Switching to Android? It'll probably feel familiar | webOS Nation

Switching to Android? It'll probably feel familiar 41

by Derek Kessler Tue, 02 Apr 2013 8:00 pm EDT

Switching to Android? It'll probably feel familiar

Last month we showed you how - if you want to - to make an iPhone look and behave more like webOS. We know that not everybody's going to stick with webOS through the very thin times ahead, and we don't blame you. For most of us, smartphones are tools. They're tools that we need to function and to keep up with our ever evolving needs.

There's no guarantee that webOS is going to do that, with the last official updates well over a year in the past and progress on porting Open webOS to new hardware understandably a slow endeavour. The iPhone is a legitimate contender for switching, but making iOS be more like webOS is a project in and of itself. And while there are benefits to the locked-down nature of the iPhone, those of us that have been homebrewing on webOS for years now might not be comfortable in that arena. But what about our open source Linux-based cousin, Android? Well, that's a mighty bit easier.

Turns out, Android actually has a lot in common with webOS right out of the gate. That's in no small part to Google's successful poaching of former webOS design lead Matias Duarte. He brought a lot of his design mojo to Android, implementing a lot of what we've come to love about webOS into Android. But it's different, and that takes some getting used to.

Let's start with multitasking. Originally, multitasking on Android was a pain, with varying methods among the manufacturers dealing with how to best expose it. Duarte brought the best practices of webOS to Android and implemented a new take on multitasking cards in Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Whereas webOS multitasking came from a tap on the gesture area and consisted of minimized views of your apps, scrolling side-to-side with a swipe up to close an app, Honeycomb's multitasking came in the form of an on-screen button that opened a vertical list of running apps, ordered by last use with a small preview and a swipe to the sides to close an app. Different access, orientation, and presentation, but almost the same exact concept.

webOS-like multitasking in Android 4.2

The other area of strength for webOS has always been notifications. The bottom-aligned notification area from the start included actionable dashboard items such as music controls. Notifications have also always been individually dismissible, and with webOS 3.0 notification management became even more granular with the ability to triage through multiple notifications for a single app.

Notifications on Android haven't always been as good as they are today. In the early days, your only options when notifications started piling up in the top bar of your Android smartphone were to open an app to clear away those notifications, hit the button to clear all of your notifications, or just deal with the clutter. Dealing with the clutter was a recurring theme for the first few years of Android. But with the complete revamp that came with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Android finally gained individually dismissible notifications.

And with 4.1 Jelly Bean, those notifications became both interactive and expandable, allowing for implementations of useful stuff like music controls and for replying to texts or emails directly from the notification. 4.2 brought the addition of quick settings access from the notification drawer, where webOS from day one allowed for access to frequent settings with a swipe down in the top right corner. In a lot of ways, notifications in Android now exceed what webOS notifications are capable of.

When you get down to it, thanks Duarte's influence on Android, Google's mobile operating system has much more in common on the user interface level with webOS than is immediately obvious. Heck, starting with Android 3.0 the default and preferred controls setup ditched physical buttons altogether. While Android devices might not have the gesture area we so long for, many Android devices have ditched the physical controls in favor of sleeker (and easier to implement) on-screen options.

webOS-like notifications in Android 4.2

Of course, all of this is talking about devices that are running "vanilla" stock Android like on Google's line of Nexus smartphones and tablets. Third party manufacturers operating without the oversight of Google, however, have been generally free to monkey around with Android to their hearts' content and change the way that things work and look. Speaking of changing the way things look, you too can change Android to look more like webOS. You've already got webOS-like notifications and webOS-like multitasking, why not a webOS-like look too?

With a $1.39 purchase of the WebOS Go Launcher EX theme for GO Launcher EX (itself a free app), you can make the Android launcher look a whole hell of a lot like webOS from a TouchPad, or pretend you've got Open webOS running on your Android phone. There's not much that can be done for the look of Android apps, which range from modern and flat for Google's own apps to just okay to downright offensively bad for some others. But at least you can make your app launching experience look more webOSy. With Duarte's webOS-inspired multitasking and notifications in place, making Android look more like webOS might be just what you need to ease your transition.

Unlike the iPhone, where it's easy to make a recommendation as to which model you should purchase (just buy the iPhone 5, or if you must, wait for the 5S), the options for Android are plentiful. Though the formfactors seem to be converging on the large-screen slate-style smartphone, you still have several quality manufacturers to choose from for a modern flagship Android phone. For the closest vision to Duarte's webOS, you'll want to look at a Nexus device like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or LG Nexus 4. If you happen to pick up the Galaxy Nexus, even though it's a year old, you can be comfortable knowing that at least it can run Open webOS.


