When WebOS first appeared at the start of 2009, it was the first alternative to the iPhone’s iOS that truly offered a similar flowing and attractive touchscreen experience – Android was still particularly clunky back then. Now, nearly two years later, it's back and it's now got 2.0 on the end. Is it twice as good as the first? Is it still up there with the best? Read on to find out.
The first thing you'll notice about WebOS, aside from the charming way it rounds off the corners of the screen to reflect the curve design of its handsets, is it doesn’t offer a number of homescreens full of shortcuts and widgets. Instead there are just five shortcuts to the Dialler, Contacts, Email, Calendar, and app Launcher, across the bottom of the screen and the rest of the screen is left to show whatever wallpaper you’ve chosen. It’s only once you start using some apps that that space fills up.
When an app is open, it fills the whole screen, just as on any other OS, but flick your finger upwards from the bottom of the screen and the app is minimised to a ‘card’ which then sits on the homescreen. Open another app and ‘minimise’ it and it similarly turns into a card and lines up alongside the other app. Like this you can open up over 100 apps at once and very simply slip and slide between them – the cards even show what’s happening in the app. Flick a card upwards and off the screen and it closes the app.
New to WebOS 2.0 is the ability to stack these cards one on top of the other to more easily keep them organised and navigate them. This makes a big difference to usability and takes what was already the best multitasking interface to another level – if you’re someone that finds themselves with many, many apps open at once you should seriously consider a WebOS device.
Another key to WebOS is its gestures. Instead of integrating back and forwards actions into the onscreen controls, you use a touch sensitive area below the screen to swipe backwards and forwards. You can also tap the area to bring an app to the fore or tap it again to turn it back into a card. This gives the interface a nice uniformity and saves the space onscreen controls would otherwise have taken up.
Other niceties include the way notifications are displayed. They appear along the bottom of the screen, while the content of the rest of the screen moves upwards to fit them in, meaning you can easily see what’s new while still doing what you were doing. If you're using an app with a full screen option – like the video player – then these notifications are hidden as are the rounded corners of the screen.