Google’s Design Chief Says iPhone’s UI is “Heavy and Burdensome”


In a recent interview with Wired UK, Google’s head of design Matías Duarte has described the iPhone as a “crystallizing moment” in the design of smartphone software. At the same time however, he said that no major innovations have happened in smartphone UI design since then and that the whole industry is still stuck with the original iPhone’s UI. “The idea of a tiny grid that you manually curate starts to feel very heavy and burdensome”, he said.

Material design

Duarte said that “Radically overhauling the design of our digital devices is no small task. Eight years on from the launch of the original iPhone we’re still using rows of apps and touchscreen rectangles. And many of the design conventions our smartphones and tablets rely on are more than 30 years old”. He continued that even the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4, praised by reviewers, are ‘basically laptops’. “I don’t think you could really call it a significant fading of the laptop. It’s a new blouse by the same name”.

Apple’s leap was a major one, pulling together ideas that had been “bouncing around” for some time. “It was almost like the industry knew some of the attributes that it wanted to have but it hadn’t quite gotten the package right yet.” Apple’s leap changed the direction of consumer electronics. But what will be next? “I get the sense that the answer you’re looking for is a particular product or a particular idea,” Duarte responds.

“Google has always had incredible design talent,” he says. “It just wasn’t organised or scaled in a way to utilise it. And culturally it had a hard time understanding how to work with design.”

You can read more about Duarte’s vision for the future of design at the source link.


  • einsteinbqat

    Great! A lot of beating about the bush, but nothing concrete. What does he propose?

  • SOB

    He is more than welcome to revolutionize the UI for the smartphone. For a change don’t wait for Apple to do it. Sheesh.

  • ShaBi

    So basically he’s saying:
    We acknowledge Apple’s design to be great, but feels that changes needs to be made so we don’t have to follow them no more, but we have no idea what we need to do, because with all the talent Google has, we are not very organized, and Apple hasn’t done anything new for us to try and modify yet.

  • johnnygoodface

    I agree with you guys, but you got to admit that a 2007 UI is kinda outdated… So Apple/Google: it’s time boys!

  • I think Apple should stick with what they’re doing. I don’t want to end up like Google where everything is in circles, and everything is a different colour with a large coloured banner at the top of every Google app wasting space.

    I’m by no means a Google hater, but one of the reasons I started shying away is the fact that as the years went on, my Nexus 6 had become a fisher price kids toy of UI. Red, green, orange, blue, purple bannerns. I like the uniform look Apple keeps and the simplicity.

  • Chrome262

    Well if anyone does come up with a complete new experience, please don’t stack it on the old, or piece it slowly over time so its such a buggy mess it takes countless updates to fix it, oh wait i should of just said Android.

  • Corrode

    I think the next focus will not be on UI, but on UX, i.e. your experience without even looking at a screen. This will be a big part of what the wearables of the future will be capable of, and not just watches.

  • Shameer Mulji

    People who say that are usually talking about the home screen of iOS. Beyond the home screen, iOS UI has changed a lot since 2007.

  • Tim

    I much prefer raw android’s ui. If I could find an android phone with the battery life and camera system on my 6S plus, I’d switch.

    Apple deserves credit for their OS, but I find it boring and restricted.