Since the beginning of the “iOS / Android” war, the criticism between the two sides has always been harsh and without exclusion of blows. We have learned to familiarize with concepts such as fragmentation and diversification, open system vs. closed system, functionality vs. design. Only a few years have passed but, due to a very strong market demand, things have evolved with surprising speed. Although both systems have maintained their identity, for good and bad, huge steps have been taken to fill their respective gaps with the essential Holo applications.
One of the most important was made by Google, which with the release of Android number four (Ice Cream Sandwich) has finally made it attractive, pleasant and intriguing even for casual users. Holo, so it’s called the set of style, graphic concept and guidelines (in two words, user interface) created by the Mountain View guys.
Under the skilful guidance of Matías Duarte, formerly responsible for the design of Palm OS, it has matured to become an interface of the highest order; to the point that many users now prefer Android in “smooth” version, without the graphic customizations of the device manufacturers, such as Samsung with its TouchWiz or HTC with Sense. And, fortunately, third-party developers also think so.
In this topic we will propose the most “Holo” app in its category, the one that best interprets the idea of Google. We will put performance and functionality in the background, but will still be taken into consideration.
In our test we preferred Apex Launcher, but we are a voice out of the chorus: both for the critics and for users, Nova is the ideal replacement launcher for a perfectly stock look, but widely customizable and full of interesting features, such as many transition animations, resizable widgets and a plugin for unread notifications. To try.
The RSS reader that best integrates with pure Android is Deer Reader. The interface is very well taken care of and elegant, and at the functional level you really do not miss anything. Too bad for the performances, often subdued and disappointing. With the latest updates, the situation seemed to have improved, but now it has returned unusable. If you have a little patience, though, it’s really worth it.
Gmail, the innovative Google mail, is now the most widespread e-mail service in the world. The official Android client is one of the fundamental applications of the operating system, installed in every device sold. Compared to other software from other categories, the interface is not too spectacular, but it is still a couple of steps ahead of all direct competitors.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is more than just a music player. It connects with the cloud, and allows you to keep all our songs (up to 20,000, free) on the Internet to have them always available. Even the interface is very well made, modern but elegant, versatile but intuitive. Too bad that the player itself is very basic; if you are used to software like PowerAmp, it will be tough.
Power Toggles takes the energy saving widget and expands its features exponentially. A 4×1 panel that can contain up to 8 switches, all configurable, with a list of commands and controls really exterminated. Look absolutely identical to “Pure Google”, except for the color of the icon in the buttons, and some interesting alternative / variation on the theme. And if that’s not enough, you can also enter it in the notification area. Curiosity, it is developed (in a completely independent way) by a Mountain View employee.
Pimp My Music
Even a “technical” operation such as adjusting MP3 tags becomes pleasant, if you can do it with a bit of style. Pimp My Music is the ideal app: full of functions implemented with intelligence, and an interface that does not make a miracle cry but at least it is curated, refined and “Holo friendly”. And it even serves as a basic audio player, with support for lyrics – even synchronized, Karaoke style!
Mountain View cloud storage is not only a nice interface, but also a very well-functioning and advanced service, with honest prices and all of Google’s extensive syncing know-how. The integrated document editor is not so powerful as to be considered a valid alternative to Word or LibreOffice, but it allows the creation and editing of text files and tables wherever we are, even multi-user, in real time. A good 90% of our articles are written with Google Drive.
Light, compact and very simple: in the field of mobile apps, Sleep Time is a small design masterpiece. A triumph of Holo’s functional minimalism. And, like a biometric alarm clock, it also works very well. Too bad that the options are too limited: you cannot even specify an MP3 as a ringtone …
This very versatile, very complete SMS client is not content with Holo, nor does it offer more than ten color variations on the subject. If you want, we can activate the alternative interface inspired by Google Hangouts, or that to Cards, inspired by the latest restyling of the main Google Apps. You will only have to endure non-excelling performance, and some minor bugs; on the other hand it is still in beta phase.
The keyboard is one of the most emblematic aspects of the stylistic course of Android 4. It is pleasant to see, made with great care, and boasts the right dose of “eye candy” without ever forgetting efficiency, precision and speed. Last fall, with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, he gained the typing through gesture, style Swype, which also brought some further animation very impressive. From today, it is possible to install it officially on every device.
Timers, clocks and stopwatches based on the look of Android 4.x there are many. In our opinion, the one created by our local Pizza Entertainment is the best. It has an edge because Holo does not mean only minimalist graphics, but high ergonomics, a detailed and detailed study of the behavior of each button, constant research of maximum versatility with less effort on the part of the user.
In short, it’s like Google would have done – indeed, as it should have done. While you are there, we recommend purchasing the premium version: you will earn multiple timers and freely editable presets, as well as a rather large set of secondary features.
Clean File Manager
Clean File Manager is THE perfect file manager for “pure Google” devices. The trademarks are all there: side nav drawer, widespread use of the pages side by side, action bar at the top. Even the copy, paste and cut command icons are those of Android 4.x. Unfortunately, for many of you it will be too basic: there are missing some very important advanced features, such as support for remote resources (FTP, LAN, SMB, cloud drive) and access with root privileges (editing files in internal memory, editing permissions and owner …).
On the aesthetic level, Google Play Music really enjoyed it, but it seems we are a minority. Those who consider it inadequate to the experience of using Android 4.x can always turn to Now Playing, an audio player recently appeared on the pages of Google Play that boasts a very intriguing Holo interface, meticulously studied and cured in every detail. There is still no Nav Drawer at the height, but the side-by-side pages, the clean lines, the Roboto font and the Google Now style cards make up for more than just that. Unfortunately, however, the positives stop more or less here: the audio fidelity is mediocre, the basic sound effects (a single 5-band graphic equalizer) and the secondary functions to historical lows.
The extreme minimalism of Holo Compass will delight all explorers who are fans of the “Google Experience”. There is nothing other than the essential: the dial is a simple solid circle, very similar to the clock widget that appeared from Android 4.2 onwards; the needle a handful of pixels; four letters circled for orientation, and the app is well finished. We also appreciate the total gratuity, and the absence of any type of advertising banner.
Google came to Apple later, but it did happen: a satisfying user experience also passes through a well-designed interface, consistent not only in the whole operating system, but in the whole ecosystem – that is to say, including third-party apps.
By now, they are the ones who make the fortune of a system. The luck of this topic, however, you will do dear readers: report all your favorite Holo apps in the comments, and contribute to its expansion!