Android Expert Profiles

How I Use Android: Material Podcast host and UX designer Yasmine Evjen

The person behind one of Android's most powerful voices powers up her personal phone to show us what's inside.

How I Use Android: Yasmine Evjen
JR Raphael

These days, we're all living in a Material world.

Don't worry: I'm not about to get all Madonna on you. I'm talking about Material with a capital "M" -- the name of Google's multiplatform design standard and a term increasingly representative of the Android experience.

Material Design, after all, is the set of principles that guides how your Android devices look and work (as far as what's actually on the screen -- which is arguably the most important part of the equation). It extends not only throughout the entire operating system but also throughout the entire ecosystem. It affects more and more non-Android entities all the time, too -- everything from Chrome OS to Google's universal web apps and a variety of other sites and software.

It only makes sense, then, that one of the best podcasts about Android and the broader Google universe would use "Material" in its name. I'm talking about the Material Podcast -- and hang onto your hats, gang, 'cause for this month's How I Use Android profile, we have the pleasure of getting to know one of the show's outstanding hosts.

Her name is Yasmine Evjen (that's "ev-YEN," for the uninitiated -- as you'd know if you ever listened to her show, you slacker). Each week, Yasmine and her co-hosts -- PocketCasts developer Russell Ivanovic and Chicago Sun-Times tech columnist Andy Ihnatko -- chat about all the latest goings-on in the Google world.

For Evjen, the notion of Material extends far beyond the weekly podcast. Her other job, you see, is being a UX (user experience) designer and product manager. She works at an agency in Arizona and helps everyone from startups to long-established businesses build apps for both Android and iOS as well as for the web.

So, yeah: The illustrious Ms. E knows her stuff, to put it mildly -- and she isn't afraid to share her exceptionally well-grounded thoughts. I don't know about you, but that makes me curious about how she sets up her own devices and makes the most of Android in her own personal life.

Let's get some answers, shall we? In her own words, this is how Yasmine Evjen uses Android.

The basics

Your current primary phone: I’m carrying a "Quite Black" Pixel. At first impressions, the phone isn’t anything to write home about. They played it safe with the design and nothing screams "You need to have this!" But once you see what the camera can do, you’ll never want to put it down. Google has finally delivered a solid device with sound software and hardware that can keep up.

Captured this picture on the Pixel:

Yasmine Evjen Pixel Shot Yasmine Evjen

What case is on your phone (if any): I ordered a Photos Live Case by Google. The case is slim and the ability to upload any photo means you have endless designs to choose from. I commissioned my friend Daniel Farrelly to illustrate a case for me with Yasdroids, cacti, and Android treats. I love it.

Your current tablet (if any): I bought an iPad Air a couple of years ago, and we received a Nexus 9 as a gift from Google I/O in 2015. Both of those tablets get a lot of love from our daughter, and I haven’t found a need to upgrade.

Your current smartwatch (if any): Still using the first-generation Asus ZenWatch. It’s so big, everyone jokes that it’s a tablet on my wrist. It was the first watch to have rose gold accents and go beyond the black brick design. I haven’t updated throughout the years because there hasn’t been much of an incentive. Although the new watches improved in style, they still were too large. I’m crossing my fingers for the rumored Google watches that are coming out early February. Please let them have Android Pay, please!

What face you're using on your watch right now: I keep on shuffling through ustwo's watch faces. They’re the same studio behind Monument Valley and their collection of Android Wear watch faces is lovely. They’ve reimagined time and found ways to integrate your appointments and weather into it. I have a feeling their Bits complications watch face will be popular with the release of Android Wear 2.0.

The home screen

A quick walk-through of your phone's home screen setup: Last year, I got a lot of heat for my folder addiction. Every app was neatly organized into folders that let me get to what I needed with one tap and a few swipes.

When I received the Pixel, I took a different approach. I kept the most-used apps as well as the apps I needed to quickly access as icons on the home screen. That includes communications apps like Slack, Hangouts (SMS), and Twitter as well as productivity apps like Inbox, Calendar, Keep, and Todoist -- plus the staples like the Phone and Chrome apps.

Yasmine Evjen Home Screen Yasmine Evjen

People will be proud that I’ve replaced my Camera app with the Photos app, since I can quickly access the camera by pressing the power button twice. I still have a few folders that hold apps for controlling my home and media as well as apps used for work and social media access.

Last but not least, I have three widgets at the top that control the Philips Hue lights in my house. Everything else is accessed via the app drawer.

What launcher you're using: I’ve always been a fan of Action Launcher. Chris Lacy is doing really neat things in that arena. Action Launcher lets you access widgets by swiping up on an icon, making it really easy to get things done.

When I bought the Pixel, I wanted to give the stock Pixel Launcher a chance, and now I really like it. I still miss some of the advanced features, but the Pixel Launcher is simple and beautiful to look at.

What wallpaper you're using: Currently have "Powder, Misty Green" from the "New Elements" collection inside Google’s Wallpapers app. Wallpapers might have been one of my favorite releases that came with the Pixel. It's superb. You need to check out the "Live Earth" series. Some favorites are "Your World, Solar System" and "Horizon."

"Your World, Solar System" is Google Earth’s view from space based on your location, with real-time clouds. It’s fun to see the city lights start to turn on in the east and slowly make their way to the west. "Horizon" is a battery level indicator. The sun starts to rise as your phone charges and lowers as the battery is used.

Anything else of note (interesting customizations, special icons, etc): Before the Pixel, my favorite icon pack was Iride UI. The icon pack solved the inconsistent icon size issue while still respecting the original icon design. It created a unified home screen, and I loved it.

When I got the Pixel, I wanted to see how apps were handling the new round icons. The round icons are growing on me, but I wish people would stop putting their old icons on a white plate. Yes, Google Music: I’m looking at you.

Now non-round icons are hard for me to look at. Android apps, please update your icon to a circle. Roman Nurik even created a tool to help you generate an icon.

The experience and the apps

What's one of your favorite Android-related tips or tricks?

Ever find yourself needing to edit a character in a line of text? But you don’t want to delete the entire word? Fear not, Android* user: I have a product for you! Introducing the incredible power of slide on Gboard’s space bar. Slide left, slide right, move that cursor, fix that typo, and get on your way.

*Android not required, but recommended.

In the Pixel Launcher, if you start searching for an app within the app drawer and you don’t have it installed, tap "Search for more apps." It will automatically send that search into the Play Store, making it easy to install a missing app.

Beyond the obvious stock Google programs, a few apps you can't live without right now (and a quick word about why):

Twitter helps me stay connected and up to date on what is happening around me. Our world is shifting so fast, and Moments and Highlights help me get caught up.

Slack is another app I check in with daily. It’s how I coordinate with the Material Podcast hosts and other groups.

If you’re a mobile app designer or developer, you need Skala View in your workbench. It works with the companion Mac app Skala Preview to help you see a preview of your design in real-time. It’s a quick and simple tool that helps you see how a design looks and feels on a mobile device before you jump into a robust prototyping tool.

Check out more Android expert profiles below or in the official Google+ collection -- and stay tuned for even more entries in the weeks to come!

Icons in title image courtesy of Freepik at flaticon.com.

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