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What I don’t like about +Android 4.2 (Part 2 of 2)

Notification Center Changes

#Android  4.2 introduced a quick setting switcher. A welcome addition, just the implementation isn’t that satisfactory.

# The quick setting icon is located on the top right hand corner, which was where the “Clear all notifications” icon was placed. I mis-touched the quick settings icon several times because I thought this to to be “clear all notifications” button.

# I doubt if this move make sense. The “clear all notifications” button is actually similar to a “close” button (Usually with an [X] icon - exactly what we saw in Android 4.0), and I believe that people are get used to it being placed as the very first item on the corner. I know that the “clear all notification” icon would disappear in the quick setting tab and the layout would seem strange if the icons are swapped, but I still argue that “clear all notification” should be placed on the top right hand corner. There should be a better place for the quick setting switch.

# I also think the icon design is much worse than the previous one. It looks thick, heavy, and overly complex. Personal preference maybe, but I don’t think it is consistent with the overall Android design language.

Quick Settings

Please refer to the quick setting page like the one on the following website:

# All these items behave more or less the same: tapping them bring up another UI, be it the brightness slider or the setting page. The only exception is the “Airplane mode” button. This isn’t a menu item, but a switch. Only one button has entirely different behaviour. Strange, isn’t it?

# Even more strange is the icon indicator. From the WiFi signal and battery indicator we can learn that such icon can have three states:

1] The blue shade on an icon has a meaning of “on”, “active”, “non-empty”, etc.
2] The dark gray shade means “empty”, “off”, etc.
3] If an icon is rendered in wire-frame, it has the meaning of “feature disabled”, “inactive”, “not available”, etc.

# As you can see, the alarm is “enabled” because it is in blue. Intuitive, huh?

# But look at the air flight mode icon. Can you tell if it is enabled or disabled? Its tone is actually the same as the “brightness” and “settings” icon. So it’s neither “enabled” or “disabled”, it looks “neutral” - like it is a menu item. But in fact it is a switch, and it is in a “disabled” state. When it is enabled, it is filled with blue.

# The label wording isn’t consistent, too. I see “BLUETOOTH OFF”, “WI-FI OFF”, but “NO SERVICE.” Note the full-stop when it’s no service. (And when I am using the Chinese interface, I saw an untranslated “NO SERVICE.” string before the translated one for a second.)

# From the above discussion,what would you expect when there is no alarm active? An alarm icon in wireframe, or in dark gray? Wrong. The alarm icon just disappears. You can’t access the alarm page in the quick settings tab when there is no active alarm. What?

The New Clock App

Functions of the clock app has been drastically improved, and I like the changes. However, despite the feature it offers, the app gives me a feeling that the design is not well thought.

# I saw bold typefaces everywhere. I don’t mind using BOLD to indicate hour in a clock widget (although I still think that bold is too bold and doesn’t fit the  overall Android design). But bold typeface everywhere in the clock app? Come on!

# Even worse, the app design is inconsistent comparing to other stock apps. Just open the phone and people app, and compare them with the clock app. The blue tint is gone. The solid line under the active tab is gone. The clock app uses a different design language. Unfortunately it’s no better than the other stock apps.

# And the clock app even starts to use RED highlight and typeface. I would be scared if it is a sneak-peak of Android 5.0

# Also look at the clock app’s setting and alarm page. Look at the title on the action bar. (1) Where is the icon? Isn’t the action bar design supposed to have the app icon? (2) Why is the title shown in RED? Is it an alert?? (3) Why BOLD typeface is used??? (4) Why is the title ALL CAPITAL???? All these make me refuse to believe that the clock app is a stock app. And it is not good looking.

# The alarm page. I use alarm a lot, and I have to say that the new UI is a good try to centralize configurations in one UI. But it seems to me that everything is unorganized, the developer just throws everything on the view. And I STILL DON’T GET WHY I SEE CAPITAL ARIAL-NARROW-ALIKE TALL FONT EVERYWHERE.

A Bug in the Gallery App

In the “Camera” folder of the Gallery app, when you are looking at the first picture, you can swipe right to quickly access the Camera app. Not bad. But there is a bug. Try quickly swipe again after you swiped trigger the camera app. You can still access the camera app. Now, try press the “back” button. You will see the camera app loads again. This is probably due to a bug on updating the last index. I will file a bug report if I can’t find it in the issues database.


Don’t get me wrong - I am not dismissing everything in Android 4.2. I can write some praises, but they are probably covered somewhere. There are certainly areas that I like in Android 4.2 (especially the Camera app. I prefer the previous launcher icon though)

I write this post because I saw Android 4.2 starts to break something. Android 3.0 is the first Android version I felt that the team took “design” into account. From Honeycomb to ICS to Jelly Bean, I can see the team’s effort to consolidate everything, not only its features, but also the user experience. The recent Android builds give us a feeling that the Android team do care about striking for a better UX. But the new lock screen, the new quick setting tab and the new clock app make me worried if they will continue to invest on it. I can’t convince myself that the new stuffs are implemented with thoughtfulness. I don’t know if this is due to the lack of time to polish things, or if they have changed their  development direction. I certainly hope it is the former, that for example the guys are too busy on Android 5.0. Lastly, and personally, I really hope that Android isn’t (1) going red, (2) going bold, and (3) going ALL CAPITAL.
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