Jun 18 AT 10:21 AM Nick Gray 51 Comments

Sharp’s Feel UX Android skin takes Android customization to a whole new level


While Sharp has not had much of an impact on the Android world outside of Japan, that’s not stopping them from teaming up with frog to deliver a “new Android smartphone experience that is easy to use, highly personalized, and visually stunning.” Sharp has been using custom skins on their Android devices for some time, but the new Feel UX takes things to a whole new level.

Sharp and frog have decided to break away from the traditional Android UX by removing the customization home screen and replacing it by categories which divide your apps, widgets, and shortcuts. Within these categories, users can customize the location of their apps, create folders, organize and resize widgets. Rather than explaining it all, take a look at the video below.

Feel US will be available on Sharp’s new Aquos Android phones in Japan later this summer.

What do you think of Sharp’s new Feel UX? Have they taken Android customization too far or should other OEMs be taking notes if they truly want to offer a unique Android experience on their devices?

Feel UX feature highlights

  • Personalized and innovative lock-screen experience, allowing users to browse photos and widgets without unlocking the devices
  • Real-time weather display motion experience and animation
  • Desirable, gender-neutral palette and visuals
  • Streamlined, curated home space to smoothly manage applications, widgets, and shortcuts
Show Press Release

frog Redefines Android Experience

The new Sharp AQUOS smartphones with Feel UX, designed by frog, will be available in Japan summer of 2012.

TOKYO, June 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-Asia/ — Leading design and innovation firm frog today announced that it has partnered with Sharp Corporation (Sharp) to create “Feel UX”, a new Android smartphone experience that is easy to use, highly personalized, and visually stunning. The collaboration brings together a global interdisciplinary team of strategists, designers, and engineers across both companies to design a distinctive and meaningful connected experience for the next generation of Sharp’s AQUOS smartphones.

According to global business analytics firm comScore, four out of five mobile phone users in Japan currently own a feature phone. However, in February 2012, the number of purchased smartphones surpassed the number of feature phones over the same period. This signals an ever-increasing importance for handset manufacturers to design and develop compelling and differentiated smartphone experiences for consumers.

“To capture the expanding market of smartphone users, we wanted the new Sharp AQUOS handsets to be a unique kind of Android experience, to look and feel different and standout from competitors,” said Paul Pugh, Vice President, Creative, Software Innovation at frog. “By simplifying the interaction model and reducing clutter through a more curated experience, it will be immediately apparent to customers how to use the phones and make them more personal. In addition, the design caters to current Android users by giving them new tools to organize and optimize their handsets, while personalizing the phone in ways not previously possible.”

The newly designed “Feel UX” for Sharp’s AQUOS smartphones will be available in Japan during the summer of 2012 and include the following features:

Personalized and innovative lock-screen experience, allowing users to browse photos and widgets without unlocking the devices
Real-time weather display motion experience and animation
Desirable, gender-neutral palette and visuals
Streamlined, curated home space to smoothly manage applications, widgets, and shortcuts

“frog was chosen as Sharp’s innovation partner because of the company’s unique combination of consumer insights, strategy, design, and software engineering capabilities,” said Itsuki Kouchi, Division Deputy General Manager, Global Product Development Center at Sharp. “Through our collaboration with frog, we have adopted an advanced approach to Android’s concept, features, and philosophy, creating a distinctive device that will ultimately increase the life of the product and enhance customer satisfaction.”

Source: Engadget Mobile

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    1. Sharp? really?
    2. I’d still prefer AOSP.
    3. This would be good if it was simply a different (optional) launcher with no deep integration other than a single APK.
    4. Same as 3 but also downloadable (perhaps purchasable) from Google Play for other devices for $3.

    • Jimmy_Jo

      If it was simply a different launcher without deep intergration… It would suck. It’s part of the reason why Voice Actions has fallen by the wayside compared to Siri. Voice Actions works with the system. Siri is built into the system.

