Almost like a phone, more like a tablet

Image based on Taylor Ling's wireframes

Designing apps for 7-inch devices can be a bit tricky due to the fuzzy nature of this form-factor. The Nexus 7 gave a big boost on the “small tablet” market for Android so it’s important to design your apps with these devices in mind.

What’s is unique about the Nexus 7 form-factor is that it behaves quite differently in each orientation. Yes, the same could be said about 10-inch tablets and phones, of course. But they still generally provide a “lot of space” and “not much space”, respectively, in both landscape and portrait.

On the other hand, the Nexus 7 behaves “almost” like a phone in portrait and “more like” a tablet in landscape. Therefore, UIs for 7-inch devices will likely end up blending elements from both phone and 10-inch tablet layouts.

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For example, in Pattrn, the UI for 7-inch devices blends the flat list of patterns from phones with the sidebar from 10-inch tablets when in portrait mode; while in landscape it uses the sidebar and a two-column grid, which is more like the 10-inch tablet UI. Also, on 7-inch tablets, the search entry is iconified by default in portrait and expanded by default in landscape to maintain visual balance in each orientation.

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Firefox for Android is another example of this blend. Firefox’s UI for 7-inch devices adopts the more powerful toolbar with forward/back buttons from 10-inch tablets but uses the same vertical fly-in tabs tray from phones.

Designing for 7-inch tablets is about finding the perfect blend between the phone and the larger tablet UIs.

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