ui

Earlier this week, a rumor was started by a certain “journalist” who shall remain unnamed stating that the Windows Phone team was looking to “start over” in 2015, including a re-write of the OS and that they were even considering toying with the Modern look of the UI.

A few of you tipped us on it, asking us to cover the news but it’s a safe bet that if we don’t re-report something, it’s because we think it’s garbage. Indeed, this “journalist” has been more wrong than right in his ambitious predictions about Microsoft, Nokia and Windows Phone in the past, but other tech sites are addicted to his bold headlines.

Now, the Windows Phone Design team, responsible for the UI and "theory" behind Windows Phone, has evidently had enough, as they have publicly rebuked the rumor via their Twitter account.

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Today a collection of screenshots, showcasing redesigns within key Windows 8.1 applications, were leaked online. The shots showcase changes in the Windows Store and Xbox Music, along with brand new apps including a calendar, alarm clock, and voice recorder.

The newly leaked store design showcases an application “shelf” with more upfront descriptions. The new UI introduces more text to the interface and while it is still inspired by Microsoft’s modern design, it doesn’t have the close-feeling connection to the Windows Start screen that it previously had.

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Update 3pm ET: Video has been deleted by the user, sorry folks! We'll try to find an alternative soon.

Long Zheng, the brains behind the likes of MetroTwit and more (we interviewed the chap a while back), has come across a handful of concept videos published by UI designer Dave Brinda. It's reported that Brinda worked with Microsoft on the "Windows Mobile 7" project and currently works at HTC, responsible for designing HTC Sense on Android as well as HTC TouchFlo 3D on Windows Mobile. So what's the concept like? Well, see for yourself.

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Yes folks it’s finally here, the week that will see Microsoft launch Windows 8, spearheading its massive 2012 product launch schedule. It’s keystone of the ‘Three Screens & Cloud’ play and this is where we see how it’s all going to shake out.

The pre-orders for Surface have started and even run dry in some regions, invites to the various launch events have gone out and now it’s time to put all the cards on the table. With such a wide ranging spruce-up of the entire product line from Xbox to Windows Phone, we’re in for a wild ride. Windows 8 will be at the centre of these launches, not just because it’s Windows but because with it we will see a whole host of services light up to enable the entire eco system.

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The black and white HTC 8S sports a unique black (on light) theme for use, according to a hands-on video by smartphoneinfos. We've taken a good look and it's definitely a new theme. The question is if this is simply an exclusive colour to HTC or we could well be seeing more colours on offer for use in Windows Phone 8.

Many (including ourselves) have been after more themes since Windows Phone launched back in late 2010, and a black theme was high in the request list. Looking at the theme in action on the HTC 8S indeed makes it seem possible that we could see more colours available to choose from when personalising a Windows Phone.

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Say hello to dark and mysterious Outlook

Update: We have confirmation that this feature is indeed in the final release. More over, it's an optional setting within the app.

Outlook for Windows Phone has been given a second look for those who enjoy using the dark theme. AnandTech took the recently announced Lumia 920 for a spin and in their hands-on video footage, one can clearly see Outlook sporting a different look – it’s certainly easy to overlook if you’re not the most observant soul.

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The new SkyDrive login screen

Two weeks ago Hotmail became Outlook.com with a new Metro…errr..modern look to it and now it is finally time for SkyDrive to get the same makeover.

Heading to www.skydrive.com you can see the new site redesign (log out and refresh if you are not seeing it) that brings it up to par with the Windows 8, Windows Phone and Outlook’s new appearance. And yes, Microsoft is not calling it Metro but rather are using ‘modern’ instead—take that as you will.

Besides the new look, SkyDrive also gets some new features on board including instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organization, and HTML5 sorting which should make the service is more fun to use.

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Prepare to say farewell to Metro UI

Microsoft has decided to leave the 'Metro' branding for its new user interface on the battlefield with Metro AG and work on a fitting replacement. The European retailer has reportedly claimed the term "Metro" as trademark, which has led to the software giant looking at alternatives. According to ZDNet sources, Microsoft will be using 'Windows 8' instead. Metro is dead. Long live Windows 8, or so it seems.

