Tuesday, June 9, 2015

No more empty smartphone screens

Ever since I parted ways with my trusty Nokia 3310, empty standby screens of many smartphones have felt cold, distant and useless in comparison.

Although, various Windows phones, and a handful of Android devices come equipped with features that make their standby screens appear far less dead. After all, credit must be given where credit is due.

No need for power or home key presses, display double taps or other conscious interactions. The moment they're exposed to the world outside users pocket, both the phone and its user are already one step ahead of everyone else. A digital extension of a human intention.

Sailfish OS also has a similar feature in development we call "Sneak Peek". It's not ready yet, but I've been trying it out for almost one year now. Somehow the feature always carried over software upgrades, up until last week at least. I had to re-flash my phone, turning the feature off for good.

The sudden change in device behavior has left me staring at an empty screen more times than I'd like to admit. Looking and feeling like an idiot.

One step too much

Curiously enough, I realized that all those solutions I mentioned earlier, had one important piece missing. They all focused only on what user might want to see, but ignored where that would lead: what would people do next, after already holding the device in their hand, with the display showing relevant information?

Easy. You either want to interact with it, put it back to your pocket, or set aside on a surface near you.

And the problem with everything we have out there today, is that they all just create an additional state between the display being completely off and fully on. A glance or active screen is shown first, before you can see the lock screen. If you desire to interact with device functions below, you have to first go through that extra screen. This throws away part of the potential gained through anticipating user intentions.

To allow user interaction, it would make more sense to automatically show the lock screen, without any added steps. User would see the same information, intereact with lock screen controls, or continue to unlock their device.
Yes, it would requires some adjustments to how the lock screen behaves. It might be something like these wildly conceptual images, that are created to support this post. Take them for their illustrative value.

Moreover, the appearance is secondary in the long run. How it feels in the daily use becomes much more interesting and valuable quality. At first, it might sound strange for the phone to behave like this, but let's look at what would happen if it did.

The first thing you'll notice, you can get to whatever you're doing a bit faster. People use smartphones over 100 times a day, with majority of those instances starting with manually turning on the display. As the manual part is removed, less attention and accuracy is needed.

Second, the amount of user errors would decrease, because nothing was added. Every gesture and functionality works just the same way. It's the same lock screen, nothing more, nothing less. It's just working with you, not against you.

Worried about accidentally unlocking it? Don't be. Every lock screen has a built in protection mechanism to prevent that. Made famous by that "slide to unlock" slider on the first iPhone. We flick or swipe long enough distance to get past it.

Finally, removing your device from your pocket becomes much more friendlier event.

Just pick up the phone from your pocket and place it on a surface near you. Display will light up to greet you. An accelerometer inside the phone can tell whether you're holding it in your hand, or it's resting on a table. By following that information, it's easy to turn off the display sooner to save power.

Naturally, if the phone is on a table, the same sensor can be used to detect user picking up the device. And for cases you don't want to pick it up, you're just a double tap away from whatever you need.

By now, I'm sure some of you've already wondered why not use black background with colored text and icons on top. Well, it works great if there's no display backlight. If there is, too bad. I illustrated the problem below.

Those liquid crystals that are used to affect the light passing through, cannot block all of the backlight, resulting in gray appearance instead of black. This is very visible at night, inside movie theaters, clubs and ancient dungeons.

Using a background image will simply make the issue less apparent (can be turned off for AMOLED devices to save power). Also, a user selected image is much more personal option compared to someone saying it should always be black.

Making smartphones anticipate our needs is not rocket science. Especially when it comes to the lock screens scenario that we manually go through almost 100 times a day anyway. It's much more about seeing past of our past experiences. If you see through them, and get a taste of what things could be, it's going to be difficult to go back anymore.

You'll soon realize how passive most smartphones are. As if they didn't have the information available to anticipate the most basic thing we do. Once again, you've been staring at an empty screen. Looking and feeling like an idiot.

Welcome to the club.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next post. In the meantime, agree or disagree, debate or shout. Bring it on and spread the word.


