Mobiles & Tablets

OxygenOS is all about ‘one-handed use’

Mala Bhargava New Delhi | Updated on September 23, 2020

OnePlus Senior Product Manager Sam Twist on the makeover of the interface, and how it will enrich user experience

OnePlus’s interface, OxygenOS, has been one of the reasons users have loved the brand all this time. Instead of the bells and whistles and annoyances that many smartphones include as part of the ‘experience’ on their devices, OxygenOS has an aura of lightness, speed, and simplicity.

But with the coming of Android 11, OnePlus is about to move up to OxygenOS 11 and the upgrade is coming with major changes that feel like an overhaul. We spoke to Sam Twist, Senior Product Manager, OnePlus, on the changes. Excerpts:

Why such a big makeover for OxygenOS 11 when users love the interface as it is?

With OxygenOS 11, OnePlus set out to continue to deliver on the promise of a burden-less experience and optimise on everything we have been doing since 2015. Our aim has always been to create an OS that is fast, lightweight, highly customisable and a clean user interface and operating system paired with simple aesthetics which our community can use and understand. OxygenOS 11 is driven by smart, intuitive features. The journey that has brought us here is both data- and feedback-oriented along with in-house insights.

Also read: OnePlus launches OxygenOS 11 Open Beta version

For instance, our hardware team believes that while the ‘big screen’ is king, our hands aren’t growing! So, it is important to keep the width of the phone in check to ensure users can still have a steady grip on the device. The larger the device, the greater the need to use a second hand, which makes the entire process counter-intuitive. The goal of the design change was to fix that and make OnePlus phones easier to navigate with one hand.

What is the main guiding goal of the upgrade?

The primary goal with the design and aesthetic changes on the OxygenOS 11 update was to make navigation on OnePlus devices seamless with a single hand. Through the community feedback funnel, we have drawn that a large screen size is important to our users; to give them a smooth experience while navigating the device, we have used a data-led analysis to identify areas where information could be displayed without being covered by a user’s hand. In addition, we have tried to build a ‘golden ratio’ which has enabled us to choose the exact screen split for the UI redesign. The broader interface changes will begin to resonate with users once they consider the benefits of one-handed use and the reduced time spent searching for essential information.

Also read: OnePlus 8T to launch on October 14

The interface has moved so far from stock Android. What’s behind that choice?

More than moving away, it’s about making something available. OnePlus’ aim is not about forcing fragmentation: we want to provide users with an option to try what they want, and let the power lie in the hands of the user, the people that love OxygenOS or for those who want to know what it would feel like to have one of our devices. It empowers the consumer to download the app, to understand if it is something that is useful and makes their life easier or if it is not something they require. OxygenOS brings it all together. We demonstrate that all these apps run the best on our devices. So, to get the best experience in Android, it is about the optimisations we make, the streamlining and intuitive experience that truly give users a taste of the burden-less promise. So, while stock Android is a great platform to build on, people lose sight of what it is. The ‘stock feeling’ is about lightweight, fast, performance and customisations, and we aim to deliver on all those fronts by building upon the platform. It is not about fractioning everything up; it is about empowering the consumer and giving them the option. And OxygenOS 11 unifies everything by staying true to the ethos of stock Android with a fast and fluid interface but builds upon the feature-set with a data-driven approach.

Where was OxygenOS 11 created?

OxygenOS 11 was created by The OxygenOS team, consisting of 191 members. Of these, 30 have been solely working on the design for OxygenOS 11. As part of the OxygenOS team, I work with a smaller group called OneLab, which works independently to bring an external perspective to the company, allowing for both a fast and smooth experience. OneLab’s role involves identifying key technology trends from Western markets and partnering with Silicon Valley companies to deliver features that bring about a meaningful experience for our users.

The India R&D team has made contributions to a number of OxygenOS features which have been researched, conceptualised, developed, and tested specifically for the Indian market, from product planning and design perspective. For instance, the team has worked towards developing the all-new OnePlus Scout. This allows users to find anything on their device via the current app drawer. Users can easily find anything stored in their device, ranging from files, contacts, documents, to music and apps. Scout also lets users browse content in their apps, such as movies, nearby location, services, and much more. The Indian team is also working on other OxygenOS 11 features for India like Work-Life Balance 2.0 and OnePlus Sport (which earlier allowed easy access of cricket scores and will soon be expanded to include football).

The OxygenOS team that has worked on the global version of OxygenOS 11 has representatives in all regions, including India, the US, Europe, and China working together remotely.

Will there be any India-specific features in the final rollout?

The approach towards a well-rounded OnePlus product experience has always been universal. However, India is the largest market for OnePlus with the biggest user-base, making the feedback funnel most enriching and diversified, giving us an opportunity to best understand what works best and narrowing down on areas that require improvements. That being said, while many such OnePlus features are being piloted in India, they are very much scheduled for a roll-out world over. For instance, the Work-Life Balance feature and the OnePlus Scout.

Broadly, what are the top five changes coming with OxygenOS 11?

One: Revamped design with user-tested headline-body hierarchy approach to boost one-handed efficiency: To begin with, OxygenOS 11 brings users a revamped design. We have also designed the colour and layout to be more immersive, such as the new Weather app. Users will notice the contact between colours designed to aid in the understanding of information on their screens across our key apps.

Two: Always-On Display. Rather than providing a basic suite, we wanted to deliver a fantastic experience. We collaborated with Parson’s School of Design and sought inspiration from some of the brightest minds in UI design to bring the Always-On Display to OxygenOS11. It has been optimised to fit into the OxygenOS DNA. Users will get a simple, open, and cleaner user interface.

Three: We have upgraded Zen Mode into Zen Mode 2.0, which allows you to invite friends to stay focussed together. As a host, you can create a room for Zen and send the link to friends – even those who are non-OnePlus users — to join the room.

Four: Dark Mode: Our new and fresh Dark Mode, achieving AA Certification under Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, uses readjusted colour tones along with distinctive layers to make content easier to read, delivering a more comfortable and natural viewing experience. Accessing Dark Mode is now easier: you can simply swipe down to access the Quick Settings and toggle it on and off.

Five. Other Smart features: The Gallery has just got smarter: new smart facial recognition for quick access and photo organisation; ‘Moments of the Week’, a video montage of your best moments, to inspire you; Straighten Doc, which performs targeted photo fixes such as angle straightening, edge detection plus removal and text sharpening; the Notes app can now convert speech to text quickly and efficiently.

Has there been a conscious attempt to extend the interface for new users?

OnePlus has always drawn significant inputs from the community. However, we have made a conscious effort to reach out to a more balanced demographic which reflects our user base across metrics such as gender, age, location, and mobile usage. The OneLab team especially works to connect with users more than ever before.

Looking at the beta, there seems to be more complexity in OxygenOS 11. Why is this?

This is our most feature-rich OS ever with a number of changes that make the devices smarter; there will be more complexity with the menu systems. We work hard at OnePlus to ensure this does not harm the user experience but empowers them with a burdenless user experience. Furthermore, in India we have introduced OnePlus Scoutç which uses AI and ML.

There are many inconsistencies now with menu options, such as about four ways to delete a message. Has the new upgrade not made it more difficult to perform an action?

With every OnePlus offering, we aim to enable users to interact with our device in a faster, smoother, and more intelligent manner. We want the power to lie with the user and provide as many options as we can to create a more intuitive experience. In line with this philosophy, categorisation is extremely essential for a user, reducing the additional time and energy spent on looking for the things and bringing the important information to the forefront. With the new upgrade, the additional options enable users to break through the clutter and prioritise on what is of utmost significance.

Published on September 23, 2020

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