I have observed that the group of manufacturers that I call emerging brands, for lack of a better word, almost all have one thing in common: their individual custom user interfaces change from one phone to the next. I have observed this over time with TECNO and Gionee. Sometimes, the changes are not so glaring, but at other times, they are.
For example, the TECNO R7 has a white drop-down menu, while the new Phantom Z has a dark one. The layout of the menu is also different on both phones. Note that by different, I am not referring to added features. Not at all. They are just different in look. Have a look at the R7 (left) and Phantom Z (right):
One key reason for custom skins or UIs is to create an identity. I do not see how changing what the user interface of a brand looks like from one phone to the next fosters that. Note that the changes do not end with the drop-down menu. I only used that as an illustration.
Personally, it throws me every time I find that the colours and layout on a device have changed for no clear reason and with no pattern or progression. My head kicks in, and I begin a search for what has changed in terms of functionality to deserve the different look. And then, I do not find anything new. It just looks different. Gionee handles things differently. The brand offers multiple themes and selects which is active on each new device at random. At least, that is what it looks like. So, you pick on Gionee device and the experience feels different from the other. It almost feels like one is playing in a nursery class.
Looking at established brands, moving from one device to newer ones, even when changes are made to the custom UI, you see a design pattern being followed. You are not yanked off the previous experience. There is a progression. Think Samsung’s TouchWiz. Think HTC’s Sense. They are instantly recognizable.
It is time that TECNO decides how its custom UI will look and not toy with it any more. It is time for Gionee to decide which of the numerous themes it keeps juggling on its devices will be the default, and make it default every time. This juggling of coloured balls that they currently do isn’t good enough.
These random UI changes are unhelpful, in my opinion. Both TECNO and Gionee (and perhaps others as well) need to build their visual identities to nurture their brands.
PS: The Phantom Z hasn’t been launched here in Nigeria yet. The photo of the TECNO Phantom Z is sourced from TechWeez’s hands-on of the device. Do click through to go read.