  1. Hi Jaakko,

    I can't disagree with this article (yeah, double negation is right there). I still have my old Siemens phone with monochromatic display and readability of "notifications" on it is power feature, what mobile phone market forget.

    I loved Sleeping screen on Symbian and screensaver on MeeGo was one step forward.

    Your concept is perfection :)

    And idea of automatic high contrast mode is... ehm ... "wet dream" of Jolla user =D Sorry, but readability on sunlight is really poor on Jolla - I know, it's caused by colour selection of the ambiance...

    Thank you for article full of inspiration and enjoy your day =)

    1. Hi Naecken,

      Yes, it should be helpful regardless of device and display technology, but it's naturally inspired by my journey with Jolla phone.

      There are also other areas where readability can be improved pretty easily thanks to the dynamic silica theming. But that's a story for another time :)

      Thanks for your support and encouraging comments. Let's see what comes next. Take care :)

  2. Well, I've written quite long and I think interesting response, but WordPress ate it. Maybe I'll write it again later today.

    Anyway, interesting article, which I don't fully agree with - as often :)

    1. I know how you feel. This commenting system has eaten several of my thoroughly crafted responses. So each time I need to compose one, I do it in a text editor first, because clearly it's too much for this platform to handle :)

      All comments are welcome. I had really hard time narrowing the post to its current length, so it goes to show how much deeper one can go. I'm hoping you get around to rewrite your response, so we can dive deeper into details. I like details.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. See you soon :)

  3. Great post! By the way, would you have came up with these ideas without using a phone not so optional in outdoor use? The final kick being loosing the Sneak Peek for a while. I mean, there seems to be a very bright side in a nasty issue if so. Keep up the journey, your blog is full of light :)

    1. Hi Simo,

      Oh, you're too kind as usual :)

      It's hard to know. Our minds work in a strange ways, and sometimes they need a bit of misery and hardship to really go on the fifth gear.

      I'm pretty sure all things have bright sides, they just take more time to become apparent, or the bright part is for someone else, and one has to make due with a lesser hand of cards. But I digress..

      Thanks for your encouraging comment. You know, it's the community that keeps these lights on :)

  4. I`m using the "Sneak Peek" glance screen at most to get the current time.
    I like the used black background and reduced backlight level which is not disturbing to me and others around, e.g. in meetings.
    But in sunlight it's too dark.

    So replacing it with context specific lock screen themes using different contrast allows a short look or normal interaction.

    1. Yes, that's the intention of the concept. To have more reactive lock screen behavior to the environment user is in, when interacting with their phone.

      Still, in most cases, people disturb others by reaching out for their phone. It's not really relevant what the screen looks like. It's mostly the duration that person is not paying attention to the meeting / other people.

      That's why I'm so worried about many interfaces not being properly "designed" for situations they're used. Here's some more thoughs about it: http://jaakkoroppola.blogspot.fi/2015/06/tailoring-graphical-user-interfaces-for.html

      Thanks for commenting and take care :)

  5. A really fascinating look at smartphones, Jaako. It will certainly be interesting to see this brought to life. It's the little details that mean a lot, and that will determine the difference in use and lifestyle if dealt with. Who would have thought that the 'glance' screen, which we take for granted, gets in the way of full convenience and engagement with technology? This is an interesting notion to explore, along with the remedies you have proposed.

    Clara Brooks @ Telco World

  6. Hi Clara,

    Yes, these are interesting times indeed. There are a lot of great solutions hidden in plain sight, if we just allow ourselves the time to see them.

    Getting something like this all the way into production, is easier said than done, just because it defies everything people know about 'glance' functionality today. I hope there's time for it.

    Thanks for reading and dropping a comment. Take care!

