Jul 29 AT 5:36 PM Alberto Vildosola 17 Comments

Matias Duarte talks about the differences between Android’s and iOS’ user interface


Today at Mobile First CrunchUp, a panel focused on designing mobile experiences. Present on that panel was Android’s Director of User Experience, Matias Duarte. As it happens every time you put more than one mobile developer in a room, they started to talk about Android vs. iOS.

Since this panel was focused on designing mobile apps, it was just a matter of time before somebody asked, “Why are iPhone applications better looking than Android applications?” Duarte responded, “Why are Sicilians more handsome than other gentleman?” implying that this is just a matter of preference. He later added, “There’s no reason why you can’t have a beautiful Android app or an ugly iPhone app.” And we have to agree. There are lot of Android apps out there that look much better than iOS’ apps.

However, Duarte did admit there’s a slight difference between Android and iOS in terms of app quality. He credited this to the simple fact that Android is younger than iOS. “You need to give people time to develop on it,” he said. In another instance, Jake Mintz from Bump talked about one more reason iOS’ apps might look better than Android’s in general, saying, “I bet if you put 100 designers in a room, more are Mac users and more are iPhone users. It’s reflecting the users of the platform.”

Personally, I can attest to Mintz’s claims that most designers use a Mac. And this is no coincidence. Apart from the fact that Apple’s well-designed products appeal to artists, the company also provides most art schools with Mac computers. Because of taste or habit most art students stick to Mac after college.

That said, everybody at the panel ended up agreeing iOS’ design advantage over Android will eventually disappear. It makes sense, seeing how Android continues to grow at an amazing pace and is already more popular than iOS. It’s just a matter of time before those Mac-using designers turn their attention to Android. And we’re guessing Duarte’s work in Ice Cream Sandwich will certainly help.

Source: TechCrunch

Alberto is a college student living somewhere between Miami, Sarasota and the World Wide Web. Although a former iPhone owner, Alberto is now a proud Android enthusiast. You can follow Alberto on Twitter and Google+ for his thoughts unworthy of an article.

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  • Kwasi

    Real quick though, what computers do Android developers use? Chromebooks? Why can’t they still be Mac users?

    Yes they may gravitate towards iOS, but can’t they still be hired to do the work for Android apps?

    • PhilH

      I don’t think it’s about the type of computer vs the type of person. Developers aren’t designers and vice versa. Some people can do both but it’s not the norm. Look no further than the home page for the iOS design guidelines. The picture up top shows all this intricate design work for an app that just records and plays back. A designer will love to work on the design. A developer will stick two buttons on the screen and think about features like uploading t
      he audio or file formats first. It’s just two different mentality and Android due to its technical merit attracted hackers rather than designers and large companies up front. The bar of entry is lower and you can build features not possible on iOS..

      And I could be wrong but don’t the ui widgets in iOS come pre styled. The widgets in Android are plain and left up to the dev. You have to work to make an iOS app ugly don’t you?

    • ddp

      Even Google’s own employees use Macs, company policy. I don’t see what the problem is.

  • Bel

    I think the general premise here is that people who have already bought into the premise of the apple ecosystem will continue to preserve that presence.

    Eventually, market pressure (more people will want Android apps than iOS apps) will cause some of them to look at designing for android – but that will be despite their use of iOS, not because Android is awesome (it is.)

  • https://plus.google.com/117702410245683101961/posts Lucian Armasu

    I’m actually surprised at how many quality apps I’m finding in the market lately.

  • V

    Android looks very second rate and HoneyTron didn’t help either. They better do a major, MAJOR improvement in Ice Cream Sandwich UI.

    • Dan

      Really. Honeytron!? Grow up. Don’t know if you have used Honeycomb or not but it’s actually very nice. It’s a lot better tablet os then iOS is. Try using it and you might be surprised

      • Interpol91

        I bet he was an iOS user. Android is great and so is Honeycomb…but Ice Cream Sandwich sounds more delicious!!!

  • aj

    Yeah android has grown alot since the G1 and OG droid. I used to feel there was a lot of junk apps but slowly as the platform exploded that quickly changed. I was seeing more and more and more apps being ported or just redesigned for android and some of those same apps had better UI’s and it only continues to get better as androids popularity still continues to grow. cant wait for ICS!!!!

