Time for Android to radically change the UI

The patent infringement verdict against Samsung is a firm shot across the bow of Android. Google risks a continual stream of litigation from Apple unless it changes the look and feel of the Android UI.

Chameleon (300x225)

No matter how we feel about the total victory handed to Apple against Samsung in the landmark patent infringement case recently concluded, it is what it is. The court ruled that many functions of Android are too similar to those of iOS protected by patents. It also found that the look and feel of Samsung's device interfaces, and Android's by association, also infringe on Apple's patents. 

Right or wrong the jury's finding points out that in many ways Android is similar in design to iOS. I like both Android and iOS but if I'm honest I must admit that using my Android phone is similar to using my iPhone. The same is true of my Nexus 7 tablet, using it is similar to using my iPad.

That is the basic problem confronting Google with Android. It is similar in looks and function to iOS, a look that now has legal precedent to belong to Apple. That similarity is real to anyone who is honest enough to admit it.

My colleague Jason Perlow has a good look at the trade dress issues at play, and is worth a read. Perlow details the technical issues facing Google with Android, and calls for a change to avoid future trouble.

I agree with him that Android needs a face lift, but not just because of the legal issues. Android needs a UI change to get out of the shadow of iOS. It is time for a radical change to the interface of Android to give users the unique experience they deserve.

Android is highly customizable, one of its strengths. Users can make the home screens look as they prefer with widgets and layouts of their choice. That's a good thing, but it shouldn't be up to each user to make the Android interface look different from existing platforms. What Android needs is new interface that pushes the edge of originality.

That's not that hard, there are third party add-on UIs that are quite good. One of the most unique is Chameleon, now available in beta form to those who supported the Kickstarter project. It's to be publicly available soon, and if Google was smart it should buy the company and the interface and incorporate it into the very core of Android.

Chameleon is written for tablets, and I can't wait to get it on my Nexus 7. But Google could adapt it for phones too with its vast resources. No one can deny the uniqueness of this interface. Not even Apple.

Making a radical change to the look of Android is risky but it needs to be done. It's time to make a distinct impression with consumers while distancing Android from the interface that is iOS.

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