  7. Guest parking

    Free Parking Software for Town Houses, Condominiums, and Businesses Solves Parking Problems
    Searching for a parking space is such as frustrating routine activity for lots of people in cities all over the world. This search is burning over a million barrels of oil of the world each day. There are also 4-parking spaces every vehicle in the US and almost all streets are most of the time, empty, which leads to urban environments that are ironically doing far more to accommodate the vehicles than people. As the global population continuously urbanize, without a convenience-driven and well-planned retreat from cars, these sort of parking problems will worsen.
    http://webparkingsoftware.com software is the first step in the right decision. It involves using low-cost sensors, mobile phone-enabled, and real time data collection automated payment systems enabling people to reserve parking in advance or predict accurately where they can find a spot. When deployed as a system, free parking software thereby reduces car emissions in the urban centers by means of reducing the necessity for the people to circle the city blocks needlessly searching for parking. Furthermore, it permits the cities to manage their parking supply carefully.
    This free parking software is now being developed in many different states and cities around the United States and some other countries. For instance, in LA, smart meters and low-power sensors are tracking the occupancy of parking spaces across the Hollywood district, one of the most congested areas. The users will be able to access this occupancy data in order to determine the availability of the spots and then pay for them with their mobile phones. Other than the environmental benefits and lending convenience, free parking software is improving the utilization of the current parking, which lead to greater revenue for parking owners.
    These programs will be able to make great differences on a neighborhood level, but more widespread development and deployment is necessary for free parking software to change the cities and to contribute to the transportation sector pollution reductions greenhouse gas. One problem is that there are no citywide solutions all over the fragmented private and public parking providers. The occupancy data has a tendency to have many owners and is not accessible or standardized in a way that may enable software developers to turn into user-friendly applications. Thereby, individual smart parking efforts are so far successful locally, but uncoordinated, and operates in their own entrepreneurial or bureaucratic vacuums without a need to take gap between current free parking software and more widespread transportation system planning is an enormous missed opportunity for the cities to reduce the transportation related emissions.
    Moreover, free parking software has been hindered by a lack of insight into the complete benefits of this software, specifically when compared to the cost of building extra parking spaces. Lack of collaboration between communities with the parking software programs, as well as lack of coordination between hardware providers, municipalities, and developers is also contributing to the slower adoption of smart parking. Nevertheless, it is possible to overcome all these issues. Cities will be able further accelerate these advantages by means of updating the land use and building codes policies to reflect the reduced need for parking.


  8. We take the frustration out of parking management for Apartments, Home Owners Associations, Condominiums, Townhouses Co-ops, and other parking areas.Webparkingsoftware.com has reinvented how parking management should be done. Our software was built from the ground up for: Property Managers, Apartment Managers, Board members, Commercial property and anyone involved in overseeing a managed parking environment.

    Some features include:

    • Full Parking Management System for any size building
    • Issue professional parking permits
    • Assign parking spaces for tenants
    • Allocate guest parking and special event parking
    • Ticket Violators
    • Process and Pay fines online
    • Track and Manage all properties, occupants and tenants

    parking permmits
    text message to tenants
    Cloud based parking management
    software for condominiums

  9. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here!

