Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is officially upon us with tons of new bells and whistles, but one of the changes that’s been debated quite heavily is the new default user interface.
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From Android 3.0 Honey to Android 4.0, Google used a consistent UI where all notifications were location in the bottom-right corner. Apps were then quickly accessible in the upper-right corner. Now? Notifications come from a pulldown menu on the top of the screen, and apps are set up in a Favorites Tray at the bottom.
While not everyone is a fan of the new look, Google points back to the importance of having a consistent experience for Android users across all devices. Android User Experience Director Matias Duarte had this to say on Google+:
This new configuration is based on usability research we did on all of the different form factors and screen sizes that Android runs on. What mattered most of all was muscle memory — keeping the buttons where you expect them, no matter how you hold the device.
Phones are almost always used in portrait mode, flip sideways occasionally, and never go upside down. As screen sizes get larger, though, any which way goes. Imagine the frustration you’d feel if every time you picked up a tablet off the table “the wrong way up” you found yourself reaching for a home button that wasn’t where you expect it to be? That irritation adds up and over time like a tiny grain of sand in your shoe and undermines the rest of your experience.
The Jelly Bean system bar always keeps the same three buttons where you expect them. This happens dynamically for every screen size, up until you get to small handheld screens where stacking the bars in landscape mode would leave too little vertical space.
Duarte went on to discuss many different ways that consumers use Android tablets and how Google worked to accommodate everyone. The interface is designed to be equally accessible to left-handers and right-handers and to those who choose to use one hand or two hands.
If you still don’t like the UI? Never fear, third-party systems will spring up soon enough. After all, it’s Android, and we have options.