about the UI too, because I have a strong intuition that most users won’t consider using /e/OS if it looks too old or offeres a too complicated user experience.

/e/OS “Bliss Launcher”…

That’s the reason why we have started to developer Bliss Launcher from scratch at the begining of the project. And not surprisingly, though a few find it too far from the stock Android experience and will replace it by another launcher (it’s easy), it’s generally enjoyed by most /e/OS users.

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And we keep on improving it: soon, we will have the top bar cleaned from all the notification icons from system and apps. The reason for this is to avoid to have a cluttered (and therefore totally useless for most users) top bar look like this:

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(A classical over-cluttered Android top-bar)

In the near future, there won’t be any notification icons in the top-bar. Instead we will have all “network”-related icons (cellular, wifi, bluetooth…) on the top left, time at the center, and battery level on the right. For devices with a central notch, time will go on the right.

It will look like something like this:

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(Work in progress screenshot)

For those who fear the lost of those notification icons in the top bar: relax !

1- notification will still show up a few seconds on the main screen when they arrive (unless the user disables this in settings)

2- notifications will still show up and stack on the lock screen (until the user deletes them manually).

3- because we are super-cool with hard-core Android users, /e/OS will have a button in settings so that a user can revert this feature, and enables again full notifications in the top bar.

and UI consistency

We’re going deeper in the user interface. One of the things that I wanted to improve in /e/OS is the user interface consistency (colors, widgets, …) in /e/OS default applications, like Calendar, Messages, Notes, etc.

For instance, let’s have a look at three default applications: Notes, Contacts and Calendar. Here is how it looks at the moment:

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[Notes, Contacts and Calendar apps current look]

We see that the colors are not consistent at all: some all-blue design for Notes, some other blue with a red-purple button for Contacts, mostly some green in Calendar. We need more consistency accross default applications, and not only for colors.

So we have developed a new SDK for /e/OS where we are going to define all the default colors, default fonts, default widget to use in applications, and modify those apps to adopt a common look and feel:

{Notes, Contacts and Calendar, with better UI consistency.]

And this will also let users who want this, to set a dark theme that will immediatly apply to all default applications.

Of course, this is only the begining, we will do other changes so that we can offer one of the best mobile phone user interface to /e/OS users.

And never forget: Your data is YOUR data!

Stay tuned.

Gaël

Regain your privacy! Adopt /e/ the unGoogled mobile OS and online servicesphone

24 Likes

Why does the improvement of consistency effectively mean the extraction of colour?
The apps, otherwise, share design.

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Point 3 is necessary because my experience so far is exemplified by the following scenario:

  1. Several notifications arrive and are visible on the lock screen.
  2. I unlock and go to the first app with a notification.
  3. I spend long enough in the app that I have forgotten what other apps had notifications on the lock screen.
  4. I either:
    a) Open every app which could conceivably have a live notification until I find out which it was, or:
    b) Lock the phone in order to be able to see the lock screen then GOTO 2.

This is hugely inefficient and frustrating. One of the first principles of UI/UX design is to allow the user to accomplish tasks with as few interactions (touches, mouse clicks, etc) as possible.

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LOL :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

And this will also let users who want this, to set a dark theme that will immediatly apply to all default applications.

:heart_eyes:
In /e/ we trust!

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@gael Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

You said

My opinion is that the OS, and its beauty, is separate from the UI. The OS is hidden, and its ‘beauty’ lies in how well and how efficiently it functions. /e/OS is already pretty good in this respect. The UI is the ‘face’ of the OS and, as with real faces, beauty is in the eye of the beholder: what to you is beautiful, or ‘a great graphical interface’, may to me be ugly, or a step backwards, and vice versa.

For example, in your opinion, the Bliss launcher is an improvement on the standard Android launcher, and other similar launchers such as LawnChair, or Open Launcher. Whereas I think that e.g LawnChair is a ‘great graphical interface’ and Bliss is a bit limited and childlike. That’s fine and normal: tastes differ and life would be boring if we all liked the same things.

What would be a problem for me is if I can only use your beautiful OS by also using its (to me) not very attractive face. At the moment, that isn’t the case: I don’t like Bliss so I can easily use LawnChair (though I can’t currently uninstall Bliss); I don’t like the changes you have made in your fork of K-9 Mail, so I can install the original (though I cannot currently uninstall /e/ Mail).

Problems only arise when you implement changes to things such as the status bar, that I cannot avoid either by configuring its settings or by installing a different version. I am glad that you have taken on board the responses of several users to the changes that were made, and that there will be a way to allow the traditional functionality, including display of notification icons, to continue.

