I’ve been expanding on my earlier Unity TV mockups lately, which I will post more about later, but I’ve also been working on some Unity Phone mockups, and I wanted to put a couple of ideas out for wider discussion and feedback.
OMG!Ubuntu! highlighted some other mockups for Unity on a Phone where the designer kept the launcher on the left hand side, as it is on the desktop. While this is keeping with the look of desktop Unity, I didn’t think it was in line with the reasons for it. The primary reason for the launcher’s position is to use up screen width (which is abundant on desktops) and free up screen height (which is scarce on desktops).
Keeping that in mind, I came up with a design that keeps the launcher on the narrowest screen edge, regardless of orientation. When holding the phone in portrait mode, the launcher sits along the bottom, the way is traditionally does on Android interfaces. When rotated to landscape, the launcher sits along the left edge, the way it does in Unity on the desktop. This was the launcher is only ever taking up space in the dimension you have the most to spare, while providing a familiar interface in both modes.
The top panel, however, always stays up along the top edge of the screen. This matches Android in portrait mode, and desktop Unity on landscape. This is because it contains the time, which would either have to be rotated or left at 90 degrees in landscape, but also because having the panel at the top gives consistency in the next feature I looked at.
There is a video on YouTube showing a new Acer Iconia W500 running Ubuntu 11.10, and watching the user try and land a touch event on an indicator icon was particularly painful, even on a tablet the indicator icons are far to small to be easy touch targets. How much worse would it be when they’re on a screen a quarter of the size?
Instead I thought about the way Android lets you drag-down the top bar to access your list of notifications, and how easy of a gesture that is. Applying that to Unity, I came up with the idea of a drag-down gesture activating the indicator menus, much like you can by pressing F10 on desktop unity. Only instead of popup menus, these would use a full-screen overlay, again like Android does for notifications.
Unlike Android, however, you would be able to access all of your indicators from here, not just notifications. Swiping left or right will move you to adjacent indicators (just like left and right keyboard buttons do on desktop Unity). So you would have quick, easy, always available access to your networking, sound (including playback controls) and calendar.
Like my earlier TV mockups, these are all done using the Pencil mockup tool. You can see the full exported version here, and download the source files here. If you are interested in the discussions going on, join the #ubuntu-phone channel on Freenode. Please let me know what you think of these mockups, and what other areas of Unity on a phone you would like to see designs for. And remember, none of these are official designs, they’re just what I’ve been doing for fun in the evenings.