A smartphone future with an Apple iPhone UI makes Google’s Design Chief very sad — Tech2

When Wired quizzed Matias Duarte, Google Design Chief about the future of Google’s smartphone UI design, he said that wasn’t sure where it was headed. But he sure did comment that the current generation of smartphones, sporting an iPhone-like UI with rows of icons, will surely not be a part of it.

Well, at least this is what he thinks it should be like. “You had things like the PalmPilot, which was a little screen with a little row of icons, but then you also had things like a BlackBerry that didn’t look like that at all… “Frankly it’s not a world where the best package wins. It would’ve been very easy, if Apple had been a year later to market, that instead the market’s expectations of what a smartphone should be crystallised around something that’s more like what the Blackberry was… But it also crystallised a lot of other things that were kind of stayed even by that point, like the rows of icons, which don’t scale very well. This idea of a tiny grid that you manually curate starts to feel very heavy and burdensome,” Duarte said.

And frankly speaking, Microsoft’s Windows Phone did start off with something very much unlike the rest. But clearly, we all now know that Windows 10 Mobile has more similarities with Android’s Material Design than standing its own ground like it did in the past. Gone is the magazine-like UI from Windows Phone 7 and we are now greeted with hamburger icons that simply complicate things.

Android on the other hand is again stuck with iPhone UI but Google’s VP of Design has a problem with that as well. “I’m tempted occasionally to just organise all my icons by colour… It starts to look really old and it starts to bring a lot of baggage with it… It can’t be the ultimate solution, it is completely implausible. It cannot be that the optimal solution for 30 years ago, one of the potentially viable solutions for 30 years ago, is going to be applicable for all time.”

When asked about where smartphone and tablet UI is headed, Duarte did seem a bit disappointed by the way things are currently, “I hope not. I really hope not. That (iPhone-like UI) would make me very sad and I’m doing my hardest to make sure that that is not the case. That is one of the things that I care passionately about. I’m going to do my hardest to make sure that in 10 years time you’re not going to sitting with a single laptop and walking around with a phone. But instead working with a much richer, continuous mesh of devices and interfaces.”

However as of now, even he has no clue as to where Google is headed with smartphone and tablet. In fact , he seemed a bit worried as how things will change for the good for those devices, saying “I hope so. But even if I knew I couldn’t tell you.” he said.

Apple’s shift from a post Jobs era to a Tim Cook era so far has not been a great one for design and has often faced criticism especially after the launch of iOS 7, which ditched Job’s love for Skeuomorphism. And no matter how much Apple has been trying to convince users that the next software update will be a great one, things just seem to be getting worse for iPhone and iPad users who have been busy off late complaining about UX-related issue on the official Apple forums.

Google’s Matias Duarte is certainly right when he says that future would make him really sad if the current trend continues, but as of now nobody seems to have any clue about the next step, a topic that seems to become evident even in sci-fi movies where all those flashy animations and transitions on transparent tablets now appear boring.

Tags: Android Design, Google, Google Vice President of Design, Google VP of Design, iOS design, Matias Duarte, UI design


Originally published at tech.firstpost.com on December 31, 2015.