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Please Steal These webOS Features (ignorethecode.net)
385 points by ugh on Feb 21, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 159 comments

>(On task switching) "Nothing else I’ve seen comes close."

So true. It just feels SO much more like multitasking than any other platform.

And notifications? I agree, amazing.

I wish the article had covered the Gesture Area. I know the Touchpad did away with it, but the Gesture Area made everything so fluid, easy and intuitive.

Another interface feature I LOVE is the swipe-to-delete. The super-hot iOS ToDo app "Clear" has that exact behavior and people love it.

And how about TouchStone charging? Sooo nice. Pretty sure Palm was the first mainstream phone maker to have this functionality built-in.

One more feature that was amazing was the ability to bump-to-sync with other newer webOS devices. It's like the popular app Bump on steroids.

...And of course we all know how the apps were HTML/JS which was a brilliant idea. Why make everyone learn a new language just to write apps?

You, sir, have pretty much summed up everything I love about webOS :-)

The gesture area definitely made things fluid and easy, but unfortunately, it was absolutely not intuitive. If you haven't done (or have forgotten) the first use tutorial, it takes some luck to figure out how to navigate webOS. (I think that Clear has the same problem: swipe to mark as done/delete is not discoverable; it only works for people who already know of swipe to delete as a system gesture.)

That is true, but I'd say swiping backward is about as intuitive as the now-famous "pinch-to-zoom" gesture: once you know it, it makes sense. It just takes warming people up to the idea; a luxury Palm didn't really have.

  > Why make everyone learn a new language
  > just to write apps?
Why do you assume everyone knows Javascript and HTML?

I'll willing to guess that a lot more know that than Objective-C.

I know lots of Apple fanatics are extreme minimalists but I really think iOS should also steal the back button from the Android. I very much dislike when one app causes another app to open, and then I have to press the home button and find the original app to go back to it. And if I'm lucky, it's still in the same state as before.

> I really think iOS should also steal the back button from the Android.

There are many potentially interesting things in Android (although I think WebOS would be a far better source of ideas to steal, it's always been).

But not the back button. The back button is probably the worst part of Android's UI, it's the embodiment of "mystery meat" navigation and interface: a hardware button which behaves in a completely arbitrary and essentially random manner without providing any clue as to what will happen when it's tapped.

Android's back button is its single best feature. Without it, I might not still be using Android. What it should do: go back to the screen you were previously on. Android apps are generally full-screen apps; there's little mystery there (IMO).

Unfortunately, Google is mandating that it acquire "up button" semantics rather than back button semantics - for many apps, it's supposed to go to the "top" level before it exits out. That I'm not a fan of, and I'm afraid it's going to encourage its "mystery meat" nature, because it'll no longer act like a browser back button.

Have you ever used a palm pre? Being able to go forward, back, alt-tab and multitask all with a directional swipe beats the back button on any android device i have tried. Though I think either way beats iOS style.

> what it should do: go back to the screen you were previously on

At the time I used Android (1.6) this promise was broken nearly all the time, so you'd skip or just be unable to get to the exact screen you were looking for... removing that is very wise.

>Unfortunately, Google is mandating that it acquire "up button" semantics rather than back button semantics - for many apps, it's supposed to go to the "top" level before it exits out.

You have a source on that? I know of only one Google app that does this if called from an outside Activity or notification.


"If your app was reached via the system mechanisms of notifications or home screen widgets, Up behaves as described for app-to-app navigation, above.

"For the Back key, you should make navigation more predictably by inserting into the task's back stack the complete upward navigation path to the app's topmost screen. This way, a user who has forgotten how they entered your app can safely navigate to the app's topmost screen before exiting it.

"For example, Gmail's Home screen widget has a button for diving directly to its compose screen. After following that path, the Back key first returns to the Inbox, and from there continues to Home."

(Emphasis added.)

Thanks, wasn't aware of this and frankly am quite disappointed by it.

I got bitten by it just yesterday. I was setting an alarm. I pick the alarm, click on 'Time', set the time, hit the 'set' button. Then the time goes away and I'm back on the alarm screen, and I hit the back button to exit the app. But that 'cancels' my change and the alarm goes back to the old time.

It's a combination of setting alarms having too many screens, and android having trained me to hit back-back-back when I'm done with an app.

Hmm. When I'm done with an app, I usually hit the home key. I usually use 'back' when I'm taken to another app by some other means: an email notification, a link starting the browser, opening a file in a file browser. Perhaps the confusion lies in different usage behaviours?

And FWIW, I just tried doing what you describe with the ICS clock / alarm app. It worked as expected for me: after tapping "set", the alarm was set, and Back took me back to the clock, and another Back exited the app.

One practical way the new semi-broken approach affects me is with JustPictures, a photo viewing app. I use it in conjunction with ES File Explorer. It used to be that when you launched a photo from the file explorer, it would come up in JustPictures, and then you'd return to the file browser when you tapped Back. But now, after JustPictures was updated to better conform with guidelines a month or two back, it goes into its own "tile" view of the folder before sending me back to the file browser. This behaviour is according to the new guidelines, but I find it quite upsetting. I launched JustPictures not because it has its own top screen and file system navigation etc., but because it has more reasonable photo viewing functionality (specifically, file-based rather than media library based) than the gallery app.

The new Android approach seems focused on becoming more like iOS, where each app is its own silo, rather than how it started out, with activities blurring the distinction between apps and enabling a higher level of integration. But the more Android becomes like iOS, the less reason I have to prefer it over iOS.

There's actually a similar dynamic going on with Firefox. Firefox is slowly cloning Chrome's look and feel, and I have to work harder and harder to get the menu bar, status bar etc. back in place. The day I can no longer do that, is the day in which I might as well give up on Firefox and use Chrome. (Well, that and Chrome's text selection algorithm. It's absolutely hideous for this compulsive text-highlighting reader.)