  • j

    Well, here’s an example..small sample size, clearly, but nonetheless…

    The ESPN Scorecenter app for Android runs like crap, but runs amazingly smooth on iOS, and even the older iPhone 3g.

    That app shouldn’t run that poorly on most phones, nowadays, that have 1 ghz processors.

    • El Ray

      @ J:
      That’s probably due in part to what Bump Co-founder Jason Mintz said in the panel: iOS is easy to make an app work smoothly for because it’s one resolution (or two if you count the iPad), one chipset, mainly one OS version…. you get the picture. It also goes deeper, as Soundtracking CEO pointed out: iOS only has one music player and since they developed an app that interfaces with the music player, it was just easier to go with iOS first.

      I will admit that when we developed our Android and iOS apps, the iOS one was far easier. We had to choose between having an app that worked great on a small set of devices, or OK on a lot of them. We chose the first option, which made a lot of people, including the editors at Android and Me, pretty annoyed with us. Maybe ESPN choose the later option and perhaps that’s why their app is apparently buggy?

      Developing for Android is fun and challenging, but in our case it wasn’t nearly as simple as doing so for iOS. (Other developers’ mileage may vary.) It’s a fact that an Android fan, like myself and many fans who work at our company, simply has to accept.

      The entire panel discussion is worth a watch:

  • vasra

    The maturity argument is a load of bollocks.

    It’s about APIs, UI documentation, app approval and partially about developer culture.

    Look at Windows apps: they are inconsistent, most of them really ugly and designed by people who should never be left to design UI/UX.

    On the OS X, it’s almost the opposite, although duds exist there to.

    The similar situation is refelected onto iOS and Android.

    But why?

    Because iOS Human Interface Guidelines are superior to Android ones. Because Apple actually pushes them, because Apple supports them in their toolchain, because the standard is set very high out of the box.

    On Android, all this could be done much better, but the company is no nearly as design drivern, doesn’t understand the trinity or guidlines, tools and UX culture well enough.

    Apple does.

    And no, I’m not an Apple-fanboy (I use Android myself). It’s just that I’ve been in this business for over 20 years (UX/UI) and I call a spade a spade.

    Google could improve upon iOS ecosystem in this regard, but do they know how and do they even care, that is the question.

    • Paul

      I totally agree, the age of the system doesn’t matter. It is purely down to how much they push the guide lines and enforce them.

      The actual abilities of the apps are roughly the same but Google just does not enforce any user guidelines, or at least not to the same level that Apple does and because of this some of the developers are lazy and won’t do what they don’t have to.

    • Rev. Spaminator

      I think the lack of polish is part of the openness of Android. Apple set high standards and pushes them to an extreme. Android is more open and allows developers to explore as much as they want. This isn’t too different from what you find when you compare OS X to Linux. Of course, some times lack of polish is what makes something unique and interesting. Think about how many bands created their best music when they were still in their garage and started to suck once a big record label was over engineering and controlling every step of the creative process.

  • hanna81

    I knew iOS interface was superior…my iPhone rocks!

  • Derek

    That’s a bunch of B.S. Saying that Android apps dont look as good because its younger than iOS?? Thats a total copout. iOS apps that were launched immediately look better than Android apps now. Android is over 3 yrs old, thats more than enough time. Android just isnt as good of a development platform as iOS is. Android is just a java runtime environment with a fancy front end. iOS is a real OS as its based on Mac OS X. That’s its advantage right there and it also has a great IDE where Android doesnt.

    • UKROB

      I also agree than android apps don’t look nearly as good as the iPhone apps, sadly. I wish they did because I love the concept behind Android being open, and it’s much better for a “power-user” like myself, I think that Android has a lot of potential.. but it is so damn frustrating working on an app with a unpolished, low-grade user interface… It feels like going back to Windows 95 or something.

      Is there any way to make this “java runtime environment with a fancy front end” more polished and utilize it to make say perhaps eventually even better looking app than iOS?

      After all they are bringing out HD 720P SUPERAMOLED displays for Android devices now, surely we can’t still be using apps that seem to have about 20 pixels.