If you're going Android, I highly recommend the Nexus 4. It absolutely flies compared to the older Nexus devices.
Great post, Derek.

I agree the Nexus 4 or upcoming HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4 will all be great phones.

Got galaxy nexus. Been dreaming of webOS on it since day one. And only got it cause my Pre 3 doesn't do call display for some reason.

Derek your doing a great job. I may own a android phone now but I only use webosnation forums still.

Don't forget about WAVE LAUNCHER, an Android app that perfectly re-creates the Wave launcher from webOS phones. One of the most useful apps I've found.

Funny, I hardly used the Wave on my Pre, but I use it all the time on my Android phones.


To add to what Derek said, here are a few suggestion how to make android a bit more like webOS
1. Nova Launcher Prime ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.teslacoilsw.launcher.p... ).  There are some nice features in there that allows you to do things like add gestures (i have swipe up in launcher to bring up app drawer) and it will also allow you to create tabs in the app drawer to organize your apps, just like the tabs in webOS 2.x or 3.x.  I know other launchers may have some of these features, but Nova has been great
2. SwipePad ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=mobi.conduction.swipepad.android&hl=en )... this is basically a way to replicate the quick wave bar on webOS, but adds even more options.  
3. Conjure ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iojess.conjure ) is another app that is a pretty good replacement of Universal Search/Just Type searches.  Sadly, still not quick actions/in-app search.
big fan of these few and have made my CM9 TouchPad a lot more webOS-like

Interesting Adam. I'm running two of these on the Galaxy Note 2 that has been my "at work" tool since January. Was supposed to replace having to carry around a Veer and a Touchpad. It does the job for the most part but it will never be as elegant as webOS. I'll have to try Conjure. I found Nova Launcher and Swipepad after an entire weekend searching for a way to replace the intuitive navigation of webOS. Oh, and I paid $25 for some genius in China to ship me a new back cover for the Note so I can use the three hundred Touchstones I have scattered around at home and work. (Minor exaggeration).

Like many on this site, I've been on Handspring (Visor with a Sprint springboard module!), Palm (bunch of Treos and Pre Plus) to HP (aforementioned Veer and Touchpad). My kids and wife are all iOS so I've used it quite a bit. Even ported the old landline to an old iPhone 3G so I could keep the number. Had to use Blackberry at work for a while (my own stupid rule so I had to follow it) and my tech guy is try to talk me into Windows phone. So, I'm not unaware of what's out there.

Doesn't matter. I want my webOS. And, by the way, the Veer was the best form factor ever. I have a thing about small (yes, I'm one of six people on the planet that used a Rex6000 for almost a year as my daily driver PDA. Loved it.) which flies in the face of the Galaxy Note but I have the Samsung slimline/pen bluetooth gizmo which is pretty cool. And no Touchpad when I'm running around all day is actually ok.

But, as soon as I get home, Veer is in my pocket for email and notifications over Wi-Fi. I use it with an AT&T data only SIM and it replaces the MI-FI when I travel. And Touchpad on the nightstand for all my reading (thank god we got a Zite app before the plug was pulled).

So, Derek Android may come close. And I admit I love the variety of apps. But it ain't the same. My final thought. When I got the Pre Plus I found the UI uncomfortable for maybe an hour. After 3 months, I still find significant parts of the Android UI annoying and cumbersome.

PS - Try Taskie also. Gives a tiny swipable, tapable pseudo-gesture area at the bottom of an Android screen.

It's been a minute since I have switch to Android as my daily phone. I still have a difficult time with Android. I still find myself getting frustrated with the Android OS, although I have to admit Android is coming along.

I'm still not a fan of multitasking on android. With webOS apps, you where certain they where running in the background. With both Android and iOS, it feels like the icon is a placeholder that will update when you tap on it. I've worked with Ice Cream Sandwich. I don't know if Jellybean is better.

the bulk of apps dont even feel like their pretending to multitask, ive ran plenty on both android and ipad that basically just relaunch from the beginning as their almighty solution to multitasking, which i find annoying.

It's not really.

I've been on Android for about 1.75 years now (from GB->ICS->JB) and I still greatly miss webOS's multitasking and notifications. Oh there's plenty better on Android (hardware, speed, responsiveness, smoothness, app selection), but I still shake my head at how gosh darn clumsy iOS, WP8, and Android are comparatively in terms of multitasking and just general operation. And notifications are done better on webOS.