"I just tried doing what you describe with the ICS clock / alarm app. It worked as expected for me: after tapping "set", the alarm was set, and Back took me back to the clock.."

Are these the screens you see?

- Clock with alarm time

- 'Alarms' page with list of alarms and 'add alarm' button

- 'Set alarm' page with time, repeat, ringtone, etc. and cancel/delete/ok buttons at the bottom

- Set time - with the dials for hour and minute, and cancel/set buttons at the bottom

I'm talking about adjusting the time dials, hitting 'Set', returning to the 'Set alarm' page, hitting back, which simulates hitting 'cancel', throws away my change (without asking for confirmation), and returns me to the 'Alarms' page.

Does this make more sense? I'm on Ice Cream Sandwich if that helps. (Being forced to upgrade a device with a smaller viewing area to an OS that assumes a galaxy-sized screen, that's a whole separate rant.)

I'm starting to realize it's partly because backing out of an app was a way in my mind to close the app. But ICS doesn't seem to pay attention to that anymore, so you're right, I should just hit the home key.

That's a problem of the app you're looking at, not the button itself.

The design guidelines clearly state that you _shouldn't_ hijack that button to change the default of 'back to last activity' unless you have a very good reason to do so.

If you constantly see apps behaving unexpectedly - file a bug/complain to the developer/search for a better suited alternative? That actually adheres to the platform guidelines.

From the same author as the parent article: http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2011/07/15/the_back_button_dil...

The guidelines are broken then if so many developers are compelled to break it.

It if confusing, but having been forced to use an Android device for the last two months, and now back with the iPhone, it did have some advantages. Sure, you wouldn't know what it would do, but before having to go home and you just press the back button, and sometimes it takes you where you wanted, sometime it doesn't. Then you just rerun the app.

And yet, many iOS apps end up using screen space on a Back button. And I find myself missing it on those that don't.

> And yet, many iOS apps end up using screen space on a Back button.

I did not say "back" is a bad idea (seriously, read what's written, not what you think would be the easiest to pithily reply to). "Back" is a good idea when it is coherent and/or explorable. Which the android "Back" button is not, because it's mystery meat navigation.

iOS apps use screen space with a "Back" button, and that back button generally tells you where you're going to go back to[0]. Android's back button does not, you might go up in the application's hierarchy, you could go sideways into an other object of some sort from which you originally came, you could go to an other application, and you have no way to know without learning how each and every application hooks into that button.

[0] that's Apple UI guidelines, although even when applications don't implement it they won't just drop you into an other application "at random".

On Android you always go to the last Activity, whether that activity is from the same application or a different application. When you get something other than the last activity, that's because the developer is overriding the button's purpose.

Like the built in Messages, or Gmail, or Browser apps? It's hard to have a general rule when it seems that most apps on the platform break it. :(

iOS "back" button is generally an "up" button, not a "back" button. For that reason, it's not nearly as useful as Android's.

> iOS "back" button is generally an "up" button, not a "back" button.

So's it on Android[0], except when it's a back button, or something else entirely.

Which, you may want to note, is the very issue I originally outlined with it: Android's back button behaves inconsistently and provides no way to discover its behavior in advance.

> For that reason, it's not nearly as useful as Android's.

Inconsistent behavior precludes usefulness. The iPhone's "back" buttons behave consistently (and explain where the user will land, if Apple's HIG are followed). Theoretically the Android back button could be more useful than iOS's, practically that is not the case.

[0] http://developer.android.com/design/patterns/navigation.html

> If your app was reached via the system mechanisms of notifications or home screen widgets, Up behaves as described for app-to-app navigation, above.

> For the Back key, you should make navigation more predictably by inserting into the task's back stack the complete upward navigation path to the app's topmost screen. This way, a user who has forgotten how they entered your app can safely navigate to the app's topmost screen before exiting it.

> For example, Gmail's Home screen widget has a button for diving directly to its compose screen. After following that path, the Back key first returns to the Inbox, and from there continues to Home.

You're quoting the reference I myself quoted elsewhere in these comments. I quoted it as evidential support for a trend in Android that I decry - one that may drive me away from Android, along with its movement away from the menu button towards cryptic app-specific icons and inconsistent menu button placement.

Moved from the Palm Pre (1st gen.) to Android on EVO 3D 6 months ago. AFAIAC, both the Back button and the Home button are crutches. I use it w-a-y to much b/c there is no card implementation (like webOS had). It was very easy to go back & forth between open apps and cards within the same app. Backswipe=last screen viewed.Simple. The inability to easily, definitively close apps (upswipe/throw off screen on webOS) is maddening. I never know if an app is "still" running or really closed (& don't know until I go home & pick app.... Sloppy, messy, maddening. I REALLY miss webOS.

That's like saying that the 'T' letter key on the keyboard behaves unpredictably and should be removed just because any program could map it to any other character or action.

Of course I am not familiar with your background, but I wonder what you base that opinion on.

What Android device did you own and use that had such a bad implementation of the back button?

double-click the home button brings up the task switcher. The leftmost app is the last opened and reopening it usually resumes the app.

As my iPhone ages, the double click on the home button is becoming harder and harder to do. The physical button itself just isn't very responsive anymore. Devoting this essential function to something that can degrade over time seems like a big oversight for a company that puts such stock into industrial engineering.

Actually it isn't. When your button wears out you can just buy a new iPhone. Same goes for fraying wires in Apple power supplies and USB cables. They have no economic incentive to provide longevity beyond the warranty period as they are primarily a hardware company.

Actually, due to a class-action lawsuit[1], Apple has to replace frayed MagSafe power adapters with the newer L-shape ones for free. I just got mine replaced a few weeks ago. I agree that Apple should have done a recall, or even notified users.

1. http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/10/class-action-lawsuit-forces...