      (NOT an iPhone fanboy… I’m just using it as an example. I love Android and have never owned an iPhone nor do I think I ever would, even though the iPhone 8 looks like it may do everything Ice Cream Sandwich does.)

      • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

        Nova Launcher is pretty great. ADW is pretty great. There are some widgets out there (Beautiful Widgets, One More Clock, and some others) that are also pretty great. None of them have system integration yet they do many of the things that UI overlays attempt to do.

        Comparing UI overlays to Siri isn’t really fair because Siri controls your entire phone and UI overlays tend to be launchers and widgets, for the most part (well, lockscreen too but we have Widget Locker and Go Locker, among others, which have no system integration). But you know what? Even that could be done without system integration. Go look at Tasker – it can control pretty much anything in your phone and it’s just a root app (read that as an APK installed in /system/apps instead of /data/apps with 0 system integration).

        So why must this UI overlay have deep system integration?
        I can’t think of a single reason why other than the devs at these manufacturers think they need to make sure they don’t develop themselves out of a job, or some terrible architect is in charge of the technology. For complex system, abstraction and avoiding deep integration is almost ALWAYS the correct decision. Deep integration always starts off easiest, ends hardest, and you have to waste SOO much time rewriting the same thing over and over as well as debugging stupid worthless bugs that could have easily been avoided with proper abstraction.

  • Angie Wimberly

    Hah, poor Anthony got a downvote.

    I can see your point. I do kinda like the look of this though (not really the app listings, though). I like Jaxidian’s point about making it optional.

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      at that point, though, just release a device with stock Android and have an application available on Google Play. Or, release it with the skin and allow the user to uninstall it via Google Play.

      • Alan Reboli

        lol This is more constructive than your first post.

        But I do agree. I think the skins are fine, as long as you can remove it.

        But to reconstruct Android again.. is frustrating. Having to support yet another android skin is the worst.

        • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

          haha. yeah, I’m just tired of making the same damn argument every time on deaf ears.

      • Jimmy_Jo

        I don’t think Custom UI’s are the problem. I think forcing the consumer to use them unless they root their device and install a custom ROM is the problem. They should be able to choose if they want the company’s UX or Vanilla Android. That would really take Android over the top I think.

        • raudi

          The real problem with custom UIs is that its going to take 2 billion lightyears to get the update to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 / 5).
          Therefore I’d also say: give it vanilla OS and put your (uninstallable) customization on top of that.

        • Jason Schaefer

          The companies aren’t forcing you to buy their phone. They can put the current top specs into the devices but they need the custom UX to get the consumer.

          Google should be the only one putting out vanilla android on nexus devices. The rest of the companies need to do their best to improve and set themselves apart. Sense had features of ICS before ICS there wasn’t much reason for some of their devices to get upgraded.

          I run vanilla on my htc ispire 4g just because I like having the same look and feel as my asus transformer. If there was a Sense tablet i’d have that running on both devices.

  • Noven

    I’m not a fan of custom UIs. But I bet we will be seeing more lock-screens similar to this in the future from more beloved developers. To that I say “YES PLEASE!”

  • skugern

    Part of me likes the idea of companies experimenting with their UI, but the rest of me is cautious due to the likely consumer confusion over what Android looks like; consistency is not a bad thing.

  • dpleus

    I think Sharp has taken Android UI customization to a new level with Fell UX. I’m not a huge fan of custom UI’s as they slow down update processes, but this one is definitely a departure and not a bad option. To me this is like a fusion of the iPhone and Andrdoid UIs and not a terrible one at that. I think for a lot of users, this would be a nice option. But for us Android-philes, this would just piss us off.

    My two cents. ;-)

  • Da Android God

    I think it’s awesome. SInce gives you some great customization options, but will it run smoothly, during an entire day, and will it or will it not drain the phone’s battery.

  • Matt

    its actually brilliant ;)

    i would like some of that in my galaxy s2, it looks so slick and defined ;)
    i like AOSP too but i now im kinda bored with vanilla droid -,-

  • Dragonithe

    I really like how this is done.
    Also the way the on screen buttons are handled is just brilliant.

