App patterns applied: core utilities for Ubuntu on phones


on 15 February 2013

Many of you must have noticed the call for core apps proposals that’s being run by the Ubuntu Community team. The response has been great, thanks to everyone taking part!

In the Design Team, we thought that we could chip in to this effort and come up with some design concepts that reflect the vision of where Ubuntu is headed towards on phones, and start by sharing some concepts we’ve come up with in our London offices.

What we really want to do with these utilities, is not just to make them work, but to use to opportunity to explore and express the three themes stated in the Design Vision:

  1. Focus on the content
  2. Fast and natural interactions
  3. Sophisticated style

Based on these drivers we set out to distill each app to its core constituents, and if possible, find little twists that makes them unique and more engaging to use.


We’ve looked at Clock, Weather, Calculator and Calendar – since they are the core utilities every phone needs.


These days phones have largely replaced our wristwatches, alarm clocks, egg timers and stopwatches. However, some of those old appliances are beautifully designed, very functional and simplistic; we wanted to bring back that obvious simplicity to our clock app.


A weather app is a utility we use every day to decide how to get to work or what to wear. It’s essential that this app tells us how hot or cold it’s going to be or how much rain or wind we should expect!


The pocket calculator has been an everyday companion since the 1970s, and its interface with a number pad and add, subtract, multiply, and divide buttons has become very familiar. With a few tweaks, this simple interface could be updated to the 21st century, to make it accommodate casual everyday maths, without losing its original simplicity.


As with phones to the clock, the calendar app has gradually replaced its paper counterpart. Considering the centuries of design thought that has gone into paper diaries, though, there is still opportunity to enhance the calendar app experience. Paper diaries have been great at telling us what we’re up to each day, and our calendar app should do just that.

Now what?

This is just the beginning. We are looking forward to iterating these apps with you through design and development with the goal of landing them on the Ubuntu Phone!

P.S. Sign up to the Ubuntu Phone mailing list and the IRC channel to discuss more.


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