That's a step in the right direction, but the cord still frays at the brick end unless you leave a big loop before wrapping the cord around it. And the USB iPhone connector still frays. It would be nice if they'd adopt the standard flexible nubs designed specifically to avoid this fraying problem, but when aesthetics and practicality come into conflict at Apple, aesthetics usually wins.

Many have had some luck spraying a bit of WD40 on the 'home' button to get it working smoothly again.

I agree, however, that the home buttons on iPhones (and I assume iPod Touches and iPads) wear out too quickly. My 3Gs's home button was getting pretty bad after two years of use, even with lubrication, though I will admit to having gotten a fair amount of sand and possibly a bit of seawater in it, and having disassembled and reassembled it several times, so that may not have helped things.

I have only seen the problem of the home button becoming unresponsive on the iPhone 4. I didn't have that problem on any of the previous generations. Try taking the phone into an Apple Store and see if they will replace it for you.

(I reversed engineered that procedure: it does nothing. Just a placebo.)

In that case, you're either stuck with another physical button that will have the same problem, or one of those capacitive back buttons that I find extremely frustrating.

I agree with fragsworth -- the back button is almost a necessity and double-clicking the home button and clicking the first task switcher icon is a poor substitute.

It's missing so much that I find myself expecting the in-app back button to go back to the previous app if I click it enough. BTW, I've never owned an Android phone so my expectations aren't carried over from another OS -- it just seems natural and it's jarring when it's missing.

The back button isn't that great in Android. I'm never sure if back is going to take me back to another screen or out of the app completely. Sometimes if the app is launched from another app pressing back doesn't take you back to the originating app.

As an iOS and Android user the Home button is still my favorite. It's what I'm used to and for the most part they work the same on both platforms.

The back button should follow the users path; if I'm in an email, then a click a link, and then get an SMS then the back button should take me from the SMS message, back to the browser, and then back the email.

However, applications need an additional bit of UI so that from the SMS message you could go "back" to the list of all messages, etc within the app. It sounds like, on Android, there is some confusion between these two use cases and other issues that make it unreliable. It's a shame because the concept is sound.

Speaking of which: double-click is (IMHO) the worst possible solution for this. I keep accidentally getting to the search screen. "Home" button design is partially at fault here (why it's concave?) but the whole thing is clearly an after-thought addition to the system. Long-touch or some kind of a gesture would be way more convenient.

> Long-touch or some kind of a gesture would be way more convenient.

Precisely. And we already have the solution at hand, it just lacks implementation:

    swipe up from the bottom of the screen
This would reveal the task switcher the same way it reveals the Notification Center, smoothly and progressively. It would thus give both instantaneous feedback and trivial cancellability. What's more, once the move is complete your finger will end up being very close to the switcher's row, so going back one step (or up to four steps, really) would be a swift swipe-tap.

Re "why it's concave?": Concave buttons are less likely to be pressed while sitting in your pocket - waking the screen, waking some background processes, draining the battery unnecessarily throughout the day.

To solve this problem, non-concave buttons (flat or convex) live in wells. These buttons in wells carry unnecessary aesthetic weight - lots of angles and short surfaces in a small space. Apple's hardware rarely carries such adornment - they do smooth, "authentic" surfaces.

As such, the Home button simply _is_ the well - and it's rarely pushed by accident.

>double-click is (IMHO) the worst possible solution for this.

swiping up with 4 fingers works, too, at least on iPad.

I can barely fit all four fingers on my iPhone's screen.

The gesture is not enabled there anyway, it's just for the ipad.

I've learned this myself from someone else like you who has passed this on. When I bought my iPhone the manual was extremely vague on features like task switcher. Where did you learn this? (Sorry for going OT, I just wonder if there is a "Secret Guide" somewhere that I've missed.)

Safari has a bookmark to a pretty extensive "iPhone User Guide". It's been there from the start, but I'm sure almost no user knows it. I don't get why they didn't just pin it on the springboard or something (well I do, it'd look kind-of ugly and you should be able to use the phone without a manual, still...)

I learned it the same as you from someone else. Now I use it so often, double-click to switch apps, that I can't remember life before it.

My favorite is actually the back swipe on the Veer (WebOS). It's a left moving swipe on the bottom bevel. It took me a little while to realize it existed, but now that I've learned it it's a joy to use.

If you turn on Multitasking Gestures (Settings -> General -> Multitasking Gestures -> ON) you can go "back" one app by four-finger swiping the current app off the screen to the left (i.e. swipe your fingers from right to left). iOS automatically puts the apps "beside" each other so the swipe works even if the apps were previously not launched consecutively. I do this when reading www.jimmyr.com to return to Safari if it launches the YouTube app. I also use this if I forget I'm in Airplane Mode and I get the 'Turn Off Airplane Mode or Use Wi-Fi to Access Data' error message that gives me the option to jump directly to 'Settings'; once I turn Wi-Fi back on I four-finger swipe to get back to the app. It's on iOS 5 on my iPad-1 but I think you might need a iPhone 4 or 4S to get Multitasking Gestures on an iPhone (I can't find how to turn it on in the settings for my iPhone 3GS). Edit: thanks to baddox for pointing out this is an iPad-only feature (confirmed here: http://www.apple.com/ios/features.html), or on iPhones that have been jailbroken.

You cannot get those multitask gestures on any iPhone unless you jailbreak it.

You can double-click the home button, or use a four-finger swipe gesture, to pull up the list of “recent” applications along the bottom of the screen, and then tap one. Also, you can four-finger swipe right and left between applications.

The four-finger swipe only works on the iPad. That said, I love those gestures. I feel nearly as fast and as comfortable multitasking on my iPad as I do when doing similar light tasks (web browsing, music listening, IMing, etc.) on either of my desktop operating systems (Windows and Ubuntu).

