Mobile

Terrain overlay offers an alternative to Android’s app-centric user interface

Above: Terrain uses a "card" system to organize phone content.

Dwipal Desai has a good point: Apple and Google have gotten us all used to the icon paradigm on our smartphones. “To do anything on your phone, you have to open an app,” Desai points out.

Contacts and calendar cards in Terrain.

Above: Contacts and calendar cards in Terrain.

Image Credit: Terrain

Desai believes there’s a better, faster, and more productive way to organize information on your smartphone, and he’s spent the last 18 months developing an alternative at Samsung’s Accelerator program in Palo Alto. That alternative is a re-skinning and retooling of Android called Terrain.

Terrain’s primary innovation is surfacing the information you need most on your phone as a series of “cards,” says Desai, CEO and founder of Terrain (the company). A panel containing all your cards appears on the screen when you swipe right.

There’s a Facebook card listing the last few updates. Another card shows some basic facts about the weather. Another shows news highlights from CNN. Other cards show traffic conditions, contacts, settings, stocks, daily agenda, and horoscope.

You can choose the cards you want, and put them in an order that’s most useful. The cards pull their bits of information from apps, and the user can click on any card to launch the app underneath.

Desai says any publisher can make a card for Terrain using an SDK, which the company released today.

Terrain searches for phone assets and web content.

Above: Terrain searches for phone assets and web content.

Image Credit: Terrain

Desai also gave a rethink to the way search works on phones. When you do a search in Terrain, it first returns results for things on your phone, like contacts and Wi-Fi settings. rather than going directly to online results as the major OSs do.

A search for “Randy Smith” will first return an entry in my contact list, rather than look up Randy Smith online. Of course, you can easily do online searches, too.

Finally, an “All Apps” drawer organizes your apps into alphabetical order so you can easily find the app you need.

Desai has been around. He was an engineer at PayPal, focused on identity and internationalization, and was the ninth employee at YouTube, where he created some of the YouTube app.

Terrain is available now via Google Play and will work on any smartphone that runs Android 4.2.2 or newer.


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