HTC has been granted a patent that it applied for in December of 2008. The patent covers a book-like user interface for smartphones, tablets, and electronic devices in general. The patent application was made public in 2009, which is when we first covered this interesting idea coming out of HTC.
The book-like UI would be true to its description and would show a different app, widget, or Web page on each virtual page. It wouldn’t differentiate between these categories of software like current mobile OSes do, thus creating a uniform UI. This is probably the most important idea in this patent. HTC believes that some of the inherent complexities found in modern mobile OSes can easily become pretty overwhelming:
“For example, some of the applications and widgets are located on a desktop area of the UI. Some of the applications and widgets are located on pop-up or pull-down menus. Some services are provided as web pages which have to be selected from the bookmarks of a web browser. Sometimes this distributed nature of the functions and services is irritating even to experienced users. Moreover, the operating actions required for starting a widget, an application, and a web page may be very different. The operating actions required to start an application on the desktop may be different from the operating actions required to start an application on a menu.”
The book paradigm could make a lot of sense as turning the pages of a book is an action that most people are already accustomed with. In other words, this interface could prove to be very intuitive in actual use.
As for switching between ‘book pages’, that would be accomplished by showing a ‘table of contents’ triggered by some specific user gestures. For example, long-pressing on the touchscreen while one page is being displayed in full screen would result in a ‘stand-up view’ of the book being shown. Here other pages can be selected, and a persistent shortcut to the ‘table of contents’ may also appear.
One could quickly assume that this book-like UI may some day make it into the Taiwanese company’s Sense UI overlay that it’s been using on its Android smartphones. Or maybe it will be used as the base for an entirely different UI overlay for existing smartphone OSes, or even a new OS altogether. In any case, it’s one of the more extreme (in that it’s pretty different from what’s currently ‘the norm’) interpretations of a mobile UI that we’ve seen so far, but because it’s designed to mimic gestures that we all know, it may just work. We’ll have to wait and see.
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