... especially when you are typing in a form on safari, switch to something and then try to go back only to have safari reload your page (because of memory limitations). boom goes the form.

Having used an Android phone for a while, the back button was definitely a "feature" that I'm glad isn't on iOS - it very rarely does what you expect, and has a very odd feeling to it. It's probably the only button I've ever used where you never know quite what it will do.

Perhaps with the ICS interface guidelines being more heavily read this has improved, but on the phone I have it's a very bad interface.

> I very much dislike when one app causes another app to open, and then I have to press the home button and find the original app to go back to it.

While a bit more cumbersome than a back button, you can double-press the home button and the previous app will be on the left of the list of apps that appears on the bottom of the screen. No guarantees it'll remember its state, though :(

The back button doesn't make sense in Angry Birds. If an interface element is superfluous or unpredictable in Angry Birds then it makes no sense to bog down a touch interface with it.

Angry Birds may seem to be a silly little game, but it is not an edge case. It's an exemplar of interaction paradigms going forward.

Double-Click app switching helps with this problem.

I never got to try WebOS, and I really wish I had (I know I can download an emulator, but you can't emulate day-to-day usage).

That said, I'm using a Windows Phone these days, and it's fantastic. No, really. The UI is amazing, and going back to my old Android phone feels incredibly clunky by comparison. I wouldn't recommend one just yet- there's still work to do. For one, third party apps can't interface with native apps- for instance, the Messaging app seamlessly combines SMS, Facebook and Live chat, but I can't hook in GChat. If/when they get that set up they'll have a very loyal customer in me.

I would really love them to put in more apps for the chat[1]. GChat, AIM, etc. Some of this may be up to the developers of the application in question: Google may not allow Microsoft to do the GChat. Google doesn't even supply a Google+ app, nor a truly working web interface for Windows Phone.

I'm using ICS on my Touchpad. It's nice as a tablet OS for a power user, but after using WP7 I don't know how much I would want to go back to Android on my phone. There's just not that much I do on my phone where I need to sacrifice a slick and intuitive interface for the sake of deeper access to the system. On my tablet I need that and am grateful for it, but I'd rather not fiddle with my phone.

[1]I should add, this is a sticking point for WebOS for me as well. Very nice chat app, but no Facebook chat drops it down the drain for me. There's no way to integrate Facebook chat into it without Facebook doing it themselves, and they aren't planning on doing so.

Google may not allow Microsoft to do the GChat

Well, GChat is openly accessible via XMPP, so it's quite possible to do it without Google's permission. The question is whether MS would want to do it, at the risk of marginalising Live chat.

I'd like to believe they've moved on from that mindset, but I'm not quite convinced. Certainly, I'm not sure if they'd want to provide user support for GChat through official WP channels. What I'd love is for WP to provide hooks for developers to make their own GChat XMPP service, and slot it into the OS.

Services as opposed to apps makes a lot of sense for WP, because it's already deliberately non-app centric.

This article is a wonderful articulation of some of what I've been feeling since I replaced my Palm Pre with an iPhone 4 nearly a couple years ago.

There are simply some things that WebOS's UI got better than iOS - and nearly two years later, using what is generally lauded as being the best mobile UI in the industry, I still miss some of those things.

I have a recurring daydream where Android incorporates the best of WebOS into its next release, and it's suddenly far-and-away the best mobile OS.

"I have a recurring daydream where Android incorporates the best of WebOS into its next release, and it's suddenly far-and-away the best mobile OS."

Its happening already. Matias Duarte ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matias_Duarte ) has been working his magic for sometime now.

The problem is that ICS is the only Android version for phones that includes any of Duarte's magic, and getting ICS out to the huge population of users of existing Android devices is a major problem. Most won't get it at all, and the few devices that will get it are getting it verrrrry slowly. And even if you go to buy a new device today, odds are that it won't come with ICS, and there are few guarantees that it will even get an upgrade later on.

That's not really Google's fault -- it has much more to do with the various (crappy) carrier- and device-manufacturer specific customizations having to all be carted over to ICS -- but it does mean that for the vast majority of users the "Android experience" is going to be stuck at 2.x quality until 2013 at least. Which is a shame.

Edit: clarified that first sentence refers to versions of Android available for phones. You know, the versions of Android people actually care about.

I agree with most of what you said, except "That's not really Google's fault".

I think it is Google's fault, they created the ecosystem that allowed carriers and manufacturers to lazily update devices (or not do it at all), and all of Google's stern talk about timely updates seems to have not affected the system at all. A secondary result of that ecosystem is the lively ROM community, but that seems like a poor gap-fill to me.

I think Google made too many concessions (or gave too much power) to carriers and manufacturers and is now paying the price in a fractured OS landscape.

> I think Google made too many concessions (or gave too much power) to carriers and manufacturers and is now paying the price in a fractured OS landscape.

How are they paying the price?

By having the latest version of their OS running on 1.12%[1] of Android devices?

1. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2400206,00.asp

In what way does this negatively affect Google?

> ICS is the only Android version that includes any of Duarte's magic

Wikipedia says "Honeycomb was the first release with a major element of his design influence."

Point the first -- I was talking about Android-on-phones, not Android-on-tablets. Honeycomb was tablet-only. (Given how anemic sales of Android tablets that aren't labeled "Kindle" have been, that seemed like a safe omission.)

Point the second -- I thought Duarte was pretty clear on his feelings regarding how Honeycomb turned out in his ICS launch interview with The Verge (http://www.theverge.com/2011/10/18/exclusive-matias-duarte-i...):

He starts with a qualifier. "Honeycomb was kind of that emergency landing," he says, "You get there, 'phew, okay survived that,' and when we finished that we said 'what's next?'" ...

