Standard Interface Features

Despite the huge variety of mobile devices available, they all tend to have a number of features in common, for example, the display, menus and submenus, toolbars, icons, buttons, widgets and keypads.

Displays are generally rectangular and modern ones are usually touchscreens.

The picture on the right shows the homescreen of a typical Android phone. At the top of the screen there is a status bar which lets us know the current state of the battery, 3G and wi-fi reception and so on. It also tells us (near the left-hand side) that there is a Facebook message waiting.

Most of the remaining screen content is configured by the user, so devices may look very different. In this instance, the next item below the status bar is a widget displaying the date and time.

A large part of the screen is occupied by the weather widget, which gives a graphical display of the current weather and a forecast for the next few days. The widget can be clicked for further information.

The next section of the screen contains a number of icons which allow us to select specific applications, including GMail and Google Maps. At the bottom of the screen there is a range of onscreen buttons for switching between different functions of the device.

There is some confusion between the terms “button” and “icon”. An icon is generally a graphic which is used to open an application, whereas buttons can be either graphic or test and are used to carry out a specific function. Buttons are often found within applications. Many devices also have hardware buttons for Back, Home and Menu located below the screen, but the current trend is to move away from these and use onscreen buttons only.

Some mobile devices, for example, BlackBerry phones, have physical keyboards, but most make use of onscreen virtual keyboards, as shown below.

Some older devices, for example, early iPods, used a touch wheel to control some functions, but this is no longer in general use.

Check your own mobile device or one you have access to. Does it have a virtual keyboard? Make a note of any special features, such as predictive text.

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