We had a number of interesting suggestions from our readers (almost 500 comments on a previous article) who took a 15 minutes time-out to think up effective and ingenious replacements. There were some humorous ideas as well as plain awesome, but Windows 8 certainly wasn't at the top of the list by any means. We checked through all comments and even started up a poll for readers to vote for their favourite Metro replacement.

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A fairly lightweight Windows Phone emulator has made its way onto the Marketplace, which enables the user to see how the upcoming UI refresh would look on their handset. By lightweight we mean that no tiles launch any apps (links to Marketplace listings instead), but it certainly gives you a feel for what's to come with live tiles showing data, flipping around and having fun.

That's pretty much W Phone 8 in a nutshell, and while it may not seem a lot it's very well presented.

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Oh dear...

A few days ago we were tipped on a story by blog Insideris who received alleged diagrams of what Windows Phone 8 was suppose to look like in terms of UI layout.

We didn't run the story because we personally thought they were crap, pardon our French. With no source named or vouched for by the originating site, there was no compelling reason to believe they're real. So into the trash the story went.

Now WinSource has done us the favor of taking those sketches and making them "real" by adding color and filling it in with actual material to better visualize what it'd be like The result can be seen above.

We still doubt the authenticity of the original mockups and now that we see what it would like like "in real life" boy are we hoping, nay praying that they are fake. To us this looks way, way too cluttered. Sure, it's the power users dream but for those of us who enjoy simplicity and minimalism, it's nothing but a UI nightmare akin to something we'd get on Android. (At least some of it is terrible, other aspects could be useful...)

So here's hoping to these being fake and at the very least, these can illustrate what a UI should not look like. (If these are real, we'll do our best to eat crow.)

Source: WinSource; Insideris

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Windows Phone Folders concept

As we reported a few days ago, Nokia was asking for feedback on the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 via a user survey. Those who participated even qualified for a $50 Amazon gift-card for their trouble.

While user surveys are nothing new (and AT&T has done them in the past) one interesting question was noticed by reader Jonathan W regarding folders: "I would like to be able to arrange apps into folders on the apps screen" was asked with a rating system ranging from "Disagree strongly" to "Agree strongly".

That's an interesting item to raise in a survey only because Windows Phone does not have a folder system at all for apps on the Start screen. There is, however, a homebrew folder solution which works very well by Windows Phone Hacker and we know users in the past have asked for such a system (especially with all the apps we now have).

Is Nokia watching the homebrew community? They would be silly to ignore it. Are folders on the table for a Windows Phone OS update? Possibly. We know that Nokia can modify the Start screen and aspects of the UI much deeper than other OEMs.

So far, Nokia have not exercised that option but with the proof-of-concept homebrew folders working out, they could easily (and more elegantly) instantiate such a concept in the OS, should they choose to do so. Alternatively, they could also lean on Microsoft for such a feature for everyone including competing OEMs, much like the 4G LTE experience.

We'll certainly be watching Nokia closely to see what they do with this survey information. Oh and Nokia, yes, folders are a very good option and we'd like to see native support for such a feature in Windows Phone..

Thanks, Jonathan, for the image; Windows Phone Folder concept by WPCentral member Sebastien "ArtSooby" Bruneau

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Telerik, the company behind the RadControls suite for Windows Phone Developers, has released an interesting update to their software. The introduced RadHubTile will enable developers to create live tiles within their application (just like the home screen) to further increase the good looks meter.

There are a number of hub tile classes available, which include: RadHubTile, RadMosaicHubTile, RadSlideHubTile, RadPictureRotatorHubTile and RadCustomHubTile. More information about each class is available in the Telerik blog article, do check out some of these supported tile effects in the below video demo. 