Matias explains further, "Honeycomb was like: we need to get tablet support out there. We need to build not just the product, but even more than the product, the building blocks so that people stop doing silly things like taking a phone UI and stretching it out to a 10-inch tablet." It's obvious that products like the original Galaxy Tab, with a bastardized version of Android for phones, annoyed him.

"So that was the mission, and it was a time-boxed mission. Any corner we could cut to get that thing out the door, we had to."

One of the cool parts of webOS being released under the Apache license is that it makes patents much less of an issue. The Apache license's patent grants mean that Apple, Google, Microsoft, or anyone else can freely take the best parts from webOS without having to worry about HP suing them. (Palm had a lot of valuable patents on mobile/smartphone UI, which are now essentially off the table.)

Provided they "take the best parts" by re-using their code. The license doesn't kick in if you reimplement their patented functionality in your own code.

Chances are that somebody giving you a patent license via the Apache license is also going to be quite reasonable about letting you reimplement it.

You still don't legally get a patent license; if you don't have one and HP decides to drop a patent suit on you (say their printer business flops and they need cash), you're toast.

You don't get a patent license, I know. What I meant was that if a company is willing to license a patent by putting a so-patented bit of code under the Apache license, then they are likely to be willing to explicitly give a patent license to reimplementors as well.

However, can you incorporate a minimal portion of the HP code to get the patent license? Maybe just use one function or something, just to make it a derived work?

Interesting. Is there an Apache FAQ or similar that explains this in more detail? (The Apache License FAQ http://www.apache.org/foundation/license-faq.html doesn't cover it.)

I think the licence text itself is fairly straightforward (as much as legal agreements can be "straightforward") about it:

     each Contributor hereby grants to You a [forever lasting] 
     patent license to [do anything with] the Work
The key part being "the Work", which is the code (in source or binary form) that's covered by the Apache licence. A derivative work would be covered by this patent licence, but a clean-room re-implementation of a feature would not because you are no longer dealing with "the Work".

Are you sure about that? Not that it says much, but I would find that very counter-intuitive. I imagine the following discussion in the courtroom:

  - You made a clean room implementation of our patent. You shall pay for that!

  - No, I did not! I just copied/translated it!

  - Well, then accept our apologies.
AFAIK, both translation and copying do make derivative works. For example, one cannot translate the latest bestseller and start selling it without agreement of the publisher of the original.

The boundaries of what defines a derivative work is a bit fuzzy, and how much you need to take from a work in order to create new work that would be classified as derivative is open to debate/common law.

Suppose that HP holds a patent related to the keyboard layout in webOS, of which the source code of their implementation is released under the Apache licence. If Apple took that code and mashed it into iOS, it would (I believe) clearly be a derivative work and protected by the licence. But suppose they didn't look at the code (or any material released by HP under the Apache licence), they just saw a picture/read a description of it/used it on a device and implemented it based on those experiences; in this case I think it's difficult to say that Apple's implementation is a derivative (and therefore protected) because of the lack of connection to the Apache-licensed work (except that their code produces the same runtime effect that HP's does, which I don't believe is necessarily covered by the Apache licence as they are separable from the original work).

I still feel that WebOS's GMail application is one of the best yet on a mobile device. I have a TouchPad, an Android Tablet and an Android Phone. When I hear the email 'chime' go off, I always grab the TouchPad first. The sliding panes UI design to me is brilliant.

Worth pointing out for non-webOS people that the mail application on Touchpad/Pre is for all email providers, not just GMail.

True, good point. I sometimes forget that as I only use it for Gmail.

"The cards UI for switching between apps in webOS is such an idea. I don’t think I need to elaborate."

Well that really sucks for people reading the article who have never used webOS...

The whole task switcher of WebOS looks like (iOS) Safari's tab-switching (with apps instead of pages of course), except with more goodness: the applications stay live (à la Android) and can be seen updating in the switcher, you flick applications off-screen to close them, it's possible to group application cards to make switching between a group faster, etc...

It's all very neat, and very easy to understand. You can see the WebOS 1.0 cards demo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUSui3rH1a8

Is app switching different on other smartphones? I only have a symbian which does quite the same.

On iOS the app switching is handled via a list of recently open applications accessed by double tapping the home button.

You don't get a view of the app's window contents like you do in WebOS. Probably because 1) it wouldn't visually fit with the way the app switching is laid out on iOS and 2) iOS doesn't let apps run in the background, their state is frozen to disk and their process terminated when you switch.

edit: it looks like this http://cloud.addictivetips.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Lo... -- the app contents push up and the bottom of the screen gets a list of apps inside it.

The idea is that you can view all open applications as a row of "cards". You can easily swipe between them and select a different one, or flick one away to close it.

Android also has a central place for your accounts, and there is an AccountManager API to get access to them. You'll find your Google, Skype, Facebook, linkedin etc in there (and apps can add their own.) http://developer.android.com/reference/android/accounts/Acco...

Since iOS doesn't have this, and many developers did their apps on iOS first, they ignore the functionality and ask you for credentials etc again. It is extremely annoying. I regularly contact app developers to point out they could do better. https://plus.google.com/110166527124367568225/posts/bz1pN3az...

I encourage other Android users to do the same. You should never have to re-enter credentials the system already knows about.

I never used webOS. But I have the impression the author isn't familiar with Android. It seems most of the features the talks about webOS having better than iOS are alredy on Android. Better multitasking -- showing you screenshots of running apps and tabs. App intercommunication (intents). Shared account info. Etc.

In fact, the only time the author wrote about Android was when he said Android notifications sucks and he loves how he can drag notifications away in webOS. But you can do that same thing in Android 4.0.

Then again, I never really used webOS myself, so this could be just an outsider's misconceptions. Is the author really missing Android features or is webOS really all that much better in doing what Android already does?

Mattias Duarte, who was the lead UX designer on WebOS, is now head of UX development for Android. ICS has lifted a lot of ideas from WebOS as a result.