To be fair, I noticed multitasking does NOT work as well on the Touchpad as it did on my OG Pre-. I've complained about this a million times. On the Pre, I could launch 10 websites on 10 different cards and continue reading the page I'm on and when I'm done, the 10 other webpages are done loading. On the Touchpad, I do the same thing and NONE of the pages load until I actually bring them to focus. Huge step back. HUGE step back. :-/

There's a patch for that and aside from that I've built that patch into my web browser for webOS: Isis Web.

and then before anyone rushes out to make their android devices "like" webOS maybe they should pause, take a deep breath and gasp when they see what permissions those apps apparantly need, such as the ability to call numbers without your input, read your call logs, hump all your contacts and send them off to interested parties etc etc.

yup, killer apps, its why i dispise so many android apps, even paid ones that look ok, they end up wanting all your personal info and other hilarious stuff.

you only have to look for animated wallpapers, basic ones like "Starfield", No permissions required, because its just an animated wallpaper, then you find others with a permissions list as long as your arm and think, yup, i "wonder" why the android market is profitable for other parties.

same for the useful at first glance apps that Adam Marks lists above, they seem fine, then hold your breath when you check the permissions.

Android is successful because of garbage innards like the above invisible to the user, and their invisible because joe average is basically thick as mince and doesnt care or know whats going on, i know heaps of friends/family that dont even look at that stuff or read it in any way, they just read the app description, some user comments, then smash "install" and ignore everything else.

pity really.

Second that, GeekPeter!
I have finally bowed to friend pressure and installed CyanogenMod 9 on my TouchPad in order to play an Android game called INGRESS**

... and I was shocked at the ravening hordes of apps screaming to put unwanted nonsense in front of my eyeballs.
This was doubly shocking when compared to the privacy-respectful webOS.

It seems that Android folks have confused trojan horses programs with apps, especially given the tons of apps which have AdMob installed.

The games with name recognition, such as those ballistics-loving avians, have 5-10 different networks wired into each one, all at the same time.

You can take control of your Android-running Touchpad.
From the Google Play (formerly Marketplace) install the following:
* Lookout Ad Network Detector - this is a great app which explains what ad networks snuck in within each app, and how that ad network works.
* Lookout Carrier IQ Detector
* Airpush Detector - locate an insidious ad network called airpush which clogs up your notifications constantly.
* Norton Spot - an alternative to Lookout Ad Network Detector, for a doublecheck or something
* Avast Mobile Security - includes app, firewall, privacy advisor, and an anti-theft add-on with remote wipe and location reporting
* Firefox mobile with Adblock Plus 2.2.3 and [privacy] defense 1.0.2 add-ons and be sure to use settings to set your cookie and Do Not Track preferences.

WIth the Lookout Ad Network Detector, you can take back control of your apps.
It shows you which networks are in use, and gives you the option to uninstall them.
Then, with a little bit of searching, you can usually find equivalent apps.
For example: Check out Rocket Player instead of WinAmp.

You also have to get into the habit of running Lookout *every* time you install something.
A good feature of Google Play is that it shows uninstalled apps in the list, so you can see it was there at one time, and know you probably uninstalled it to avoid ads.

It cracks me up when I run Norton Spot and it says "You've done the impossible! You have no annoying ads." when I run it.

With a bit of effort - you can have a loaded/useful Android tablet that isn't wasting all your wifi/3G/4G bandwidth constantly reporting on you and grabbing ads you don't want.

I have not started negative rating the trojans, but I've considered it.
If I do, I will probably negative-rate the ones which do not disclaim its networks in the description, and just ignore those that at least provide a list.

Another tip: you can also create a "public persona" Gmail/Google+/etc account which is NOT the same as the gmail account your Android backups and installed apps are associated with.

**Unashamed plug:
Learn about the Ingress then request an invite.
When it arrives, join the Enlightenment and save the future of Humanity.

godly advice for any android user serious about keeping their system trim.

Thanks for the advice as my Pre3 will likely not last forever. I hope there is a sticky somewhere in Android Central similar to the ones here that give a step-by-step explanation of what to do with your new Android.

This is a good place to start. I found it pretty helpful.


Good to know. I finally loaded CM10 on my touchpad and was greatly disappointed. I'll add your apps and hopefully that will make it bearable, although I'm only planning to use CM10 for netflix. So far my Pre3 and the the touchpad (Luna CE rocks!) are both holding up well but I know they won't forever...

Derek, one thing you forgot to note with the multitasking on Android however is that on webOS the cards open where you opened them. With Android it constantly changes.

I don't like the looks of android. It's always too busy. You know the multi-tasking where it show the recent apps just annoys me to death. It has the thumbnail, the icon, some lines thrown in, it's dark. All this almost like webos, I get it but not really. I'm just gonna stock up on some palm pre speakers etc. And wait on LG

I am with you on this. Like I said this site is becoming a joke. PLEASE CAN SOMEONE COME UP WITH A PROGRAM LIKE UBUNTU DOES SO WE CAN DOWNLOAD WEBOS TO ANY DEVICE!!!!

