Carbon, a modern Android app

Carbon, a Twitter app for Android, was released on Google Play last month; I wanted to draw attention to it as it’s a beautiful example of how Android’s recommended minimal user interface can be adapted and enhanced to make an app feel unique.

As I touched on in a previous article, the difference between iOS and Android app design is both skin and structure deep. From a ‘skin’ perspective, Evernote’s mobile apps are a fine illustrative example: on iOS Evernote is visually rich and sports textures, shadows and highlights galore, but on Android it’s much cleaner, simpler and more sympathetic to the style and tone of Google’s mobile OS. (Granted, this isn’t a perfect example as the iOS apps have recently been redesigned — and this may eventually filter through to their Android sibling — but for now my observation stands!)

Apps with the visual quality of Evernote are still in the minority on Android, so it was a pleasure to discover Carbon. At first glance, it certainly looks clean and sleek but it’s only once I began playing around with it and saw its transitions and interactions that I felt compelled to shout about it (for those without an Android phone, here’s a handy video walkthrough of the app).

Aside from the considered visual design, Carbon’s main plus point for me is its smart use of transitions and interactions. The app is composed of a trio of timelines (people you’re following, mentions, and direct messages) and these are represented as individual planes. Swiping left to right switches between these in typical Android fashion, but they transition in a sleek, tactile way, tilting to match your thumb’s movement (very much like the vanilla Android home screen when you reach a boundary). This is more pronounced when swiping down to refresh — the plane tilts forward in a manner reminiscent of the Star Wars opening crawl. I think this a great way to introduce tactile interactions to Android apps without going the ‘Apple way’ of liberally applying textures and skeuomorphic-gestures (which I’m not opposed to on iOS — it just doesn’t feel appropriate on Android).

There are a handful of other energetic touches throughout Carbon, including this transition to a conversation view — I highly recommend that you give the app a try and see it all for yourself.