RadControls for Windows Phone is a suite for developers that will set you back by about $99 ($1,200 for the full bulk - .NET controls, analysis & data tools, etc.), although there is a free trial available. While it's pretty expensive for the odd garage developer, the results can be absolutely stunning (just look at Tasks - a free todo app by Telerik).

Source: Telerik Blog

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Michael Gillett, MVP in Windows Live and Senior UK Microsoft Student Partner, has published an interesting tip that he's received from a "trustworthy" source. The tip includes two changes which will be applied in the coming Tango update; the media controls for manipulating playback will take up less space on-screen, and users will be able to create folders for tiles on the home screen.

Take the above with a pinch of salt like any rumour, but we could be onto something here. The media controls are pretty darn massive, and one can get into a pickle with having a good number of Live Tiles dancing the night away. So the changes would make sense to many. Although, instead of creating folders (as you would in iOS), we would prefer to think that Microsoft would bring across grouping, which is present in Windows 8 and is available in the Homebrew community with the Folders app.

What do you make of these two changes? Let us know in the comments.

Source: My Microsoft Life, via: Plaffothanks Antonino for the tip!

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We've been using the Nokia Lumia 710 on T-Mobile (see our review) for a few days now and one thing we found is the device is fast. Now by fast we of course mean on T-Mobile "4G' HSPA+ network, which we're seeing quick downloads but also there's something else--the OS itself seems zippier. On WP Bench, we get around 88 for a score, which is high but far below the Titan and Focus S.

Upon closer inspection we noticed the screen rotation from portrait to landscape is very rapid. So rapid that while driving we saw it quickly toggle between the two modes when taking a sharp turn. That tells us that this is either a very sensitive accelerometer with perhaps a lower delay in the transition effect.

When compared to the Lumia 800, Samsung Focus S, etc. the Lumia 710 will always beat them in switching between landscape and portrait. We actually really like this as it makes the OS and device feel even faster (it's very useful for messaging apps where you need the keyboard). Anyways, we thought it was neat and we hope the Lumia 900 features the same type of OS modification too.

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Andy Lees: Android copying is flattering

Microsoft's Andy Lees, president of Windows Phone division, has spoken out about Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), particularly the People app. Similarities are present, which was noticeable in the Android ICS video we covered yesterday with Google heavily borrowing from other platforms.

"It's always flattering when someone starts copying you. Fundamentally, their point of view is different. They provide you with a grid of icons and a sea of applications and the more functionality you add, the more complicated and difficult to use the phone becomes."

Even though some parts of Windows Phone are being copied, there's still space for Google to be critical about the platform. Andy moves on to what Matias Duarte said about Windows Phone Metro UI.

"The problem with the Android model is that (when) somebody decides to do something, they hack up the operating system and they make it work. But that puts it (at) a dead end for that device, and that's why phones don't get updated, it's why sometimes they run applications and sometimes they don't."

If you missed the video for Android ICS, check it out after the break. 

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We mentioned Google's User Experience Director for Android, Matias Duarte, earlier as he had just showed of 'Roboto', the new design-language for Android 4.0 which will hopefully make it less geeky. A noble challenge.

Not too surprisingly, he has some choice words both for Apple and Microsoft in terms of UI design. We were under the impression that Microsoft's approach was unique, stunning and generally pleasing. And you folks certainly go critical if an app we cover is not authentically Metro enough. But not for Duarte, he's no fan. In an interview with This is My Next/Verge, he had the following pot shots at Metro:

“There’s this thing that’s happening right now in user interface design that I find kind of shackling. The faux wood paneling trend, and the airport lavatory signage trend.” He laughs when he says this and pulls up a slide on his computer, a split screen of an Atari 2600 and… airport lavatory signage. It’s an obvious dig at both Apple and Microsoft.

But what about Microsoft and their “authentically digital” design? “The problem with going too starkly systematic, forcing everything into this completely constrained, modernist palette, for both of them, you’re not leaving any room for the content to express itself.”

“Instead, I offer the web. Here there’s beautiful examples of very customized, very different feeling websites.” Matias flips through slides in his deck, a variety of websites, some news-focused, others which are services or shopping sites. “These look completely unlike each other, but people understand how to use them because the right things are standard conventions, and other things are flexible.”