I have to admit tho that webos took a step back in the multi-tasking department with the omission of the mini-cards. But still the ability to arrange cards and stacks how I want them is pretty nice.

Can we get an article about moving to Windows Phone? That's where I have my sights now for my next upgrade.

And what should the article note? The only thing webOS-like on WP is the app switching via holding the back button. But other than that it's limited in customization.

Perfect timing with this article for me. I've been actively looking at buying an Android phone for the past few weeks.

My Pre2, which I bought (barely) used in summer '11, started dying this past summer and I've been holding on to it as long as possible during the slow death that has finally become unbearable. I'll miss WebOS but not the spontaneous reboots, sudden 0% battery readings, screen awakenings for no reason (draining the battery needlessly) and not being heard unless I press the handset to my ear hard enough that it hurts after a few minutes. Aagh! But that's what I've put up with because I really like WebOS, hate Apple and find Android fugly. I was happy to learn that CompanionLink will let me continue using the Palm Desktop that has my calendar going back to my PalmPilot Personal days in '97 (over 15 years of my life! Crazy!)

As a followup to this article or a stickied forum thread, I'd like to see something like Adam Marks's comment above: a guide to Android-equivalents of my favorite WebOS apps. Is there anything like that already?

Thank you very much!

Excellent post, Derek. I am looking at moving to a Nexus 4 very soon, and you have quelled many of my fears about the platform.

Thank you for the very informative post from the perspective of people like me.

a timely post for me since I might have to go this way soon because my frankenpre2 is just barely clinging to life. One thing that seems incredibly simple but I will miss a lot is numbering split sms messages. Since they often arrive out of order this has been very nice to have - but I haven't seen it on any android device yet :(

Just great. Plenty of discussions except webOS.
How about a discussion on how we can get open webOS on new devices. I thought this was webOSNation NOT apple or Android!!!!!!

Hey all,

Been on Android now for all of two months after switching from 3 years on my original Pre. The first week was incredibly frustrating just trying to make it do what I wanted it to, getting used to the size difference, touch keyboard, awkward multitasking and some other hitches. I was ever so close to picking up a Pre 3 on ebay to hold out as long as I could, but I didn't think that would last me another 3 years (a man can dream tho). I'm just now started to hit my stride with Android.

If you are looking for something as close to WebOS as possible this is surely it. I still miss my Pre and would love to go back to the days of PreCentral, but the change had to be made.

Duarte this, Duarte that... but Android still can't compare with webOS in Duarte's field.

Also to add to Derek and Adam:

An app called Task Changer pro - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pacosal.taskchanger&hl=en

It could use some kind of tutorial for what the many settings are doing but with some playing around I was able to put a swipe up gesture from the bottom middle of the screen (called Extra Zone) to get to a list version of multitasking and an additional similar swipe while in the multi-tasker to bring you back to your previous app/page.

Just set the Extra Zone to WebOS Behaviour to enable this. You then have to fine tune the sensitivity of the 3 types of swipes (in advanced settings) to get something that feels natural. The best I've gotten so far is: Swipe 1 @ 5, Swipe 2 @ 80 (max), Swipe 3 @ 60 (min). Then take off the vibration and disable zone visibility.

I am also using Go Launcher and set the swipe up gesture on the middle of the screen to go to my app drawer.

Hope this helps!

You should look into LMT Pie Launcher. It's kinda like wave launcher in that with a gesture you can launch a wheel with actions, and you can launch it from any app.

There's also Wave Launcher for Android.

+1 for this , LMT makes it super easy changing the apps and so many other things ,the default long pressing to see the most recent apps feels very clunky...
i also wonder if anyone knows of any messaging app in android which provides the same unified message exp as of webOS for e.g. all my conversation -from IMs , default SMS in one place, so far i havent heard any

I also would like a unified messaging client for Android that combines SMS and IM... possible app opportunity here people? :)

I prefer the Note 2 and would recommend anyone willing to try android. Its the best phone and I love the way it works.


My Pre3 will be 2 yrs old soon and I'm waiting on some Key Lime Pie and a Nexus 5, hopefully around Sep or so. With Duarte's input I can see Andriod 5.0 having many traits of webOS and the transition should be or should I say will be easier.

Thanks again for sticking around and showing a way forward.

Take Care

Today's Boston Globe's Tech column has an article about a couple of email apps for Apple and Android phones. The author was very excited about the new feature of these apps, you can swipe sideways on a message header to delete.

Gee, where have I seen a feature like that before? *cough* webos *cough*

android sucks! We want webos!!

Derek, Thanks for the tip. I've had to get an android replacement for my touchpad but this and the suggestions made in the comments have made it look and work a lot better!