Google Will Improve User Experience For iPhone Users
Isadora Teich wrote this article
Google is making some big changes to improve the overall experience for those who access their apps on Apple products.
Let’s take a look.
Google’s Approach to iOS
Overall, Google has never exactly thrown iPhone users under the bus when it came to their apps and services. Apple users could still access them.
However, despite the access, there was still some room for improvement when it came to how these apps would function on iPhones. It was always obvious that these apps did not quite fit in with all of the other apps. They did not look quite right and could be awkward to use.
Google is now working to fill this gap. According to Jeff Verkoeyen, staff engineering lead for Google Design:
This evolution of how we approach design for Apple platforms has enabled us to marry the best of UIKit with the highlights of Google’s design language.
The result? Many custom components simply aren’t needed anymore. And the ones that are, they now get more attention and focus.
— Jeff Verkoeyen (@featherless) October 7, 2021
He says that they are able to create an incredibly streamlined branded experience with minimal code.
Google Is Retiring Material Design In iOS
These changes are occurring because Google has decided to phase out its own material design and use Apple’s UIKit instead. According to Verkoeyen:
“The time we’re saving not building custom code is now invested in the long tail of UX details that really make products feel great on Apple platforms.”
So, what exactly is Google’s Material Design? Initially unveiled in 2014, it is a set of design principles and conventions that Google developed for itself to try and streamline and maintain consistency in how Google’s apps appear across different platforms.
Over time, these became incompatible with iOS platforms, as both companies were developing and changing year after year.
The Response So Far
Apple charges premium prices. A big part of the reason they are able to do so is that they provide a seamless user experience that many people prefer.
Apple as a corporation is often the subject of controversy, backlash, and legal issues. However, they know how to make products that are intuitive and easy to use.
Google, on the other hand, is often criticized for its lacking or less intuitive platform design. Most of the discussion online in tech circles around this change seems to be along the lines of this comment:
“Well, hallelujah. Google sucks at UI design, but this should help.”
Essentially, Google made some design choices that were quite unpopular with many users. When iOS users would open Google apps on their devices, the apps would not look or function like other apps on iOS.
Likely, Google was trying to maintain its branding and identity to an extent by doing this. They had all of the switches, banners, and other buttons in their iOS apps rely on their Android-based Material Design language.
As such, they did not act like iOS apps. Apple users widely found this jarring and inconvenient.
Google Moves Fast After A Decade Of Material Design
They have been quick to update their apps so they work optimally with the new iOS 15. For example, their apps will work with Apple’s new Focus mode.
Focus Mode is a new feature that allows iPhone users to control how they get notifications, when they get them, and from which people or apps. If you want to learn more about what you can do with Focus, check out our blog post on how Apple is trying to take on notification fatigue.
Google says that users who have enabled Focus Mode will get some notifications still, but not others.
Integration With Focus Mode
So, what kind of changes will users see exactly? Many of Google’s most popular apps will now work with Focus mode. This includes apps like Google Maps, Gmail, Tasks, and Meet.
Google says they have changed the way they will deliver notifications, so users get the most timely and important ones immediately, but not all of them. For example, Google Maps will still send users timely notifications when they are trying to navigate to a destination.
Good News For iPad Users Too
iPad users will get to enjoy some new and improved widgets. New Google Photos and YouTube Music widgets will take advantage of the extra screen space which iPads offer.
Google Drive and YouTube music will have new spotlight integrations as well. This will enable users to search directly for specific files and seamlessly play songs in Google’s streaming service.
Is Google Taking On Apple?
At the end of September, Google released a very interesting blog post that has received some strong responses. The post, entitled “Bring The Best of Google To Your iPhone 13,” very lightly encourages iOS users to replace almost all native Apps with the Google equivalents.
It also encourages users to ditch Safari for Google Chrome.
The Criticism of Google
This received feedback from both iOS and Android users. Some Android users feel that Google is giving preferential treatment to iOS users, who do not want to use their apps in the first place.
After all, if people preferred the apps and user experience of Android, they would just buy those products.
Some have questions about how much sense this really makes.
Understanding Why Users Choose Apple Is Critical
There are a few big reasons that consumers choose Apple products. One is that they are a status symbol. Another is that people genuinely prefer the user experience that they offer.
If someone is buying an iPhone to prove their high status, why would they jam it full of Android apps, which do not contain that luxury brand element?
Also, an idea I have seen repeated again and again is that people choose Apple products specifically to avoid the design and user experience pitfalls of Google.
If someone chooses an iPhone because they like how it and all of its apps work better, it is very unlikely that they will ever fill their iPhone with Android apps instead.
Ultimately, this is good news for iOS users. Even so, it is very unlikely that all iOS users will ditch all of their basic apps for the Google equivalents.
However, there is almost no downside to iOS users being able to use almost universal basics like Gmail and Google Maps more smoothly.
What do you think? Are you an iOS user who found Google apps unwieldy before? Where do you stand on the Apple vs Google debate?
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