Episode 92 of Relay FM’s Connected podcast features iOS expert Federico Viticci’s take on the current state of Android phones. One of the things mentioned on the show is how many Android apps have yet to adopt Material Design, and how iOS developers tend to keep up with design trends more quickly than developers on Android do. But here’s one factor to consider for why Android apps may be behind on Material Design.
iOS developers have only had to support two different graphical styles: before iOS 7 and after iOS 7. Android has had between three and four visual styles (depending on how you count) over the same timespan:
- The light theme used from launch to Android 2.2 (Froyo)
- The dark theme used only in Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Whether or not you choose to count this one is up to you, as it was mostly just a recoloring of UI widgets.
- The holo theme, which was originally introduced on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablets, and came to phones a whole year later with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
- Material Design, which has been in active use since Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
I wouldn’t be surprised if Android developers have some kind of aesthetic fatigue, where they are reluctant to adopt the newest hotness due to the uncertainty of how long the design will last this time. Material Design seems like it’s a keeper and has permeated almost all of Google’s properties, so I doubt any uncertainty remains, but it may be a factor in how hesitant developers have been in adopting it.
This explanation also glosses over the fact that Android itself didn’t take design seriously for many years, and many of its app developers at the time took a more utilitarian approach to design. Design has always been much more a part of Apple developer culture than it has of Android’s, and Matias Duarte preaching the importance of good design isn’t magically going to convert Android developers to this ideology overnight.