For almost a decade now, Google’s suite of apps for iOS and iPadOS used customized user interfaces based on Material Design guidelines to mimic the Android user experience. Now, Google has announced it will switch to using Apple’s design language. Read on to see why Google had a change of heart.
Google’s suite of apps comprising Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, Google Drive, and YouTube has relied on the Material Design guidelines since 2012, even on iOS. This has helped the parent company for these apps unify software design across the applications and the platforms (desktop, mobile, and the web) they were used on. In early 2021, Google’s design team “began a deep evaluation” of what it meant to build a typical Google experience on Apple platforms and the components needed to achieve this.
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
In the above tweet thread by the staff engineering lead for Google, Jeff Verkoeyen, it is clear that Google’s team was finding it challenging to bridge the design language gap across platforms. This was accentuated by the fact that Google’s iOS components were “slowly drifting further and further (away) from Apple platform fundamentals” as the latter evolved every year.
For iOS users, this meant that Google’s suite of apps delivered a jarring experience that was inconsistent with the rest of Apple’s user experience. Google believes that from iOS 14 onwards, UIKit has improved sufficiently and it can be used widely.
Going forward, iPhone users can expect to see fewer custom components in Google apps with the switches, bars, controls, lists, and menus changing to sync with Apple’s design. As a result, the Google app suite on iOS and iPadOS should feel more like native apps.
Verkoeyen remarked that the apps will be quintessentially Google and continue to highlight the company’s design language while being mated to “the best of UIKit.” This will “really make products feel great on Apple platforms,” Verkoeyen added. Not to mention, Google is hiring designers for its Apple development team amid this change.