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The system bar is the OS information bar on the top. It usually shows time, data and wi-fi signal strength, battery percentage, and etc.

I know I should make intense action games full screen, but what about other apps? I recently designed a gallery app that displays some images. I did not hide the status bar, because I thought it could be useful for users to read the time, battery percentage, etc. But I got a user suggests I should hide it for the extra screen real estate. Is there a rule-of-thumb to help me decide whether I should make an app full-screen?

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I think for an app like gaming, it should be full screen, to have a feel of the game.But as you said about that gallery app of yours, I don't think full screen will be a good idea as user tends to open these apps more frequently, but at the same time you can give an option "view full screen" or double tap to.... –  joey rohan Oct 29 '13 at 7:51

2 Answers 2

Typically except apps like games are the only ones who have been using full-screen mode, primarily because they want to provide an immersive experience to the user without bothering about other tasks. Also because typically games are heavy on resources and often switching to other apps make the game load all over again. Also, the intent of user in such cases are only present app and they are less likely to switch between apps.

But in other cases, user do several things - 1) switch between apps, 2) look at date, time etc., 3) at times change their settings and services like brightness, wifi, data, nfc etc. So it makes sense to have the system bar available to users without forcing them to move out of your app.

There have been cases on Android where some apps are taking a mixed approach. For instance, have a look at flipboard app on Android. It essentially works like a full-screen app hiding the system bar. But to access the system bar, one doesn't need to move out of the app. If they swipe from top of the screen, the system bar is displayed temporarily overlayed on top of the app. WindowsPhone UI by default always have the system bar hidden in the interface and it displays only when user swipes from top so essentially this feature of flipboard is an adaptation from there. This is a good usecase of handling the systembar while also providing maximum real estate to an app and could be a good reference point worth exploring.

Though we could go with full-screen only versus window-mode only versus mixed approach, it is very important to identify the usecase and requirements and decide accordingly.

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The rule of thumb should be to remove the bar when you want an immersive experience, that's usually time constrained.

Viewing a photo full size is such an experience, but looking at a grid of photos or a feed usually isn't. Consider two examples:

  • The iOS gallery show the bar when looking at the grid of photos and even when looking at a single photo with extra actions and info (share, delete, HDR indication, etc.). But when pressing the photo again, all the chrome disappears, including the top bar - at that moment the user just wants to view this single photo, not perform any other actions.
  • The Facebook app shows the bar whenever in feed and other parts of the app, but removes the bar when viewing a full sized photo.
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