Of course, we beg to differ. With Metro, all we get is straight content with no unnecessary and distracting flare aka "chrome". That's the best part of Windows Phone: straight information, video, photos, without cartoony graphics or something that looks like it came from a cheesy 80s sci-fi movie. Because sorry, but that's what Android looks like.

Source: This is My Next

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Information is still coming in but Google and Samsung just showed off Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). Coming first to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus which will feature a 4.65” HD Super AMOLED display technology at 720p resolution and a 1.2GHz dual core CPU, ICS looks to finally bring a little pizazz to the robotic OS.

A lot of the new "look" to Android 4.0 can be tied to Matias Duarte, who worked on Palm's ill-fated webOS UI till he was snagged by Google about a year and a half ago. Because of that, it seems quite obvious that things like Android's new calendar and especially the "card view" for multitasking look very familiar (something that even Windows Phone "borrowed"). We not sure making the card-view vertical instead of horizontal is going to fool anyone though. Other things like the People App and even the camera also look heavily borrowed from Windows Phone. Heck, they even said "Putting people at the heart..." instead of "Putting People First", so yeah.

Reader Anthony submitted the following observations he noticed during the recently YouTubed Keynote:

  • Swiping between menus instead of tapping them is Metro
  • action bar is copied from wp7 (especially making it common between apps, is exactly what Metro is)
  • photo album UI looks exactly like WP7 gallery
  • contact groups is from WP7
  • people app is direct copy of wp7 people's hub
  • folder creation method (dragging two icons together to make a folder) is from iOS
  • Lock screen to camera is from WP7/iOS (which iOS copied from WP7)
  • switching reply method between email/sms/call in contact card is WP7 (Actually, webOS did that 1st -ed.)

And in general, the consensus at least from the Twitter-sphere seems to be yes, Android borrows a lot. We always said Android was pretty ugly so this at least goes a long way to addressing that though we're not convinced that it's as elegant, smooth or as unified as the Metro design language. Just see the Windows Phone version after the break for comparison...

Loads more at our sister site, AndroidCentral.com

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This is for all developers and designers out there who strive to produce only the best looking apps for Windows Phone. Jeff Wilcox, developer of 4th&Mayor and Senior Software Development Lead for Windows Phone, was discussing design principles with two members of the Windows Phone design team when he was introduced to a grid the team has been using on the platform. The grid is a set of squares 25×25px, offset 12px from one another, and all contained within a page padding of 24px.

Wilcox decided to create an overlay developers can use in emulator debugging to ensure text and content is aligned to perfection (see image above for example of misaligned text). This is best used with tweaking designs and the UI. Screenshots can be taken with the overlay active on the emulator and then shared with clients or the designer for feedback and critique.

MetroGridHelper can be installed with NuGet. For more information and installation details, head on over to Wilcox's blog (link below).

Source: Jeff Wilcox

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Microsoft finally looks to be hitting their stride. This new web-commercial for developers shows off the elegance, simplicity and drives home the Metro interface. We really like the look of this, even if it's for devs and not necessarily consumers. Still, we could see Microsoft editing this or redoing some parts for TV and they really should--it's a good start to show off their new UI. After all, it's going to be everywhere soon.

Oh and check out the eBay Live Tile at 0:36

Source: Windows Phone (YouTube); Also, thanks ousooner314, for the tip even though we were already working on it ;-)

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More Metro UI on Android

It seems with every post we publish here surrounding Metro UI on Android we're getting closer and closer to a fluent solution. It was only a few days ago when we covered the latest attempt to get the look of Windows Phone on an Android powered device. In the video above Arjoma92 walks us through his Motorola Defy that appears to resemble Microsoft's Windows Phone in more ways than one. The list of apps used are as follows:

While it looks relatively accurate, the smooth scrolling and snappy OS is not present, plus you can still see Android elements throughout the video, but it's a damn good attempt.

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