There was a lot of excitement in the mobile device camp after the release of the apple iphone. Most people will agree, it has a wonderful ‘looking’ interface although its terribly lacking in the feature department. So what can other mobile devices take from this?
One of the major things to take from the iphone interface is that kinetic scrolling is the way forward. The problems are obvious. A small screen coupled with an even smaller scroll bar can only end in trouble. Too many times have I tried to scroll the page on my Nokia 770 only to either completely miss the scroll bar or worse, click a link close to it. Even on the gargantuan screens that we posses on our desktop PC’s today, the scroll bar is becoming obsolete. How many people don’t have a scroll mouse these days? How many people actually click on the scroll bar arrows or drag the slider to move the page? I bet its not many. The scroll wheel has replaced a somewhat cumbersome interface element on the PC.
To keep up with the ‘less buttons = cool’ brigade a more interactive scroll method is needed, hence ‘Kinetic Scrolling’.
The video above, by Kenneth Christiansen demonstrates what can be done on the Nokia N800 with a just a small amount of code and a great set of tool kits, namely Edje, Evas and Python.
A better input method
Another problem which many users of small touch screens experience is the somewhat cumbersome ‘virtual keyboard’ that is available which these kinds of devices. The main concern is the size of it. Make it two large, large enough for say finger input, and you lose a lot of screen real-estate. Make it two small and you lose the ability to finger type and maybe even type with a stylus. So where is the happy medium?
The video above demonstrates what can be done with only “230 lines of Python, 1110 lines of Edje, including comments and blank lines”. What you get is a really easy to type on keyboard, reminiscent of the iphones figure board.
Another thing that the iphone has over many of its rivals in the mobile device category is ‘bling’. You know, it just looks good. It scrolls nicely, it transitions between screens with easy and treats the eyes to some well needed candy. But where does that leave us non-iphone wielding mobile device lovers? One project that aims to bring a rich and fulfilling interface to the Nokia 770 and N800 is the Canola Project. In its current incarnation, its a very functional and rich user interface bring media such as photo’s, music and video’s together in a easy to navigate form.
The next version of Canola is currently in development but already boasts a much improved user interface due to the use of Edje, Evas and Python. A great post over on Marcelo Eduardo’s blog outlines where the project is going and explains in detail the video above.
Exciting times are ahead for the future of mobile interfaces with Edje, Evas and Python blazing the way on the Nokia internet tablets. But it won’t be confined to just these devices. The smart money, taking in to consideration Ubuntu’s love of Python, is that the newly announce mobile partnership with Intel on the The Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded project will be using these very same toolkits and with Ubuntu’s continuing dominance on the Linux desktop, all I can say is watch this space!