That said, WebOS multitasking is still much better than even ICS. The thumbnail menu in ICS is an improvement over the old Android task switcher, but it doesn't even come close to the fluidity of swiping up to bring up the card view and then flicking between running apps (which aren't thumbnails; they update in realtime as you're looking at them).

>App intercommunication (intents). Shared account info.

These are definitely areas where Android is still ahead. The account integration in WebOS is okay, but works far better in Android. And intent are the killer feature of Android, IMO.

The live update is good enough & the viewing quality sufficient that with the homebrew patch for larger active cards (and the patching is another feature I miss on ICS) I'll flick up, drag over slightly to read a number or address off another card, and drop back rather than bothering with copy & paste. I do the same for an irc notification out of wIRC or a repository address for wTerm.. webOS is the only tablet UI I've used that made working on something in one app while referring to 2-3 web pages & emails fluid and comfortable. The cognitive load is lower, the act of switching faster, and the gestures more natural (you don't have to aim for finger-sized targets, most things take advantage of Fitt's Law). It's not visually stunning, but you miss it on anything else.

>the homebrew patch for larger active cards

I had missed this one. Thanks for the heads up.

For anyone else who's looking it's actually "Bigger Active Screen when minimized" and also moves the cards closer together. It's marked as 3.0.2-3.0.4, but installs and works fine for me on 3.0.5: http://patches.webos-internals.org/?do=browse&webosver=3...

You start with a disclaimer that isn't big enough.

I'm on Android, 3rd device generation so far. I also own 2 (outdated) WebOS phones. Android is on a beta/unstable ICS ROM right now and - comes slowly closer.

The ancient Palm Pre Plus here feels nearly as snappy (or - better even in some cases) and a joy to use. These 'swipe away the notifications' thing? That probably _was_ stolen from WebOS. It's just too similar and was in WebOS loong ago.

Multitasking became better on ICS, before that it was crap. Even comparing ICS with WebOS: The latter just stole from WebOS again (which, I agree with the author, is probably a good idea by now). You can swipe apps off screen to remove them (ICS: Left to right. WebOS: Bottom to top). You see previews. What Android lacks is the groups (see his email example). So - again Android's close, but not there yet.

Shared account info is not the same as Synergy.

"Is the author really missing Android features or is webOS really all that much better in doing what Android already does?"

WebOS does it better and did it before. The recommendation to steal its ideas (or - if I get one wish - revive it as open-source project) is still valid, even if you consider ICS the 'standard' Android (which, in my world, it isn't yet).

> became better on ICS, before that it was crap. Even comparing ICS with WebOS: The latter just stole from WebOS again

Not surprising now that Matias Duarte, former VP of webOS Human Interface and User Experience, is now Google's Director of Android User Experience. :)

Android has grown leaps and bounds since WebOS was released but there were so many things that webOS got right at the start.

* multitasking worked well because you had to use it. Start 3-4 apps by the time you launched the 4th the first would be ready to use.

*Shared account is closer to iMessage than shared account. You could have a conversation by SMS, email, twitter, AIM, Facebook and LinkedIn. They would all be displayed in the same card. That is what shared contacts means in webOS.

Yes, the author is missing some Android features. Android notifications, at least in Android 4.0, are as usable as those in WebOS. Android 4, at least in the tablet form, also has the convenient access to settings the author mentions. Overall, many things in Android are now on par with WebOS, but that is a recent development.

The WebOS multitasking paradigm still has significant advantages other mobile OSes, and I would say that that is its biggest remaining advantage. I find it makes it much easier to organize ongoing activities into logical tasks, especially when those tasks involve using multiple applications.

That said, since I installed Android 4 on my Touchpad I have yet to boot back into WebOS. At least some of that is due to having an Android 4 phone and wanting consistency, however.

I own a bunch of Android phones (though none of them run ICS, so my experience with the notification system is based on Gingerbread), and I have the Sony tablet.

I'm not a huge fan of Android's UI. Since Duarte is working at Google, it's getting much better, but it still has a ways to go.

A lot of those Android features are new in 4.0, though. Given the depressingly low number of phones out there running it, it isn't surprising that people don't know about the changes.

I got the same impression. I think only 4.0 has running apps and the ability to swipe away notifications (like CM), right? The webOS cards also act as stacks of windows within each app. It's nice to be able to click one in the background to bring it into the foreground, swipe one up to close, etc. WebOS is clean and pretty. Feels like the good parts of Android and iOS. Unfortunately, it can be slow and laggy, and only has around 5,000 apps.

> I never used webOS. But I have the impression the author isn't familiar with Android.

He might not be aware that Google pre-emptively took his advice on their very latest Android version running on all of one phone out of the box (as far as I know, is there any other handset sold with ICS yet?), and did indeed "lift" many WebOS features for their own use.

The author was pandering to the iOS audience, and the tone followed.

I echo with this post greatly. I've tried out ipad and transformer (Android), the touchpad is really indeed the most intuitive to use. I use it daily for browsing the web, writing Emails and playing some games -- and I leave the frequently used app only, switching between the windows is intuitive and very snappy, making multi-tasking not only possible but very usable.

I didn't even bother to install Android on my touchpad (even it's dual-boot) cause the lag on android is a huge let down.

WebOS's UI is similar to iOS in a lot of ways, it's like iOS (once you open the app/home screen) with an additional desktop/workspace. I look forward to some open-source development for the Touchpad. (First request would be a good pdf viewer)

webOS is far from perfect but damn it is still the best mobile OS out there. I would trade off some performance to have these features in my mobile phone.

It's sad the general public doesn't feel the same way and I really hope other mobile OSs can learn from webOS and innovate on those problems that webOS has solved really well.

I don't understand how Android's notification system is supposed to be a cluttered mess relative to iOS. Looking at screenshots, it looks they're both pretty similar, but iOS having more stuff in there.

