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Android tries to find visual identity through 'Material Design', borrowing from Microsoft

Since its inception, Windows Phone has had a bold visual design language defining the core experience of the OS. Initially called Metro, Modern design gets its influence from the work of Massimo Vignelli, who famously made the NYC Subway maps, and the school of Swiss Style started in the 1950's. At Microsoft, the lineage starts with Windows Media Center, up through the ill-fated Zune HD, finally spearheading the core design of Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.

Android though, has never had such luck. The UI has changed significantly since Android 1.0, often evolving around a very loose, almost ad-hoc set of principles. Things began to change once ex-Palm design head Matias Duarte joined the Android team back in 2010. Since then, we have seen attempts at a new language, notably the Roboto font for Android 4.0.

Now, in 2014, Android and Duarte are trying again to give definition to how Android looks across all its devices. Announced today during the Google I/O 2014 conference, the new UI is called 'Material Design.' And once again, it looks like its slipping down the Modern UI slope even further, despite Duarte's reproaches from 2011. Duarte famously criticized Microsoft's Modern design language calling it "airport lavatory signage" and "too starkly systematic."

The new UI is flatter looking and has all new geometric on screen buttons. In addition, app developers will be able to leverage the new UI across devices, which sounds analogous to Microsoft's Universal Apps initiative. Perhaps the one difference is the use of brighter pastel colors, but even the flat squares still look like something from Microsoft's playbook. Google is not alone, however, in this trend, as even Apple has moved towards a flatter, non-skeuomorphic look in iOS 7 and iOS 8.

Will Google and Android finally find their look in Android 'L'? It remains to be seen how well it is received by the masses, but there should be little doubt about who is leading this resurgent design trend. Watch the above video see Google's introduction to Material Design and let us know what you think below.