  • phor11

    It’s not custom UI’s that are the problem, it’s the way that they’re implemented.

    If they left the stock UI on the device and simply installed a “launcher replacement” that you could simply uninstall to get back to stock, then I’d be perfectly happy with manufacturer custom UI’s.

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      no, you wouldn’t be happy with the manufacturer custom UIs, you’d be happy that you can replace them.

    • Jimmy_Jo

      Sorry, I said the same thing…. just read your post. Wasn’t trying to spam

    • JSW25

      That would be nice if the custom UI’s were just a launcher.

      Why don’t people get that? Sony didn’t just add a launcher on top. And HTC Sense and Motorola Motoblur aren’t just launchers. They fundamentally modify Android down to the API layer, and often times add new APIs of their own. If it was just a launcher than you should be happy, install a new launcher and you are covered.

      For all the hatred, it isn’t all bad. In these custom UIs you got graphics acceleration two versions earlier than stock Android. As well as features like panoramic photos social media integration.

      Being able to load stock Android sounds like a great idea, but it would be harder than people imagine.

  • lancaster09

    Its very windows-like with the windows. I’m sure there is a market for it somewhere. I agree that they should publish it or at least the lock screen in the Play Store. I would definitely buy that at least.

  • alexanderharri3

    This is customized to the point where it feels like a different operating system (Much like KDE feels from Gnome).

    I worry most (as much as one can for a Japanese exclusive) about them excluding any transition between customized apps/experiences and general Android apps.

    Otherwise, this looks like a nice compilation of ideas to form a new-feel Android (a la fragmentation). Bottom line: It looks nice, useful, and easier for those less inclined to read these sort of posts.

  • http://www.openintro.com OpenIntro

    Not sure about most of the UI, but I LOVE that lock screen. Maybe someone can port this out!

  • epps720

    I agree this should just be an additional launcher. Some of it looks really nice definitely something I would like to play around with

  • Miknitro

    That looks pretty good, congrats.

  • dacatalyst41

    If they released this as a launcher, I would pay for it. It’s smooth and I like some of the subtle gestures they introduce. And It’s not not just a slight change to an existing style. Options are good, but as long as it’s optional.

  • Matt

    shar careful, quicly patent how your UI works, befre somebodyelse did patent thier UI . . *youknowhwo

  • Nathan D.

    Really, why is android the only one that has customer skins, no other UI has this, Google and others give us many option and choices but the one thing we don’t have choice over is if we want the custom skin or not, of course we can change it but I want it so we don’t have to do that by default.

  • Bob Saget

    if you want a dumbed down version of android then this is it. But in doing so they have removed one of the best features of android: the ability to customize your homescreens. I don’t find it visually appealing either…too boxy, ugly icons and a lot of wasted space. The lockscreen is ok.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      It’s different, but I don’t think it takes away from Android’s customization. It simply does it in a different way. Don’t forget, you can always install a launcher replacement app and get a more traditional home screen.

  • doseas

    I like the look & feel, especially the ability to organize by categories. However, I think that giving the ability to browse photos & use widgets without unlocking opens up an enormous security hole. The only ability I want without unlocking is to see notifications/who is calling to decide if it is worthwhile to unlock my phone.

  • Hardeep Singh

    At least the lock screen isn’t that bad. But the fact that this will likely delay updates and all that, that comes with custom UIs, is a big negative :(

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      People need to stop all this nonsense about custom UI’s delaying updates. HTC has proven that it can update its phone with a new version of Sense quicker that Google could push out a working update for the stock Nexus S.

      Also, Sony was showing off its UI on Android 4.0 months before it was released. The UI was not the issue. Hardware drivers were.

  • A.Woodbury

    I like the idea of this skin, it will bring an all new user into the Android experience. But Android in itself is about customization, so I also agree that an option should exsist to remove the custom UI all together

  • Scott

    I actually like this approach. I would much rather see something that is unique and truly different than a lazy skin layered on top of stock Android. This is true differentiation.

  • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

    show me all the great things you like about stock ICS and I’ll show you what custom UI Google stole the idea from. ;)

    • Greegoor

      so what? Does that make battery draining, uncustomizable Launchers like TouchWiz better?

  • CTown

    No matter how “good” these Android customizations get, they will never get through the whole platform for system-wide intergration. Especially since Google made it mandatory to leave the Holo widgets unchanged if an OEM wants to use the Play Store.

    Plus if you ask me, there has only been two innovatong programs that change how one interacts with the homescreen: SweeterHome and Lightning Launcher. The rest only add or remove features (though those features can be very time saving)!

  • spazby

    i haven’t found a skin I liked yet…

  • Lazaro

    Those giant squares around icons are going to have people scrolling a lot more than necessary. It’s like they put an icon inside another icon. 3 columns wide. With that said I’m not a fan of Android overlays. Android already allows a user to customize the way they want just leave it up to the user!

    The lock screen is cool but I’m sure they’ll be a lock screen app in the store to mimic it.

  • Stella

    Even though I prefer the vanilla android experience, this is one gorgeous custom UI. Sharp may have a winner here with some folks. I wish manufacturers customized by adding an second launcher with a custom theme. My only worry with an custom ui that is so detailed like this is when will Sharp release an update.

  • James jun

    The scrolling for weather and news and music in the lockscreen is a great idea. Everything else from the launcher to the notifications pales in comparison to ICS.

  • Donald G

    This UI can be accomplished right now with the current customizing apps on the playstore and root of course. This isn’t going to be ground breaking at all but more of another skin to support :/

  • ronturon

    That actually looks fantastic.

    I let out a loud “ohsht” when I saw the part when the hand pinched out and a horizontal ruler appeared, pinched in and it’s gone. I don’t like the giant squares but the organization part is amazing.

    I think Sharp was also the company that made a skin customized for elderly people. They are going great stuff.

  • lugo389

    I like it.. thats an amazing lock screen. The homescreen is intuitive, attractive, and most importantly its fresh. Id try it out every once in a while if possible. I wouldnt use it daily but know a huge percentage of average joe android users would prefer it. Ive tried a million times to explain to common everyday people how android works, and they look lost and dumbfounded at all the things you can do with it. This simplifies things for the basic user. someone who just wants something simple.

    i think the problem for most android die hards is that we cant accept android stemming away from its roots as a one size fits all OS. Today companies no longer want to throw vanilla android onto their phones and push them to market. They want something that stands out from the crowd, and most importantly they want brand recognition. Samsung wants you to buy an S3 because of how TouchWiz makes their phone “better” than the competition. HTC wants you to enjoy the zen-like simplicity of SENSE.

    I agree that there should be an easy option for power user to remove or diable these homescreen overlays and revert to vanilla android; kind of like the htc bootloader program. this way someone wouldnt accidentally delete it from the play store and not be able to recover it. At the end of the day, if the device still has all the google play services built-in, unlike the kindle, its fine by me. id buy something like this for my mom

  • http://no stokis

    one of the best skins i have seen.. galaxy SIII touchwiz should look like this..

  • sockeqwe

    wow, nice!!!
    Customized launchers like this makes sense, because they introduce a new user experience and its not compareable with the classic / stock android launcher. Well done Sharp!
    But all other launcher that use the same conzept like the original Android launcher (just with other, much uglier colors) like touchwiz, sense etc. should be removed.

    All manufacturer out there: if you want that your android phone is distinguishable from other android phones, build a awesome launcher / homescreen replacement that is unique! Otherwise use the STOCK launcher!!!!

  • h0ruza

    Not sure about the gloss buttons. Thought we’d grown out of those

  • jzrl27

    Wow this is a copy of WP8….it has all apps…then a place to put widgets by scrolling…..this is just worse because you have a shortcut section when you should be able to put shortcuts in the widgets section…this is just a worse version of WP mocked up in android…clear copying (except maybe the whole cool lockscreen)