Symbian UIQ doesn’t have a standby screen per-se, this would be its application list page. Motorola considered it would be useful to have a tab where all information and notifications would be available at a glance and this became its Home tab which the Sony Ericsson P-series lacked. The last tab is the application list which can be displayed as small or large icons to make finger navigation a bit easier. Apps can be organized in folders which can be changed from a drop down in the upper left area. This is a central navigation item in the UIQ user experience and it’s present wherever there are things that can be arranged in folders.
The left upper part is reserved for the application menus, usually two or three resembling the ones found in Windows in an attempt to offer a familiar look and feel. These usually contain most of the apps functions.
Scroll buttons are prevalent in the UIQ UI and are to be found in the lower right edge of the screen. Because of their small size and the fact that the display is recessed they’re quite hard to press with your fingers. Happily, there’s always the stylus.
The interface has two fixed areas that show up everywhere except in games. On the upper side there’s the tabs with the main applications: Home, Phone, Internet, Messaging, Contacts and the apps list. On the lower side there’s a status bar containing the time, battery and signal levels as well as various notification and status icons such as audio profile, Bluetooth or GPS. This is also where the keyboard icon appears whenever the user is in a place where they can enter text.
An interesting quirk is that the user cannot view the actual battery level, but three rather ambiguous descriptions: Low, Medium and High.
UIQ revolves around touchscreen interaction, despite Sony Ericsson’s efforts to convince you otherwise with their flip physical keyboard which emulated a regular phone when you didn’t need the full fledged experience. As a consequence, entering text is done using a virtual keyboard. In Motorola’s case, this has two input modes: classic keyboard and drawing on the screen character by character.
The classic keyboard is called Roman keyboard and has teeny tiny dimensions owing to the screen only having 2.9″, but also to the fact that it was supposed to be used with a stylus. Finger typing is a distand dream only attainable by those with unusually pointy fingers or long fingernails tapping away at the resistive screen. Depending on where the input field is located, the keyboard positions itself either on the bottom of the screen either on top of the field. This does not happen with Sony Ericsson smartphones.
Handwriting input uses a pretty arduous interface where the user must manually switch between entering letters, numbers and punctuation. By comparison, Sony Ericsson’s system was much more intuitive. It has a subtle indicator which virtually splits the screen into two regions (top and bottom) as well as a third in the middle. Small letters could be written on the lower area as well as common punctuation, capital letters would go in the middle, while numbers and special characters go up to. All this without taking up space on the screen.