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article imageGoogle's 'Fuschia' smartphone OS shown off in videos

By James Walker     May 12, 2017 in Technology
Google's mystery operating system known only as "Fuschia" has broken its cover and made it onto the Internet. The UI has been compiled to run on existing phones, revealing an all-new design that's very different to Android's current look and feel.
The existence of Fuschia was first discovered back in August when little existed beyond a basic kernel. Eight months on, there's a lot more to see. The operating system is emerging into a state where its core components are functional, there's work on a sub-system apps and the beginnings of a radical new user interface.
The UI is called Armadillo and is written in Flutter, Google's new cross-platform programming SDK for building high-performance 120fps mobile apps. As Flutter apps can run on iOS and Android, it's possible to compile the source code available on GitHub and run it on a current phone.
As Ars Technica reports, Armadillo throws away many of the principles of Android's basic design, including the home screen. Instead, a single vertically scrolling list contains shortcuts, status information and Google Now cards. The centre of the display is dominated by your profile picture, a battery percentage meter and the date and time.
Fuschia OS screenshot via Ars Technica.
Multiple instances of apps can be opened in tabs.
Fuschia OS screenshot via Ars Technica. Multiple instances of apps can be opened in tabs.
Ars Technica
When you tap on the profile picture, Armadillo's implementation of Android's Quick Settings menu appears. There are icons for connectivity options and sliders for variable controls like brightness and volume.
Unlike Android, Armadillo includes powerful multi-window features to appeal to power users. You can arrange apps side-by-side in a flexible split screen view. The split ratio can be adjusted and up to four apps added to the display. If you'd rather browse everything full screen, there's a tab strip to keep track of open windows.
Armadillo is currently far from being complete and most of the UI is built from placeholder assets. The implementation indicates that Fuschia will be something entirely new from Google, potentially introducing a different way of interacting with mobile devices. Google's intentions for the project are not clear and it's possible it'll be shelved before it receives an official announcement.
Fuschia OS screenshot via Ars Technica.
The platform supports flexible window arrangements.
Fuschia OS screenshot via Ars Technica. The platform supports flexible window arrangements.
Ars Technica
Ars Technica reports this is unlikely though. In Fuschia's open IRC chat channel, developer Travis Geiselbrecht told the news site that the OS "isn't a toy thing" or a "dumping ground of a dead thing that we don't care about anymore." The platform seems to be a serious project for the company that could indicate it's planning a reimagining of Android.
Whether Fuschia really will replace Android is far from evident right now. What is clear is it's already solving some of the most major issues with Google's highly successful first mobile platform. Performance problems, a lack of multitasking capabilities for tablets and dramatic variations in UI between devices have long frustrated users and more recently Google itself. Android's update problems are also well-documented, an issue which exasperates its security weaknesses.
If Android were to be rebooted, Fuschia seems to be an ideal candidate to take its place. It's too early to tell where the project is headed but it's possible that the next few years will see Google launch its second major mobile ecosystem, without the oversights of the first.
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