Source: Google Design, Android Central

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

419 Comments
  • I am going to have an awesome time showing this to my friends with androids
  • I would stereotype android users like that. It's not even a suitable stereotype.
  • Android friends..xD !! Hahaha
    Same here :D
  • Everybody is copying WP now....main reason we need to have stuff to make us unique and exclusive otherwise it'll just be a clone to others with nothing really to offer.
  • Hmm. That some problem. I wonder if Microsoft has it's own design copyright
  • You are correct. But I have said it a long long time ago, that mobile apps and usage can only be revolutionalized with metro LIVE tiles. You just wait until MSFT 3D gestures takes off, just hovering over a tile will be just amazing on what information can be decimated before you even lauch the app. Now iOS and Google who riduccled MSFT for their design choice are gradualling copying knwoing there is no way a STATIC BUTTON with rounded coreners can provide rich visual clues, or enriching information at a glance. The other MSFT design sale that will rock competition is the idea of all you truly need are 2 devices 1) Phone or Phablet 2) 2 in 1 PC You will not need a phone, tablet and a laptop The genius of this design is that you have an OS that runs native programs and tablet apps And you have a phone or phablet that truly sync with your light 2 in 1 (Its simply the future) What these 2 in 1 will do is make the ARM SOC non relevant for tablets because they can never have the grunt. When you see the design of surface 3 Pro with i5 and i7, It can only get better and not worse. I am betting by end of 2016 or mid 2017, an i7 hovering around 1pound weight for a 12inch 2 in 1 will be a thing of the past, I totally expect apps count argument against Windows to end by mid 2016.
  • Your post made my evening :)
  • You're not alone ;)
  • The sad part is that Google will pull it off, show it as their own..... And we will be left behind without our local apps and a low market share... :(
  • Don't worry man, now we have enough people to make sure they don't get the credit
  • Don't get your hopes up, people still think apple invented the wheel these days. Microsoft is great at developing stuff and has an amazing track record but they are absolutely the worst company I have ever seen when it comes to marketing them to the people that are actual buyers and influencers. Microsoft really needs to stop thinking like a bunch of techie nerds and start figuring out how to sell their smart and useful developments. It's not very hard even. Just translate a feature to how your target audience will see it and give it a memorable name. Like apple did with their high dpi screen they bought from LG.
  • ^this
  • Microsoft is pretty good at marketing to the corporate market, while struggling with the consumer market. Apple and Google are still struggling to with the corporate market, but are pretty good at marketing to the consumer market. All three are trying to improve on the market they are struggling with, without alienating the market they do have.
  • As long as Windows Phone is more profitable for developers than Android, they're going to keep coming over. Remember, that with less apps and lower "market share" Windows Phone Marketplace has been outselling Google Play when looking at revenue generated. Profits speak louder than market share, always will.
  • I remember when I first showed my Omnia 7 to my friends that thought iOS 5 was the pinnacle of design and they thought it was ridiculous. I knew I couldn't convince them, but I told them to just wait it out and they'd see that this was the future. Turns out I was right..   .and turns out I'm the only one that remembers..
  • Anyone else feel Google is turning into the WalMart of the tech industry?
  • Yup! I agree. Microsoft needs to improve on things like Xbox live integration with televisions cable,wearables,and keep their foot on the gas ⛽ whn it comes to new features and UI looks because apple and google are copying them while MS is still playing catch up with features
  • I feel like this is still pretty different from Metro.   Metro is all about typography and very digital graphic design.   Android's Material look is clearly based on construction paper stop motion. . 
  • +822
  • Wow man, you do not believe that, do you?
  • Sure I do.  And I'm working on a construction paper/origami inspired animation right now for another large tech company.   It's a good look, but Metro's very graphic design look and the evolving Google hand crafted look are pretty different.   It's like the difference between this:
    http://www.thisiscolossal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/love-2.jpg and this: http://blenderartists.org/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=313204&d=140... The google look is a form of Skeumorphism.  There are subtle drop shadows, things move over top of one another and the color pallete is quite pastel and 'crafty'.  It's trying to look like it's handmade and has depth.  The Metro look is very different, it's devoid of drop shadows and skeumorphism to the extreme.  As someone else pointed out "Google is South Park".   Following that Analogy "Microsoft is Strongbad". 
  • +520
  • "South Park UI"
  • +S5 Posted via the WPC App for Android!
  • I agree.
  • Yes, they have copied us... Too bad!! They are the market leader.. No one will know or care that they have copied... They will get the credit.. Same applied when Windows copied features from Mac OS.. We were the market leader and no one cared.. Too bad it happened now.. But, we need to move on and try to differentiate us further... We are the underdog now and need to work harder.. No time to waste energy on this.. Just part of the game!! Look forward...
