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What type of a design/design philosophy/gesture can be a good alternative to tabs in an iphone or an android application? Tabs are good and tell the user that there is another category/page/functionality in the app, but they tend to take up some space, and this can be a disadvantage on say low end android phones with small screen sizes.

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Tabs are a means of navigation. You can go to any mobile patterns website, there's plenty of them around, and browse the Navigation category. For example, Mobile-Patterns or Inspired UI or any of the sites listed on UX Movement –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Sep 22 '12 at 18:16
    
These are good resources. Thanks! Although I don't have any option to upvote your comment or mark it as correct. –  Vaibhav Sep 23 '12 at 13:59
    
You're very welcome. You can't upvote or accept the comment because I intentionally didn't post it as an answer, since it doesn't really answer the question. The question itself will probably be closed as it's very broad. As a matter of fact, it's possible to sort of upvote a comment, but probably your rep level doesn't let you yet. Welcome to UX.SE! :) –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Sep 23 '12 at 15:55
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2 Answers 2

A zooming user interface (ZUI) might be what you are looking for.

Pinch-to-zoom is a well established and frequently used gesture on multi-touch mobile devices. Zooming out would show the various available pages; you would then zoom in for a more detailed view of a particular item.

ZUI Example

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I think this is a true tabs alternative, since all other forms resort to same link click navigation. –  user117 Oct 28 '12 at 17:16
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As far as I could see from the common trend, a few apps are moving the menu in one side of the phone, like some famous app do (Path, Facebok ...). The result would be:

Facebook side menu

The user has to swipe the navigation bar or touch the menu button, and then the menu will be revealed. This allows to save some space. Moreover, considering that now this paradigm is used by many well known apps, it's easier for the user to understand.

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