The Status bar Settiings UI in the latest /e/OS nougat build I have running on an old phone (because there is not yet a functional up-to-date /e/OS build for my ‘daily driver’ phone - I hope there will be one shortly, even if I have to build it myself :slight_smile: ) allows me to choose which system icons are displayed. This to me is a great UI: it allows me - and every other user - to configure the status bar UI to meet my needs, if I don’t like the system defaults.

The point of this (which has gone on a bit too long - I apologise) is that I hope, when you are implementing

other changes so that we can offer one of the best mobile phone user interface to /e/OS users

you will continue to allow /e/OS users to opt out of those changes if they don’t like them, and let them use (or continue to use) those parts of the existing UI which do work for them. ‘My data is MY data’, and I would like it if my User Interface can continue to be MY User Interface.

Thanks again for sharing your plans, and for the great work that the /e/ team are doing.

Pete

10 Likes

You can, though.

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Not ‘easily’ :slight_smile:

I suggest a compromise: Not trivial :wink: .

Gaël;
First off, thanks for the excellent OS. I also used Mandrake back when it came out (I might even still have an install DVD and case that I ordered to support it) and I think we even met over a group lunch once in Paris back at the turn of the century.

I started with Android when I got the Galaxy S5, and then later the Galaxy S7. I found the UI to be quite useful for my needs and eventually settled on having two or three screens for my daily widgets and apps (including app groupings), with the apps I use less frequently remaining in the alphabetical app listing where I could look them up easily when I needed them.

My biggest gripe with Bliss is that everything is just piled onto a bunch of screens in whatever order you happened to install things when you set up the phone, and any app groupings are also done in whatever order you added things to that group. So the end result is like having a sock drawer of apps, with things just a mess unless you hunt them down and drag them higher in priority, so to speak; but even doing that leaves all the remaining apps in a tangled mess of no sensible order.

Other than ‘that issue’ I find Bliss to be a workable UI, but ‘that issue’ is a big one for me because how the layout functions forms the basis of the usability. At present I’m trying the Omega launcher and it seems to address all of these issues.

I do, however, have concerns about using a foreign UI because I’ve no idea how secure it is (permissions, trackers, Guulag integration, etc.) and I’m not an Android developer so looking at the code isn’t really a solution. I trust Bliss to be secure because it’s part of the /e/ system and while I certainly use third party apps, they are standalone things and a UI is tied into everything.

So that leaves me in a difficult position. Use Bliss and be secure or use Omega and be uncertain about my security. And of course the driving reason for using /e/ is security so in the end it seems I have to choose between comfort and security. I do want to reiterate though that I can and have arranged the apps in Bliss so that my daily needs are up front, but the remaining things are outright hunt and peck when I want to find something. I guess that’s what the search field is for when swiping left, and I’ve used it for that so it does work. So I’ll just have to change the way I do things I suppose if I want the security.

Thanks again for the excellent OS. I used to have ads appear on webpages that were suspiciously related to things I had discussed with people while my Android phone was in the proximity of the conversation, and this happened on a regular basis. That doesn’t happen anymore when I have /e/ on my phone, but the person I have a conversation with still has it happen because they aren’t using /e/.

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I’m no expert, but I think the outstanding notifications can be seen on the pull-down screen can’t they? I mean, that’s where I look for notifications and it seems to work for me.

It seems to depend on the app. Emails are shown there but not everything seems to be.

I’ve always understood it to be the case that the lock screen simply mirrors what’s on the pull-down screen. The lock screen will only do that if it’s set to do so because it’s optional for privacy purposes but the pull down is where notifications are actually meant to be held after they briefly appear on your screen.

Maybe that’s supposed to happen but that’s not my experience.

Hi,

I like the idea to have a “cleaner” top bar, maybe to see them all when we swipe down.
But do you know if it is possible to make the top bar larger? To improve the visibility of it?
In Settings > Display > Advanced you can change “Font size” and “Display size”, but I have already set it to the maximum (I have to admit that my Lawnchair is my launcher, perhaps with Bliss it is different …)

Thank you in advance

Even if it is possible, for me it would not be a good UI: I am happy to lose one line of screen real-estate to show me status and notification icons, but I would not be happy to lose two.

Maybe we could have a setting :wink:

I really like /e/, apart from the (to me) completely incomprehensible decision not to implement microG’s Exposure Notification Framework quickly.

But here I have to wonder: is there a single user out there who has to see the name of his/her network in the status bar because he/she forgets it? Is it really more important than seeing notifications that point out important things?

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C) Pull down the notification bar to see the available notifications. No notification icons, but notifications available.

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I look for that name when I’m traveling outside of my normal service area. If it’s what it’s supposed to be then I know I’m not going to get charged roaming fees. If it changes to something else then I know I’d be wise to find wifi if I want to use any significant amount of data.

Not all notifications are visible when doing that.