Shadow Homescreen

What is "Neo"?

Hi everyone, I’d like to move away from Messaging posts for a bit, and talk a little bit about a project that my team worked on for the last few months. It was codenamed “Neo” and you can see it in stores now.

Just a Shadow of the old homescreen left…

Some of you might have heard of the T-Mobile Shadow. The Shadow is a cool-looking device, with a 20 key slide-out keypad, circular scroll wheel, and large screen! But when you boot up for the first time, you may wonder, “Is this really Windows Mobile?”

The answer is YES! :-)

With this phone you get a friendly homescreen experience and integration with your T-Mobile myFaves service. For those who don’t know, the myFaves service from T-Mobile allows you to make unlimited calls to five designated people. From the homescreen, you can make changes to your five myFaves and get information about them.

For example, if you missed a call or text message, or if there’s an upcoming anniversary or birthday, little micro-icons will appear next to your myFave (in the accompanying image, notice the little birthday gift next to the upper left myFave).


Yup, that’s one adjective used by one reviewer, thanks to our daily group hug scrums :-). (I'm kidding)

Also, it’s not possible to see from the still image, but the homescreen is full of animations when one moves around on it. I've included a video capture here.

There are linear and circular functions of not just position and size, but also alpha blending (fading in/out). These animations do a lot to give an organic feel to the UI. 

Hardware and Software Hand-in-Hand

Normally when Windows Mobile creates a release, we release it out to OEMs who then do their own customizations. With this release, however, Microsoft worked with the OEM to create an experience that catered to what T-Mobile wanted. The OEM, HTC, had their talented industrial design team working on the hardware form-factor and wheel. Microsoft wrote the homescreen and worked out an interface for the myFaves information to bubble up for the user to see.

We worked with T-Mobile to finalize the user interaction as per their requirements. For example, in the animation you can see the myFaves flying in and out - that was a T-Mobile feature request in order to enable user privacy (so you avoid the awkward "Why is my boyfriend on your Fave 5?!" moment).

Finally, we presented various asset and color combinations to T-Mobile to finalize the look and feel. Li, our PM, spent many nights up with HTC and T-Mobile to match software colors with hardware, and now the Shadow comes in two hardware colors that match the UI. You can see the colors to the right (I know, I'm not much of a photographer).

The Default Homescreen and Neo

What’s different about Neo compared to Microsoft-shipped homescreens is the liberal use of the QVGA screen for images. Remember the Windows default homescreen that ships with every Windows Mobile Standard device? It shows as much information on the screen as possible to minimize scrolling. It was designed for a user who wants to view things on the go without touching the device.

The default homescreen puts as many plugins on the screen at once, but Neo does the opposite – each plugin occupies one full page. When you navigate up and down, the whole screen animates to the newly-activated plugin. In addition, there is a navigation bar on the left so you can tell which plugin you’re at.


As for the plugins themselves, we ship with eight of them (check out the animation, which goes through most of them):
  • myFaves/Clock - Displays your five myFaves when you have a supported SIM, otherwise it displays a clock

  • Notifications - Displays new e-mails, voicemail, missed calls, text messages, and MMS

  • Message Center – Lets you launch into your messaging accounts. Compose a text, e-mail, MMS, or Voice Note from the homescreen itself.

  • Appointments – Lists your appointments for today and tomorrow.

  • Internet – Browse various web sites

  • Music – Play and control Windows Media Player. My personal favorite. Imagine seeing your album art in a big full screen image instead of in a tiny thumbnail!

  • My Photos – Browse through the photos on your device through your homescreen.

  • Settings – Access commonly used settings/apps – such as Profiles, Task Manager, and Wireless Manager


What's Next?

As you can see, Microsoft is spending more of a focus on creating a good user experience, and working with the operator to deliver for their customers. Be on the lookout for more personalized experiences!