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Top 7 smartphone user interfaces

Last updated on: May 17, 2013 18:33 IST

Top 7 smartphone user interfaces

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While some may be gimmicky the amount of functionality these interfaces offer is immense.

Smartphones will keep getting more powerful. We've seen this over the past year, wherein quad-core CPUs and 1080p displays have become the standard. However, as applications play catch up and several companies rely on the same specs, it's become a bigger battle for the best feature set.

This can be best seen in the interface the device ships with. Smartphones that use Android have a custom user interface overlaid on top, with its own features. However, the market has been expanded heavily to allow for more than just the typical functions to gain prominence.

Take a look at our top 7 picks for the best smartphone interfaces available today.

HTC Sense

Until recently, HTC's Sense UI was more of a cosmetic enhancement to Android.

It added the famous Weather widget that gave a much more realistic (and graphically intense) view of the weather outside. The camera UI allowed for video recording and snapping stills simultaneously, which has now been carried over onto other smartphones.

For the most part, there weren't any drastically differing features from stock Android.

Then Sense 5.0 happened. Releasing on the new HTC One, Sense 5.0 added BlinkFeed. This features uses large tiles, each assigned to a different website or social media outlet, and continuously updates you with new content.

Sense 5.0 also introduced HTC Zoe, which allows for short movies to be created using several dozens of frames of video. Pictures and animations can then be packaged into movie presentations using ZoeShare.

Though intuitive in its own right, BlinkFeed is still in the initial stages with more features to be added later.


Image: HTC Sense
Photographs: htcsense.com

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Samsung TouchWiz Nature UX

Samsung is one of the more popular user interface choices when it comes to smartphones, due to the success of its Galaxy line.

With the Galaxy S3, Samsung decided to take a more nature-oriented approach to the UI. This involved implementing eye sensors for Smart Stay, that would automatically adjust brightness depending on if you're looking at the display or not.

While Samsung would involve many of its own features, it would be with TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0 that it actually began to customise the Android interface with new features.

This involved a Smart Scroll for tracking one's head movements and scrolling the text accordingly along with Smart Pause to automatically stop a video if the user looks away.

Air View has been significantly more expanded and allows you to preview items by holding a finger slightly above an item of interest.

There is also Group Play that uses Galaxy phones as individual speakers for music, new camera features for removing unwanted elements with Eraser and using both cameras at once with Dual Shot and the new S Health for those wanting to live healthy.

It may seem gimmicky at some levels, but the amount of functionality is immense.

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Image: Samsung TouchWiz Nature UX
Photographs: Samsung.com/global/galaxys3

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LG Optimus UI

After the Optimus G, LG began to aggressively ramp up its Android efforts. Its custom UI launcher no longer fully depended on featuring a 3D launcher -- the company instead took to introducing new features with a simplified interface for navigation.

With the latest handset the Optimus G Pro, LG's Optimus UI now supports a more expanded QSlide. This is similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note II's multi-tab function. It allows you to overlay different applications on top of what you're currently doing. So you can surf the net and watch a video at the same time.

Dual camera use is also enabled, and there is also QRemote, for using your smartphone like a TV remote.

It also features its own translator, video editor, Safety Care for when you're stuck in an emergency and can't call, and the QButton for mapping any app to a single physical button.

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Image: LG Optimus UI
Photographs: lg.com/us/mobile-phones/optimusgpro

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Sony Xperia UI

The biggest change to Sony's user interface came with the recently released Xperia Z. Before this, Sony utilised TImeScape -- this has since been removed in favour of an interface that more closely resembles stock Android.

Sony takes a more media oriented approach with the interface featuring a Video Unlimited catalogue for viewing films from their library along with an expanded Walkman application.

There's also a gallery widget that organises things in a Rolodex arrangement, along with the new Stamina mode. The latter helps to save battery life by limiting which apps access data when the display is turned off (or locked). Of course, users can also specify which apps they'd like to continue receiving data for, like email and WhatsApp.

In the camera department, it's the Superior Auto that steals the show by analysing a scene and automatically setting the best parameters for photo taking.

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Image: Sony Xperia UI
Photographs: sonymobile.com/global-en/products/phones/xperia-p/

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CyanogenMod

Suppose you want to be able to control your own interface and customize Android according to your preferences.

This is after all one of the hallmarks of the interface: its customisation. CyanogenMod is a custom ROM that replaces whatever UI you currently have installed. Think of it as a custom launcher for stock Android, except one that is freely available online.

CyanogenMod allows a ton of functionality such as dual camera use, updates on the lock screen, an expandable desktop mode, predictive phone dialler -- and the best part is you don't even need to root your device to be able to use it. You can also choose from a wealth of custom themes, widgets and transitions, organising your device the way you want.

The latest release of CyanogenMod 10.1 is based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and is currently available online.

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Image: CyanogenMod
Photographs: cyanogenmod.org

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Apple iOS

Apple's iOS user interface is the default OS for every mobile device from the manufacturer, such as the iPad and iPhone.

While Apple is usually late for several features -- NFC support and dual camera use, for instance -- the ones it does choose to implement are usually done flawlessly.

With iOS 6, Apple introduced iCloud for syncing one's contacts and information across machines, which include one's iMac, MacBook, iPad and iPhone. Its camera utilised the new Panorama feature, and FaceTime was updated with an HD camera.

The interface itself has remained the same, allowing for automatic updating on Facebook from the Notifications bar. While Apple Maps is still quite buggy, iOS's strength lies in its app support.

As of April 23, 2013, there are more than 825,000 apps available on Apple's App Store.

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Image: Apple iOS
Photographs: apple.comin/ios

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Microsoft Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 represents Microsoft's entry into the smartphone realm. It acquired Nokia to specifically manufacture the Lumia line to act as a flagship for the OS.

Its defining feature is the LiveTile interface, which displays apps, icons and functions as brightly coloured squares on the display. Swiping from the right allows one to access their full list of apps.

Nokia has added to the phenomenon with its own range of apps like City Lens that acts as an augmented reality device to glean information from a place using the camera. Xbox Live provides several exclusive games to the device as well.

Despite Samsung and HTC releasing devices for it, the best and most feature-packed performance from the OS can still be found from the Lumia range.

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Image: Microsoft Windows Phone 8
Photographs: windowsphone.com/en-us

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