Jul 01 AT 1:30 PM Dima Aryeh 17 Comments

Skype for Android shows proprietary design and Holo can be friends


Back in the Android 2.3 Gingerbread days, the Android UI was quite ugly. The giant gray tabs at the top were especially off-putting. But with Ice Cream Sandwich came the new Holo UI (thanks to Matias Duarte). It slowly evolved into what it is now: an incredible, beautiful and, most importantly, versatile user interface design.

For the last year and a half, the Play Store has been flooded with apps adopting the Holo UI styling, and we couldn’t be happier about that. Beautiful apps that look like they belong on the OS is something Android users always wanted. So, why not have beauty paired with already existing functionality? A lot of these apps were built using Holo UI guidelines, but what happens to the apps that have a signature style?

They had nothing to worry about; Holo is incredibly versatile. That’s why it’s so amazing. You can make an app look unique while still retaining familiarity and unity with the OS. For example, the music player doubleTwist had a signature style, yet the developers behind it updated their app with Holo UI and made it look far better while retaining a familiar look.

Lately, big companies have finally come to realize this. One of the first companies to do so was Twitter. Twitter redesigned its app around Holo, and while it looks pretty similar to how it looked like before, it melds with Android far better and is more attractive. Vine for Android was also released sporting the Holo UI, making it an app an Android fan would be proud to have on their device.

What about the big boys that refuse to adapt? Look at Instagram. It has a strange UI, but its layout isn’t a far cry from Holo styling. An update to bring it up to spec would be so easy (I’ve personally seen some beautiful Holo mock ups that retain that classic Instagram look), yet they don’t do it. Facebook is another example. They have thrown in some Holo elements here and there, but their app still feels disjointed from the rest of the Android operating system.

The newest large corporation to update their app to Holo UI is Microsoft. To celebrate 100 million installs, Microsoft redesigned the Skype for Android app with Holo UI in mind, bringing it into a beautiful state. It has sliding tabs, an action bar at the bottom and everything a Holo app needs while retaining a classic Skype feel. It perfectly shows off the versatility of Holo UI, and we thank Microsoft for doing a good job (and Google, for making such a brilliant user interface design that can be adapted by nearly anyone).

Hit the source link to check out Skype’s blog and visit the Play Store to grab the newest version of Skype. The new UI will be present on all phones and is coming soon to tablets. Do you like what Microsoft did with Skype? Should companies continue embracing Holo UI?

Via: Engadget

Source: Skype Blog

Dima Aryeh is a Russian obsessed with all things tech. He does photography, is an avid phone modder (who uses an AT&T Galaxy Note II), a heavy gamer (both PC and 360), and an aspiring home mechanic. He is also an avid fan of music, especially power metal.

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  • www.phonewbie.com

    The old apps that don’t follow the Holo UI feels like they have an identity crisis. I’m glad to see more developers updating their app to the Holo UI.

  • sandwich

    It sure helps that Skype’s signature color is extremely similar – if not identical – to the Holo blue color. ;)

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  • Sumit

    With the new UI, things are a lot more cleaner and better for sure…. But one thing is I couldn’t find the Sign Out option with the new UI..

    Has it been deliberately removed or it’s just something that I am missing?

    • http://www.alpha-geek.fr Nonepse

      You have to go to your profile (top-right of the main screen), hit Menu button, and “Sign out”. But I agree, it’s WAY too complicated!

      • http://www.androidandme.com Dima Aryeh

        This is exactly right. Wish it was omni-present instead of being only in the profile screen.

    • http://www.alpha-geek.fr Nonepse

      You have to go to your profile (top-right of the main screen), hit Menu button, and “Sign out”. But I agree, it’s WAY too complicated! Looks like Microsoft did it on purpose.

  • renyo

    The updated app is so much smoother… And this comes from a HTC Sensation user!

  • Graf

    The redesign looks good but is an epic fail in terms of usability. Whoever was responsible for that part of the development/release cycle (if there ever was one) must have signed off on it the same way big banks have been handling mortgages: with robosigning.

    Not only is the logout control hidden by three access levels (main UI -> Personal Profile -> Action Menu), but so are the configuration (settings) and help controls! This goes hard against the grain of any and every usability standard. Such standards define that important functions be accessible at all levels, and while it could be argued that the settings control doesn’t need to be at the topmost level, it certainly shouldn’t be at the third. They’re in place for a reason just like the United States’ online accessibility practices have Section 507.

    So what is available on the action menu at the first level, pray tell? Add People, Add Number, and Mark All as Read on the “Recent” tab. Add People and Add Number are the only options on the “Favorites” and “People” tabs. Meanwhile, on the static toolbar, you find a control for making voice calls and sending an IM. Call me daft, but wouldn’t the controls on the action menu be more appropriate on the static toolbar? Wouldn’t it make sense to make the “Skype” logo on the upper left a hotbutton to get to some of these settings? After all, tapping the avatar in the upper right brings up your personal profile, so you can’t argue doing so doesn’t follow convention.

    Ah, but I forget: Skype is now owned by Microsoft, a company with a long history of saying they follow accepted standards while covertly (or overtly) changing them to whatever it sees fit. The practice, designed to force the world to toe the Microsoft line, causes a lot more harm than good. The majority set and follows the standard; it isn’t Microsoft’s place to say “ours is the correct way”. That approach, in the IT world, creates lousy products.

    At the end of the day, it seems like one thing hasn’t changed, specifically the one that is so eloquently surmised by the following two decade or so observation: The day Microsoft makes a product that does not suck, will be the day they start making vacuum cleaners. ;-)

    • Paul Taylor

      I absolutely agree with you. As I posted elsewhere, you can’t set your busy/away status, you can’t sort your contact list by groups/online status, or get a list of only those contacts who are online. You still have to be signed in with the app in the status bar in order to receive messages – so, still no proper push notifications. The navigation system is weird and nothing like Google’s recent guidelines, despite the app being a brand new rewrite. It now takes three presses to sign out instead of just one. TBH, I don’t really understand the main article’s enthusiasm for it.

  • teecruz

    I do wish they had used more blue than white though. Especially when initiating the action bar menu.

  • Pravas

    Looking good I would say…

  • donger

    Yes, about time.

  • Renato S.

    I think that Android visual UI has to step up, Holo UI looked nice for a while but it’s been a while and it never wowed me. There is a difference between been minimalistic and been simplistic and I think Holo UI is more the later. For me, it feels like old web with minimalistic icons, while today icons are not just static, they interact, they have better and smoother transitions, they change shape. No, I don’t expect a circus with over the boeard interface, but it just feel too plain, there is no flow.

  • Andy

    Is this supposed to be an improvement? I think it’s diabolically bad. How do I change my status? It seems to be less intuitive not more

  • Suhel Sayyad