One of the heartening trends of recent times has been the effort manufacturers are putting into the interfaces of their Android devices. Yes, we love stock Android, but we would be the last ones to object to additional features being added to the interface of a device, provided they make a positive impact on the user experience (simple English: if it makes the device easier or more fun to use, DO IT!). And that is exactly what the likes of Xiaomi, HTC, Samsung, LG and a number of other manufacturers have been endeavouring to do, making their interface a distinguishing feature in an age when hardware is getting more or less standardised across different price points.
Of course, not ALL interface tweaks work out well – we have had people complaining about the complexity of TouchWiz, for instance – but when they do, it is a marvellous bonus to the consumer. We had come across a number of interesting touches in the MIUI interface while using the Mi 3, and well, we came across some very neat ones while using the Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro, which runs Lenovo’s Vibe UI. While there were the now-usual suspects (gesture control of the wave to turn page types, use volume button to unlock phone, etc.), seven tweaks which particularly caught our eye are as follows. We have seen their like in other devices, but Lenovo have used them with particular effectiveness in the Vibe UI:
The idea of having a separate zone, complete with its own wallpaper and apps is something that really appeals to us, and we think will appeal to anyone whose phone is handled by multiple people. In a way, it is your special place, and we really think that is something that more phones should have. We also like the way in which Lenovo has implemented the Secure Zone, so if you are in your ‘normal zone’ and you get a notification from an app in the secure zone, you see the notification, with a small red dot in front of it. You also get a floating button that lets you switch between the two zones. Neat.
We wrote a whole piece on this, we know, but it bears repeating. Unlike a lot of manufacturers that try to tie you down to your interface (you cannot uninstall TouchWiz or Sense easily), Lenovo actually lets you run stock Android, without any tweaks whatsoever, retaining all your data. All you need to do is get into developer mode and activate the option, and savour the delights of plain and simple Android. Oh and for those who asked, you can still reach your Secure Zone even in this mode. No, we don’t know if this is just a feature for the Vibe Z2 Pro or will be a staple feature of the Vibe UI, but we do love it.
Make a small arc on the side of the phone and you will see the display area being shrunk to a more manageable size. It remains completely usable in all respects and can even be resized. A very good concept, we think, and one that is pretty much a must-have for all large screen devices.
What this does is create a small floating button (you can place it anywhere) that gives you access to certain apps directly such as camera, calculator, music, and so on. Saves one from the hassle of exiting an app and selecting another one. Simple and fast, although we would not recommend for the gaming types who have to use the entire display – having a button floating there can be a distraction. We had seen this feature in iOS too, although it came under accessibility options.
A lovely touch for big phone users – while dialing a number, the dialpad tilts towards the direction in which the phone is tilted, making it easier to use one handed.
Xiaomi had impressed us with their feature that prevented a phone from being switched on accidentally when in your pocket. Lenovo’s pocket mode is different – it actually makes the phone ring louder when it detects it is in a pocket. It worked fine even when we kept in our bags. Very handy, we think.
Smart camera mode and professional camera mode
Instead of throwing a whole plethora of effects and confusing modes at the user, the Vibe UI essentially has two camera modes – smart and professional (read “simple” and “geeky”). Those who love to fiddle with DSLRs and the like can head to the latter, while those in point and shoot land can go for the former. Simpler than seeing a whole lot of options, we think.
Access to special features
What, an eighth point? Well, we HAD to put this in because unlike a number of other manufacturers who have similar features but tend to hide them under vast and complex settings panels, the Vibe UI simply has a separate section titled (rather too innocuously, we think) ‘Features.’ All you need to do is go there to access most of the special features we have mentioned here (you can get all of them other than the access to stock Android and the camera features, in that section).