NEW YORK CITY — When the PlayStation 4 launches Friday, it will feature an entirely new interface that is all about giving gamers what they want as quickly as possible. That means the ability to switch to apps instantly.
We’re going hands on right now with the new console, but Sony demonstrated the PlayStation 4 UI in action for us earlier this week, and that’s where we learning about the console’s ability to quickly jump from a game to an app.
“When you want to see something like a walkthrough video while playing a game, on PlayStation 3 you have to go back to the XMB interface, select the browser, and then do the same thing to get back to the game. It always has those few steps,” PlayStation manager of product planning Toshimasa Aoki said.
That’s not the case on PlayStation 4. This time around, Sony built in a shortcut.
“On PlayStation 4, we have the double-click of the PS button,” he said. “When you do that, you go directly to the last application that was open. If you double click again, it goes back to the game.”
So, for example, if you’re in a game and you want to jump back to the group-chatting Party application that you just had open a few minutes ago, you can do that by double tapping the PS button. This will make navigating between a game and one, commonly used app a breeze, but you can’t, however, quickly jump from a game, to Party, and then to the messaging app. Double clicking the PS button only jumps between one game and one app at a time.
This is different from something like a PC or smartphone, which enables users to quickly jump between more than a dozen apps at a time. Holding down the home key on an iPhone, for example, brings up a huge list of recently used apps. The PS4 method comes up short compared to that.
PlayStation 4′s app switching is also appears limited compared to the interface that Microsoft is presenting with Xbox One. In a video demonstration of that next-gen box, Xbox One designer Marc Whitten gave a series of voice commands to have the console quickly load a game, Hulu Plus, Netflix, the friends lists, and the Xbox One home page all in around 10 seconds.
Whitten then jumped backed to the game, which picked up where he left off. You can watch that in the video below:
All this doesn’t mean the PlayStation 4 can’t handle more than one game and one tiny app at a time. It can. The system can play tunes from Music Unlimited in the background while the player jumps from Knack to the browser. This only affects the navigation.