On second thought, I shouldn't have complained about Android in this way. I haven't used ICS, which might have solved the problems I've encountered, and I didn't explain what I don't like about Android's notification system. So I've removed that sentence from the article.

I think part of the problem comes down to application behavior. On my Android phone, tons of applications generate notifications that really shouldn't, so the notification widget constantly fills up with needless stuff.

Well, I haven't used iOS since version 3, but I see screenshots with notifications for weather, stocks, words with friends, pretty much everything on your phone.

Maybe I've just got notifications turned off for other apps, but on Gingerbread, I only get notifications for texts, emails and updates.

Weather and Stocks aren't notifications. I guess the idea there is that you can see the weather forecast and your stocks at a single glance, but I've turned them off. They're annoying, I agree.

As for everything else, apps that want to send notifications are forced to ask for permission the first time you open them. Presumably, you'd want to grant this permission to Words with Friends, since otherwise, you never know when you have to play :-)

But other than that, you just hit "no" every time, and that's that.

> Well, I haven't used iOS since version 3, but I see screenshots with notifications for weather, stocks

Weathers and stocks are "widgets" (except only those 2 are available and they can only be displayed in the notification center).

Aside from that, I'm not sure how it works on Android but on iOS an application must explicitly register for notifications the first time it's opened and this launches a dialog asking the user what kind of notification it allows.

So it's quite easy to tell applications to buzz off and not notify anything.

Lots of apps do like to push their notifications. It's because of one of two reasons most of the time: a) more time in their app to get you to see/click ads or b) Android 2.2 or earlier killed apps that weren't doing much. Having a notification fixed that.

Ah!!! Its so awesome to get some recognition on my beloved huevos!! (webOS)

I've been a huge supporter since the original Palm Pre. Now I carry my Pre3, TouchPad and iPhone. iOS has nothing on webOS!!

I think devs should at least give Enyo a try at learning to make apps for webOS since they can port them to Android and iOS with Phonegap. And if webOS takes off after it is open sourced they will be set with skills to make apps for webOS!!

The article is great, but I don't really understand why you bought an iPad 2 if you never used your original iPad.

I have no excuse. I just like gadgets.

webOS seems to have the opposite problem of most open source projects: great interface but could use some work on the technical side.

An OS with a great interface is one hell of a head start for open source on tablets.

That's a great point. Never occurred to me to look at it like that, but you're right. Open source projects often fail to reach mass acceptance because they're designed by and for the people who work on the project - programmers, that is. webOS has a huge head start in the design area, so it neatly circumvents open source's achilles heel.

That's what I'm hoping, because the tablet space seems begging for competition. It's clearly the future of much of main-stream computer use. I don't even care if it gets all that much adoption. As long as the market isn't locked in by one vendor focused on native apps, it makes a strong argument for focusing on the HTML/JS open web experience a top priority.

On the flip side of the native app argument, he fact that native WebOS apps are HTML/JS also makes it a much more attractive target than it would be if it required learning another language. Even a modest percentage of that market would make that effort worthwhile for a web-based product.

I feel that you missed an opportunity to mention the gesture area, probably my favorite part of interacting with my Pre 2. It seems so intuitive and it's something I miss when using my iPod Touch. Though, I suppose that's more of a hardware feature than a software one.

I moved to Android solely because Sprint and then HP itself had thrown webOS under the bus, but every day I wish I had the webOS UI. With webOS it's obvious which apps are running: it's running iff it has a window, and flicking the window upward is guaranteed to stop the app. Under Android, there may or may not be a way to explicitly stop an app, and if there's a way to find out which are running, I haven't found it yet. Yes, ideally I shouldn't have to worry about it, but with finite resources (including battery as well as RAM) I do, and with Android I'm in the dark.

Playbook OS stole the cards feature, OS 2 includes the number row keyboard for all password inputs (this is super useful), and email tabs.

It also gets 354 on html5test.com, the highest of any tablet browser, including Chrome Beta.

This talk of contracts sounds to me just like Android's intents, which have been in there forever - one example being a app having a share button that then pops up a list of all apps that offer an endpoint for a particular data type (ie share this photo by email / sms / dropbox / google plus / facebook / any other app you may have installed) - the hosting app has no idea about the endpoints, it just casts around and offers them to the user.

It's in scenarios like this where the back button makes perfect sense, where you change context midstream, and then wish to return to the original one. I recall on an iPhone in a similar scenario (emailing a photo) that there was no obvious way back to the place the photo came from - once you switched the mail app, it felt like a UX dead-end. Change your mind about sending the mail and you're stuck. Back works intuitively by comparison. It can even work in chains- snap a photo, share via an app that does image resizing, share the result again via email; back -> back -> and you're back in the camera app.

Don't know if fanboy troll article or just ignorant...

You can do basically everything he outlined in Android.

1. Plethora of app switchers including the one that's always built-in.

2. Gmail and the built-in email app make switching to other emails to reference from pretty easy.

3. Android has this for apps, internet windows/tabs, and homescreens.

4. Again, Android already has this. Pretty much every app has a "share" feature that opens a universal list of applications you have installed/configured on your system. If they have a way that something can be shared to them, they show up in the list.

5. Android finally seems to be getting some nice things with the ICS keyboard. But oh, by the way, you can install OTHER keyboards on Android. Including my favorite: Swype. Look it up if you've never heard of it. Takes getting used to, but amazing once you do.

6. I love how this article passes over the fact that Apple stole Google's notification system from Android. It's a pull-down tray with centralized notifications including weather and stock objects that Apple (after swearing never to include these in their system) has the gaul to call "widgets." Most Android phones now have the option to clear notifications individually or en mass. ICS has implemented the "swipe away" feature and that feature has been around for a long damn time in the Android universe.

