Third in a Series
Now that settings have been tweaked, it is time to look at the main interface, the GUI, what you use day in and day out on the device.
In Windows it is called the Start Screen. It primarily consists of icons called tiles that can display information from the apps they represent. Additionally there is an all apps view available just a swipe away.
In Android it is called the Home Screen (s) (generally most devices use the default setting of 5 screens). Apps are represented by icons that just launch the app or widgets that provide readily available information for the app they are tied to. There is also an all app view that appears with the press of a special icon. The all apps view will be in the next battle.
Let’s examine each more closely to find out the pro’s and con’s.
The Start Screen basically consists of static and live icons (called tiles). The tiles can always launch the program associated with it, but software developers (or even the user in many cases) can decide whether they are “live”. The user has the ability to decide to have each tile in one of 4 sizes (dependent on whether the app supports all 4) to not only create variety in the Start Screen but also decide which apps are most important to them. It can be used in portrait view but it is decidedly less useful in that orientation.
A live tile can display anything with images and/or text plus constantly updates whether the app is running or not. There are very little resources used here so don’t worry about your battery draining. Whether the information shown is helpful or timely to you can depend upon the app. Frankly there are times they update too slowly and you wish there was a way to tap them to show more without opening the app.
Finally you can customize the Start Screen with different colored backgrounds or use the same background as your desktop. The tiles can be arranged in groups and you can choose to name the groups as well. Though you can drag tiles and even whole groups around, you are limited in your placement. You are forced into specific rows or columns. It does help that you can change how many rows are visible, but it still feels a bit limited in making it your own.
The Home Screen is divided into sections with each section filling up the whole screen, typically 5 are used since that is the default. You can design each screen to fit a certain theme or use. For example, one screen might be all music apps and/or widgets or another might be all your social apps. There is a lot of flexibility in how it is arranged. Android also provides the option to group apps together into folders. This way you can fit even more apps at your fingertips. Android’s screens are equally useful in either landscape or portrait.
Icons are static and just launch the program, but alternatively you can use widgets. These can be varied in size (though in some cases you can’t control the sizes available) and as with live tiles some are more useful than others. There is a lot of variety in widgets (not all are square or rectangular) and they provide a lot of useful information, plus you can still launch the associated app from them.
Lastly, the Home Screen(s) can have wallpaper. Sure that is really no different from Windows, but in Android you can use a “live” wallpaper. A wallpaper that moves. Windows does have some overlay graphics that move, but in Android, it is the whole wallpaper. To be sure it can use up some battery, but can be a nice touch – at the very least a nice choice to have.
There are some little touches here and there with the Start Screen/Home Screen(s) that I didn’t touch upon but trying to keep this relatively short. Both have their pluses.
Windows has nice large tiles you can’t miss, it can mean a lot of swiping the more apps you have displayed. Additionally the live tiles don’t always update quickly enough. Android meanwhile provides a lot of variety for not only placement but using icons and/or widgets. It isn’t as easy to swap out an icon for a widget but the widgets provide more variety in their uses than Windows and while updating less regularly, seem up to date. The live wallpaper is a good choice over static if you don’t mind the battery hit.
Android wins this round.
Windows 1 Android 1
Next up: All Apps view
Devices used in comparison
Asus Vivotab Smart: Windows 8.1 Update 1, 10.1” screen 1366×768, microsd slot, micro hdmi, micro USB, 2mp front camera, 8mp rear camera w/flash, 64GB storage, 2GB RAM, NFC, 2in1 audio jack.
Nexus 7 (original): Android KitKat 4.4.2, 7” screen 1280×800, micro USB, 1.2 mp front camera, 8GB storage, 1GB RAM, NFC, headphone jack
Note: the rumored interactive tiles for Windows would vault Windows in the lead here, but so far they are but a rumor.