iOS hasn’t changed very much in appearance for the past few years – but it is beautiful. There’s an innate elegance and smoothness to many iOS apps; something that can’t really be captured in words, but more in the responsiveness of the interface and its functional minimalism. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for Android – many Android apps are pretty messy, using a hodgepodge of unclear UI conventions and controls.
This, however, is starting to change. I’ve recently come across three different apps, each with a different purpose, but all united by one thing – aesthetics. These are apps by developers who take the Holo design guidelines seriously, and it shows. So today’s roundup is a different one, because it’s around form, rather than function.
For Twitter: Falcon Pro
It’s hard to count the things $1 Twitter client Falcon Pro gets right, but I’ll try – clean, flat aesthetics; clear tweets and typography; inline graphics that can be easily resized to fill the screen; and of course, lovely menus that slide in from left and right.
It’s an ambitious utility, and the animations aren’t as smooth as they can be, which is something holding back many Android utilities – iOS just feels smoother. Still, the way Falcon Pro utilizes every pixel on the screen and organizes functionality to be both clear and appealing is definitely something other developers can learn from. This isn’t a full-on review, but if you’re looking for a solid Twitter client, give Falcon Pro a shot.
I switched to it from Plume, which I’ve previously reviewed. It’s just feels better, and is more fun to use (at least for me).
For Reader: Press
I am not the only one inspired by iOS: Press is a new RSS reader that syncs up with Google Reader, and takes quite a few design cues from iOS app Reeder. We’ve looked at Reeder’s desktop version before, and just by going over the screenshots in that post you’ll see the similarity at first glance. Press shows your subscriptions on a light grey background, and its reading view is a pleasure to behold:
The only beef I have with Press is that it doesn’t sync items in the background, so every time I run it I have to tap the Sync button and wait a moment while it talks to Google Reader and pulls in all the feeds I didn’t read. Other than that, it’s a joy to use.
It’s far from the only news reader for Android – we’ve previously looked at Pulse for Android and JustReader, both fine options – but Press does have that understated visual flair that just makes it fun to use without coming off as ostentatious or overly animated (some apps just try too hard).
For The World Around You: Holo Compass
Finally, here’s simplicity itself:
Yup, it’s a compass. Holo Compass, to be exact. That’s all it does – it’s just a compass. It’s not a flashlight, not a map, not a measuring device, and not a camera. One simple thing, and it works. It’s visual minimalism reminds me of another of my favorite utilities, the Ovo timer for Android. Just like Ovo, Holo Compass uses a very flat scheme, with no shadows or anything to detract from its centerpiece, the compass. If your device has a reliable built-in compass sensor, Holo Compass is one of the best ways to use it.
A Design Trend
I feel that form follows function, not the other way around – i.e, the first thing a coder should worry about is what their app should help the user do. That said, the hallmark of a truly excellent product is that it manages to be both functional and beautiful at the same time – and I’m happy to see more and more Android apps arriving at this level of excellence. Also, I’m happy to say I’ve just included Falcon Pro and Press in our list of Best Android Apps.
Do you know of any other beautifully-designed apps? Let us know in the comments!