7. Depending on the phone you get, this differs. Unless, of course, you install an app that does it for any version of Android. Like Quick Settings or the pain version: Quicker. These apps can be brought up as overlays over any app or game and can be bound as either an ongoing notification in your tray to click on or as the long-press action on your search button (numerous other apps can share that functionality as well).

Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't my Android Honeycomb tablet have half these features? Quick access to common settings check, system-wide accounts, check, decent keyboard check (just install your favourite keyboard app to replace the default). Admittedly, the task-switching is awful on it though.

I have a Touchpad myself, my wife has an iPad. I do prefer using WebOS than iOS. Love the multitask.

Only problem are the apps :(

I absolutely love the way webOS does task switching. It's so easy and simple to switch between apps. Even ICS's new task switch requires pressing and holding, then scrolling through a list of apps. WebOS needs only a single quick press and swipe left or right. It's fast and easy. I love it.

Pressing and holding? I don't think you are using a phone designed for ICS...

> Splitting document management up into two parts, the way Windows and the Mac do it (with parts of it happening in the Finder, and parts of it happening in applications’ open/safe dialogs) is one of the dumbest things desktop systems do.

On that note, my workflow for web apps is "touch <filename>" followed by a command to open it in the desired editor. This applies to anything that I want to place in a deeply-nested hierarchy which I already have open in Terminal or Finder but that would require effort in the open-save dialog. In some cases I do copy+paste+rename+double-click in the Finder, then select-all+delete and start editing.

On the other hand, when I want to jot down some notes I usually go to TextEdit or TextWrangler and just start typing, then worry about where to save it later.

I wish they had put the same effort in creating some basic apps that actually work. There aren't that many must-haves, a decent text editor, presentation and video player, browser and ebook reader would have gone a long way. But just the Pdf reader itself was a complete disaster. When basic things like slightly larger file sizes (6+ MB pdfs) bring the app to a hold, or basic functions ( search within a pdf, mark/copy text) are completely absent, all the beauty of the system itself won't help. But at least CyanogenMod came to the rescue.

I remember RiscOS/Archimedes on the 90s Acorn computer had a great feature - the third mouse button, when used to click an item in one of the toolbar menus, would cause the command/item to execute but keep the menu up after the mouse click. So you could pick another item without navigating to the same menu again.

I've got no idea why this hasn't been ripped off or licensed. The only similar feature I've seen is Windows 7 letting you close windows from the task bar while keeping the window list open.

All of these sound like arguments for continuing to use webOS =)

I agree with almost everything in the article, but for me, webOS's achilles heel is speed. Even with my touchpad overclocked to 1.7ghz, it still feels sluggish. But after a day of using it over my iPad 2, when I return to the iPad, I find myself swiping things that don't swipe on iOS.

My one disagreement is on the keyboard. I like that it has the number row, and behaves more like a real world keyboard, but on iOS my typing is much more accurate.

I felt like I hit the jackpot after scoring a $149 HP touchpad (32GB) in the fire sale last year ... now I feel even better about it after reading this...!

Hopefully we can hope to see some of this good design thinking in Android, since the design lead of webOS, Matias Duarte, is now design lead at Android (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matias_Duarte)

Are any hardware manufacturers planning on releasing a tablet/phone with WebOS baked in?

I have to say, I really like WebOS and its paradigms. What will come of it?

>I’m pretty much only using it to consume content. I suspect that most people use their iPads similarly:

And with that line it seems clear that this article is not about people like me...

I love WebOS. I just wish they'd fix the ampersand bug (where & becomes &amp;) in the browser URL! It's still an issue in 3.0.5.

Well, now that it has been open-sourced, you can fix the bug yourself!

Why am I under the impression that Android has every single thing that is mentionned in this article? ... Wait... because it does...

It sounds like he's mentioning almost everything great about webOS except the lack of polished or first-party apps. Everytime I use my Touchpad I get sad that I don't have the same experience on my WP7. webOS makes iOS and Android feel like kludges to the solution of an OS designed for mobile usage.

I have the opposite reaction, I love Android 4.0 on my Touchpad, while I very much hate using WebOS. In particular I don't like the cards, I find them too gimmicky and I always end up missing my home screens & my widgets and the speed and flexibility of Android.

Here is a quick video I made yesterday of the latest Android build for the Touchpad http://youtu.be/qqn8etizQqY

Awesome video! I might have to give that a shot. It looks much more responsive than Gingerbread on my Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Enjoyed your video. Would be great to get hold of one of those Touchpads...

Thanks. You can catch them(16GB) on eBay for around $220 used in good shape or around $250 new, in my opinion for the price, this is the best Android tablet at the moment, the next best thing is probably the Asus Transformer Prime @ about $550.

Sorry to ask, but why did HP stop producing these? Are they still sold new in other countries?

No, they aren't sold new anywhere.

HP stopped producing the Touchpad about 3 months after it was released due to extremely poor sales. Why did it flop? I think it's because of a few things, first a very late entry to the market, and they wanted $499 for a 16GB and $599 for a 32GB. They were insane to charge iPad prices for the Touchpad especially when coming from the inferior position of very small app catalog, and an unknown, buggy OS.

Aha, cheers.

On a side note, blog authors; please don't stick your picture site-wide!

You can get some of these features on your iPhone now if you jailbreak. Jailbreaking makes iOS so much better.

I wish I understood all this, I have a good product where people are truly making a lot of money but I am technically challenged. I did send a tweet with "small business" but it didnt make it to the correct page. http://www.tarads.com

Most of these features exist in some incarnation or another in Android.

I still don't understand why people jab at the iPad by saying it's "only for consuming content." You don't hear people leveling the same complaint against TVs and MP3 players, which are specifically designed and marketed solely for consumption of content. Heck, even personal computers probably spend most of their time helping their owners consume content.

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