Up Top

This is an attempt to conceptualize the previously hypothesized pins in a more approachable and concrete way. That post was almost like a manifest, this will hopefully be more down to earth and reasoning and sell you on the benefits.

As always, there’s a risk by taking a bunch of ideas and putting them together in a concrete way that someone might say “I don’t like that, therefore the whole thing is crap”, and that’s fine. But there’s also a chance it can get people thinking “why don’t we have anything like this now?” or “why is it that no one is thinking in these terms?” and that’s what I want, more than Apple or Google or Samsung or HTC or Huawei taking this thing and literally implementing it.

So let’s start describing Up Top as if it existed and was already implemented. (This is not a rumored feature. This is just me dreaming.)

What is Up Top?

Up Top is a new part of using your phone. Up Top is where your ongoing things end up. Just like Siri is a person you can ask, Up Top is a place you can look.

It’s called Up Top because it’s above the status bar. Pull down on the status bar (or the left ear of the iPhone X) and you pull down Up Top. Pull even further to pull down the lock screen and see your notifications.

What’s in Up Top?

Anything you put there. We’ll call the things you put in Up Top items for now. There should be a snappier name for them, I just haven’t been able to think of one yet.

In a transit app, you can put the countdown to a bus or train there. In your calendar, you can put an event there, for quick access. Turn-based games like Words with Friends or Chess can put an ongoing match there.

Each of these items are the size of two app icons - you can fit two of them side by side, and if there’s a lot of information you’d like to see, you can let an item be twice as wide and fill the screen.

Sounds like notifications to me.

Notifications are a bit messy - they show up out of nowhere, go away, all show up in the same list from which they have to be cleared out. Items in Up Top are more focused. They are each associated with a thing, so they are persistent, and they’re like a little part of the app you add them from. Each item is like a widget dedicated to the thing you added.

So if you added a bus or train ride, you see the countdown in minutes, and you see how far away you are, and you can tap the item to hop straight into the app and go directly to the ride to see the rest of the info. And once you’re done with it, you can toss it.

So this is just for things that are about to happen?

No - you can also add places and people to Up Top and associate/tag other items or other things with them. You can add a store across town, and tag it with a review or shopping list. You can add a friend, and tag them with something you want to show them the next time you see them, like a link or a photo album.

That must get very crowded.

Yes and no. You can put a lot of items there, but it won’t be as crowded as you might think.

By default, what you see is the current items (like the bus countdown) and the items that are relevant to you right now.

If you have a conversation with your friend open in an app and pull down Up Top and you added them to it, their items will show up there. Same with places - if you’re physically close to a place and pull down Up Top, the items you linked with the place will show up. The friend and the place will be like folders of items - you tap them to show everything.

And of course, you can choose to see everything you put Up Top, and search for what you found.

So I have to pull down Up Top to look at things?

Yes and no.

For one thing, Up Top shows up on the lock screen too, for the same reason your recent notifications do. They’re relevant to you right now. But Up Top items also integrate with notifications.

Now, if you have a countdown or a stock quote there, it would be very distracting if they sent notifications every time it changed, every time there’s a new minute, every time there’s a new stock market tick, so that’s not what happens. But for example, the bus countdown could send you a notification when it’s about time to leave. A game match could send you a notification when it’s your turn. And you could have a stop or limit or alert for the stock quote, so that it would tell you when the market price has reached a certain point.

And when you get a notification from an item, both the item itself and the notification message will slide down and give you much more information and context than if just the notification message had appeared - which means that the notification message itself can be shorter. You can pull down Up Top and take a look at your items as they are, and when something notable happens, like your ride is here or your order has shipped, the item slides down along with the notification.

Okay, so this sounds fine, but what about the more fleeting items? I’ll have to go into apps to readd these things all the time.

You could. But when the app lets you add an item to Up Top, it can also recommend a pattern or attach to the people and places you already have there.

For example: If you have your home as a place in Up Top, you could have a template of sorts for keeping track of the next ride with the bus you take to work. It wouldn’t send you any notifications or be visually conspicuous, but if you have to head off to the bus, you slide down Up Top, tap Home and tap the template item for your bus. It turns into the real item, you see the countdown, you start getting any related notifications, and so on - all without you having to set it up again from scratch.

So what’s the difference between this and a widget then?

A widget is one thing to summarize the state of an entire app. It’s an overview (like the next few upcoming calendar events), or it’s a mirror of the most important function in an app (like a mini calculator or the result of the number in a clipboard for a directory app). Widgets are still useful for what they are. Up Top items are like what would happen if the particular thing you were interested in in one app got to have its own widget.