    austin web developer
    web design austin


  10. Parking software condominium
    email blast to tenants
    Guest parking
    Why apartment owners, condominium owners and management companies use webparkingsoftware.com
    One of the most daunting operational aspects of managing a facility like condominium s and apartment owner is parking system. Finally, this challenge now can be streamlined with the help of smart parking solutions. One of the best providers of these parking management systems is webparkingsoftware.com. What are the reasons why apartment owners, condominium owners and management companies use webparkingsoftware.com? Read on.
    Webparkingsoftware.com is recognized as a reliable service provider of parking problem solutions. They continuously gained the trust of many facility owners and manager and this is because they completely adhere to the most scalable approaches in designing their services. Plus, they also have a highly qualified management team equipped with a lifetime experience when it comes to parking management, IT software and business management.
    Another reason why webparkingsoftware.com is preferred by many facility owners is that they are design excellent parking management software after conducting intensive collaboration of their reputable engineers. In connection to that, they also perform daily procedures on phone, paper,email and fax while applying the sheer power of Cloud technology in improving the delivery system of their organization.
    Regardless the size of facility, http://webparkingsoftware.com has the capability to meet your particular needs. They have already mastered the art of designing state of the art software that will enhance the parking management aspect of your facility. Since they have been in the industry for many years, apartment owners, condominium owners and business owners already have the peace of mind that they are adept in the various needs of their clients in terms of parking management requirement.
    Additionally, webparkingsoftware.com is chosen by many clients because of wide options of excellent features that they have to offer. This includes full parking management system, issuance of professional parking solutions, allocation of guest parking space for tenant, processing of tickets online and many more.
    Plus, many users make the right choice to count on the services of webparkingsoftware.com because they adhere to the latest technology. They want to make sure that they are always one step ahead over their competitors when it comes to parking management. They implement All Internet web-based cloud systems in creating all their products. With them, you can also make sure that there are no hectic paper systems as they are more on automated systems.
    They also offer iPhone functionality in order to come up with an easy use of parking enforcement along with security guards as well as authorized personnel. Since they provide easy add-all registrants features, you are now able to securely online as well as upload consent forms that are necessary for the user.
    The reasons why apartment owners, condominium owners and management companies use webparkingsoftware.com have been explained. If you are adept to the situation, it is a good thing that you also make the right decision. If you are looking for the most scalable, flexible and reliable online parking management software, you can always give your trust to wenparkingsoftare.com as they will assure to have all your needs covered.

  11. I think these are the top 10 smart phones. I would like to know more about this thanks for sharing. Regards, tollywood breaking news

  12. Parking software condominium
    email blast to tenants
    Guest parking
    Online Parking Software for apartment owners
    Due to the overwhelming needs for well-organized parking systems nowadays, smart parking solutions are being introduced in the marketplace. The best part here is that these excellent parking software are available online. Ideally, these smart tools are perfect options for apartment owner. If you are interested to get the real benefit of these tools, it is important that you are crystal clear with all its features and its implications.
    Online parking software for apartment owners are excellent facility management systems that are very flexible and reliable. Plus, another great thing about these tools is that they do not frequent upgrades in order to maintain their operational efficiency. More than that, these dependable online parking software are deemed as straightforward solutions to the increasing height of operational challenges.
    Monitoring and control
    With online parking management software, apartment owners can have an easy access with the different aspects of their facilities such as VMS signs, security alarms, lane traffic and equipment status. Also, they have the capability to close and open barrier gates as well as restart lane equipment. You can also count on their operational efficiency when it comes to sending a new fee to the pay station.
    Revenue management
    Online parking software serves as smart turn-key facility management solution for apartment owners which include real time transactions, occupancy counts, ticket tracking, parking rate programming, sign controls, validations and more. All of these excellent benefits can be achieved with the help of a smartphone. In addition, coupon management and validation become more cost effective and simpler with the presence of integrated module that comes with standard features.
    Validation solutions
    There are many reliable parking software designer offers wide array of intelligent validation solutions. Say for instance, there are parking management solutions where in merchant accounts as well as sub-accounts are made in the database. As such, there is an available option to come up with unlimited quantity of merchant accounts. Plus, if you are in tight budget, there’s nothing to fret because these types of validation are created in a single-hour fee which usually comes with discounts. Once the validations profiles are already made, they can now be used for wide range of applications such as barcode sticker, self-service units and chaser tickets.
    Access control
    At present, parking access needs wide array of controls as well as billing options that provide apartment owners flexible solutions in bringing in new business. As such, these online parking software for apartment owners are their enterprise parking access brilliant control solution. Every facility owner can now take advantage of multiple options of the latest technologies such as AVI, LPR, and chip card.
    Now that you are aware about the availability of excellent parking management software, you can now maximize the various operational aspects of your facility. With the help of the excellent functionalityof these software, every apartment owner can now have the real benefit of a well-streamlined parking systems. Check out these online parking management tools now and see what they can do for you. Visit their website at http://webparkingsoftware.com for more information about their Online Parking Software for apartment owners.


  13. This post is absolutely fantastic and Lots of great information. Thanks

    Austin web design agency
    austin web design