Meet FlexiCal — it’s a calendar app concept created with foldable phones in mind. The look and UX design seem intuitive to the point where you wouldn’t call it innovative, even though it makes use of an innovative form factor. Yes, it sounds quite modest, but this was our goal. We didn’t want to make it innovative — we strived to make it familiar, but somehow more convenient for users. Why does it look this way? Why should you even care about designing apps for foldables? Read the article to find out.
Foldables are Coming: Be Prepared
Foldable phones are just around the corner. Some of them resemble old flip phones and won’t differ much from the ones we use right now. Others, which I believe will take most of the market share, try to squeeze a smartphone and a tablet into one chassis. The first one of them is the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Fold launched in late October to mixed critic reviews. I think, however, that even Samsung wouldn’t expect more from a device that’s a first of its kind and has an over 2000 USD price tag attached. It’s a forecast — a glimpse of the future, available today. Next year, on the other hand, the company plans to sell over 6 million foldables, and competitors such as Xiaomi, Motorola, and Huawei, are working on their own take on the concept. The fact that some of them will be available for under 1000 USD surely helps.
Whether we want it or not, foldable devices will become a huge deal sooner or later, and these sales figures will skyrocket to tens of millions by 2021.
So, there you have it. If app manufacturers care about maintaining their userbase, they should get on board as quickly as possible. When you buy a new, expensive toy, and your favorite app refuses to work, while another one makes use of all capabilities of the device, it won’t take you long to forget about the first one. Early birds have a lot to gain now, and a lot of rich adopters to catch. It happened countless times in the past, and it will happen again.
But wait, what? Galaxy Fold and the rest will run Android, and they look like phone-tablet hybrids. What’s the design challenge, then? We know smartphones, we know tablets, there isn’t much of a new thing. Except there is. Even preparing a separate tablet mode for your Android app won’t do a foldable justice.
We have a Samsung Galaxy Fold into our hands, and in just a few days, we found out that all of the foldable app concepts we’ve seen before were not perfect. Some of the shots on Dribbble looked beautiful, but they didn’t unleash Fold’s potential.
That’s when we’ve decided to prepare one of the first apps that utilize this new, exciting form factor in a way that makes a difference. What makes FlexiCal unique, and what are the lessons we learned during the creation process?
Check out FlexiCal’s promotional video to get more details:
It’s Not a Phone!
It’s one thing to watch ads or listen to Samsung bragging about its newest baby, and another to make it your daily driver and actually use it for a week or two. Yes, everyone calls it a “foldable phone”, but the experience is entirely different from using a traditional smartphone.
During our research, it turned out that most of the people treat it more like an advanced combination of a tablet and a smartwatch, rather than a phone. The external display is narrow and small — good enough to take a glimpse at Google Maps, respond to one message with an emoji or check the time, but that’s all. Using it for an hour non-stop would be painful with its tiny icons and horrendous bezels. When unfolded, the extended screen space opens room for handy multitasking. Future generations might trim down the bezels, but still, users will open their devices whenever they have anything more serious to do. That’s the first thing we learned, and the thing that made us go with a calendar concept.
Calendar: A Perfect Choice
Sometimes you need a calendar just for notifications and these three-second sights, but other times, you want to set up a new meeting or plan your trip. This sounds like an opportunity for a perfect bond between the internal and the external screen.
All our work on FlexiCal came down to the basic principle of design.
FlexiCal’s interface on the smaller display was designed with quick, smartwatch-like interactions in mind. We didn’t want to cut any of the features or force users to open the device no matter what, but we decided to only show the most crucial information on the main tab. Adapting the navigation and the amount of information displayed to a smaller screen is essential when designing for foldables. It’s a shame then, that there aren’t many apps that implement such features, and even a few coming from Samsung could use some additional tweaking.
What about the larger display? Well, with 4.2:3 aspect ratio, it’s perfect to split the app into two separate windows and show some additional information. In FlexiCal, all of the buttons and menus are easily accessible for someone who holds the Galaxy Fold in two hands. They are always in reach of their thumbs.
Here’s what’s Ada, the designer behind FlexiCal concept, has to say about it: — On the larger display, I wanted to put every piece of valuable information onto the main dashboard, and eliminate the need for scrolling. Samsung’s version of Android uses the right side of the display for multitasking. This solution gave me inspiration to replicate such approach by expanding a single app. The ability to see everything at once allows for better organization of work and raises productivity. All of the things that originally needed scrolling or tapping the screen to see, which still takes place on a smaller display, are available on unfolded device instantly. That was my goal.
Just a Week to Develop
From a development point of view, testing the waters turned out to be quite simple. Samsung and Google already provide the documentation needed to create apps that work well on foldables. It took us just a week to make it run smoothly.
The good news is also the fact that apps don’t need separate versions for foldables, and if developed well, adapt to different aspect ratios without any trouble. It’s not even about Galaxy Fold — we just can’t expect that all of the manufacturers will stick to rather unusual 4.2:3 displays.
Put the User in the Center
All our work on FlexiCal came down to the basic principle of design — you need to put yourself in the user’s shoes. Sometimes, though, especially when you’re stunned by the new, fancy gadget, it takes some time to realize that foldables are much more than just larger display real estate. They should make the experience better, and we did our best to prove it.
FlexiCal is not available for download yet, but if there’s a big demand, we’ll consider publishing it on Google Play. Be sure to let us know if you’re interested! And check out other awesome things we can do for promising startups on Dribbble and our website.