App Uniformity May Hamper “Best Version Yet” Of Android

October 22, 2014 Ben Myers

Android is evolving. Fast.

Keeping up with new design standards, APKs and even… dare we say… trends is what designing a great, forward-looking app is all about. It’s the sort of thing that’s always on the mind of Kevin Grant, an Android engineer at Tumblr (see his work) and a speaker at AndroidTO on Oct. 30.

AndroidTO 2014 logoHe thinks Android L, including the Material Design standards is a huge step forward for the platform, and its effects will be felt by everyone designing for mobile devices.

“This is the best version of Android and the best set of guidelines that we’ve had ever,” he told the Dx3 Digest.

“It gives us the most tools to accomplish some of these really complex things without doing a whole lot of work. And it gives you enough freedom that you can accomplish those goals however you want.”

Creeping App Uniformity

The drawback is that apps are going to be easier to make, as long as you want them to look the way that Google intends. Grant said his team at Tumblr put weeks of work into making their app Android L-ready, including lots of custom code.

“A lot more apps will have a similar look and feel,” he said.

“It’s bad in the sense that it’s creating a very homogenous application design atmosphere. I’m afraid that [developers] are not going to have as many unique options for things.”

“The good is that it provides some consistency in that [users]… will have a very pleasurable experience because everything will feel like it’s supposed to be there.”

From iOS to Wear and Glass, Grant doesn’t limit himself to Android apps for inspiration. The self-described member of “Team Android” uses an iPad at home take elements from the best iPad apps for his own purposes.

“[Apple] are pushing design boundaries all over the place. Clearly more than Android can because they have a more limited device set to support.”

Designing for the latest and greatest

As an Android-focused developer, Grant is acutely aware of the operating system’s flaws. He said that 30% of Tumblr’s users are using Kit-Kat or better, but many of its users are using outdated phones and tablets.

“It’s important to keep that in mind, as much as you want to design for the latest and greatest.”

But for Grant, the purpose isn’t to pick teams. It’s to deliver the best app for Tumblr’s Android users.

“At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with Android or iOS or any other platform, it has to do with making great experiences. That’s what all developers should strive for.”

That’s not to say he’s lost his Team Android membership card.

“If you’ve never considered developing for Android before, this probably is the best time ever to be an Android developer.”

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