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Google talks Android 4.0, slams iOS and WP7 design

updated 01:25 am EDT, Wed October 19, 2011

Duarte says iOS and WP7 UIs are too fake

Google's key Android interface designer Matias Duarte in an interview chastised both Apple and Microsoft for their UI. Pointing to Android 4.0's attempt at balancing design with flexibility, he saw Apple as clinging too closely to real-world metaphors. Its skeuomorphic (real-world emulation) interfaces, he told This is my next, were not just cartoonish but were too reminiscent of crude early web design.

"Right now if you look at all of these applications that are designed in this real-objecty, faux wood paneling, faux brushed metal, faux jelly button kind of thing," Duarted said. "If you step back and you really look at them, they look kind of juvenile. They're not photorealistic, they're illustrations. If you look back at the web, people did the same thing. All these cartoony things hanging off a page. If you tried that today, people would be laughing, unless you were doing it in a kitsch, poking-fun-at-yourself, retro art way."

He also criticized the opposite direction, in Windows Phone 7's Metro UI. The tiled and hyper-stylized interface, based off of the look of urban signage, was designed too far in the opposite direction and left little room for flexibility. "The problem with going too starkly systematic, forcing everything into this completely constrained, modernist palette, for both of them, you're not leaving any room for the content to express itself," he said."

Android 4.0 was closer to the web, where there was a large amount of freedom to customize the interface and make it special, but certain common elements were standardized. Its apps often have an action bar at the bottom and swipable sections at the top, but these aren't mandatory. The design is a backtrack from Android 3.0, where the "holographic" interface was pervasive. Google had turned down the "geeky nerd quotient," Duarte said.

The manager provided a handful of revelations about policy changes. Google was moving back towards actual freedom in software and was making it a point that every app could be uninstalled, even default apps and carrier apps. Google has previously let carriers block uninstalling apps, even when they weren't exclusives. Apple and Microsoft don't allow deleting default apps but have either banned carrier apps or let users freely remove them.

Duarte also acknowledged that much of Android 3's experience and lack of open-sourcing came from a rush to produce a tablet-native version of Android at all costs to counter the iPad. Google wanted a 10-inch tablet interface and to stop companies from stretching Android 2 to fit screens it wasn't intended for.

"Honeycomb was like: we need to get tablet support out there," he said. "We need to build not just the product, but even more than the product, the building blocks so that people stop doing silly things like taking a phone UI and stretching it out to a 10-inch tablet. So that was the mission, and it was a time-boxed mission. Any corner we could cut to get that thing out the door, we had to."

By Electronista Staff


  1. facebook_Jason

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    yada yada yada

    huh? iPhone apps have great freedom of design. there's continuity and integration at a core level, which is why android does feel fragmented and piecemealed.

  1. Zanziboy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2008


    What a pinhead!

    Unlike Steve Jobs, no one will ever remember Matias Duarte's negative contribution to the industry.

  1. rvhernandez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2005


    Wah, wah wah

    "I only like what I designed and I will find problems with everyone else's designs." said Google's key Android interface designer Matias Duarte, as he stomped his feet and ran away...

  1. facebook_Sam

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011



    So the bright, eye-catching, artistic designs used by Apple (a company known for its great products and perfectionist and amazing approach to design) is getting criticized by some computer nerd who wouldn't know beautiful design if it walked up and knocked the pocket protector out of his shirt.

    Just wow.

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Jan 2000


    Copy Cats

    Android and all the others are all copycats.
    Apple led the way with the iPhone and all the would-be innovators followed.
    Give me a g-d break.

  1. facebook_Sam

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    One more thing

    I also love that this guy is giving UI advice to the company with the top three selling phones (3GS, 4, and 4S) and the top selling tablets in the world. Maybe he should shut the h*** up and take notes instead.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Android stuck at 2.3 in "tablets"

    What he said: "Honeycomb was like: we need to get tablet support out there."

    What he meant: "We just mashed this c*** together as fast as possible in response to iPad."

    Hate to tell you this Matias. Android has been frozen at 2.3 by Amazon and its Kindle Fire. And it's not the vanilla 2.3. It's a proprietary, closed version of 2.3. The Fire will crush all other Android slates, developers will ignore Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, and iPad will still dominate.

    Re: " Any corner we could cut to get that thing out the door, we had to."

    And boy does it ever show.

  1. finalsortie

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2007



    This coming from a guy who designed an interface that clearly takes cues from both iOS and WP7 in addition to early 21st century "dumb" phones, and mixes them together in a very unattractive, "juvenile," and non compelling way. Then he goes on about why "Honeycomb" sucked? . . . If you made a mistake, admit it clearly, don't beat around the bush.

    Pinhead indeed!

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Would be legit from somebody else

    I think it's perfectly reasonable to be critical of skeumorphic design; it has both positive and negative aspects, and while many people clearly either love it or are willing to put up with it as part of an overall smooth experience, it's reasonable to think that design should go a different direction.

    But coming from a guy running HI design for an OS that has, to date, been somewhere between weak and a total mess when it comes to design, and is all over the board with a mishmash of proprietary interfaces, many awful, it rings really, REALLY hollow.

    If Android 4 turns out to look really awesome and fix the major latency issues with the kinetic design of their interface, then maybe I'll start listening. Until then, stick to blogging or show us the product.

  1. blshaw

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2010


    That explains it!

    I've long wondered why the iPad and iPhone were both failures in the marketplace. Now I know! Thank you, Matias, for clearing that up.

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