  • What on,earth has windows copied features of mac
  • Now don't say that iPhone and Leopard OS were the original ideas of MS!!
  • You clearly didn't use Windows before Windows 95. Back when it was a different thing that didn't work just like the Macintosh Finder.
    Windows 3.x didn't even have a real desktop, bro.
  • May be I’m wrong, but this look more and more like the end of the road for us WP Fans.  I’m rocking a focus since 2010 and I’ve been reading wpcentral for about the same period. I fell in love with Metro when I got my Zune HD and loved it ever since.  I guess part of me wanted something different.  WP itself was a bit different from my Zune but the hubs IMO was a wonderful new idea.  Fast forward 2014 most of what made us unique is lost. We cave up so much.  I’m still waiting for something different that rumored 3D phone look promising. Still, after waiting so long for a phone to have everything I want and my favorite OS, well I guess I’m losing hope. I’m the one always wait no one is forcing me and I know it’s just a phone, but it’s also like rooting for your favorite soccer team. Now we have no more hubs, Office is everywhere, our xbox games well, I won’t go there, the music and video apps are a mess and now iOS and Android as a similar UI/UX. IMO 8.1 doesn’t bring enough to the table event with Cortana. Don’t want to rant, I know it’s probably just me, but I still can’t do something as simple as attach multiple word documents to an email using a “normal” process (add attach a file after I wrote my mail).  No I don’t want to go to the other two OSes but I wonder is it the beginning of the end or am I just overreacting? No one here seems to think so.
  • No... I'm with you completely. Its like owning the most beautiful car in the world... But the A/C only cranks to 80 degrees and the radio only has 5 stations. 4 years on WP and while much progress has been made, those improved features dont apply to me. I'm at the point where I have to seriously consider function over form. The other OS aren't perfect and have their issues too, but its coming down to the little things. But no rash decisions, I'll at least wait until 2015 before deciding to switch.
  • No. Trust yourself, we only lose if we want to. Don't ever want it!
  • I agree with you somewhat but I feel like the personal approach microsoft is taking to it's design decisions (actively seeking feedback and following through quite often, but not promptly)instills hope in me yet. I used to like android but I dislike it more due to buggy products (not Google's fault) and even more after Google snubbed WP users on their products and therefore refuse to use it anymore. I'm glad Microsoft is moving it's products over to the other platforms. It's almost like they are doing what Google did to them, release interesting, innovative products and slowly gain traction. Then hit your stride. Microsoft is slowly picking up steam. I honestly hope that they have not shown us everything about 8.1s final release. An even bigger update will put them in the spotlight. I'm said this before, smaller marketshare while working out the kinks is better than subjecting ALL of your users to growing pangs and turning them off permanently.    Anyways, I feel I'm rambling and should be in bed.
  • You mean 'copied' like Jobs being the original thief, and I quote his own words: “We have been ‘ShameLESS’ about stealing great ideas”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=CW0DUg63lqU Here, let me help you with a list of things copied by Apple, name and logo included. Panorama + Folders = Android Notification Bar = Maemo The name "Apple" = The Beatles Slide to Unlock = Neonode N1m Mouse GUI = Xerox Reject calls with SMS = Symbian iMaps = Google Maps (Opps) Fingerprint sensor (Cracked) = PCs (Safe) Multitasking = webOS Copy/paste = WinMobile Ping = Facebook, Twitter iPad = Samsung´s Photoframe iPad Mini = Dell Streak iPod = Creative Technology and Walkman ‘iPhone’ the name = Linksys’ iPhone® Original iPhone = Samsung’s S700 Mp3 Player iPhone 4 & 4S = LG’s Prada iPhone 5c = Lumia 620 Pinch to zoom = Samsung iMessage = BlackBerry Messenger iCloud = Dropbox + Onedrive iOS 7 = Windows Phone. Smartphone Optical Stabilization = Nokia Siri (Clippy) = Xiaoi Bot + Nuance App Store = Ubuntu Software Center Multitouch Smartphone = Bought another company Bigger Screen smartphone = Everybody else MacBook Air = HP’s Sojourn Macsafe = Asian Crockery Thunderbolt = Intel OSX, iOS = Unix Newton = Psion Series 3, HP 95LX Apple Logo = Genesis 1:6, 3:6 Aluminum = Cheapest Metal Plastic = ($$$ Reinforced Polymers) Security = Buy a new one...
  • iOS want even there name, they bought it from Cisco. It used to be internet OS (ios for short) This is the OS of all there business grade routers.
  • Are you an idiot? When the iPhone was first released, the OS was not even called iOS, it was called iPhone OS. Once Apple came out with the iPad and iPod Touch, they renamed it "iOS" since it was for various iDevices and not just a phone anymore. Seriously, either pay attention to tech or do your damn research...
  • Who cares when it changed you moron! The point is Apple did not come up with the name iOS, neither has Apple innovated really, they have always copied, bought out and sued the original creative people or companies. Even with the names, logos, etc.
  • Oh yeah! 
  • Google is so stupid. This does nothing but help adopt the Metro\ Modern UI much more quickly to the masses. Now the Metro UI isn't so different. You can only pilfer for so long Google. Do Apple and Google have any original thoughts between them?
  • Not so. This can go either way. This new design can also attract WP users to Android.
  • I think you're wrong. Once the UI issue is somewhat normalized, we still have tight integration and live tiles, XBOX Music, OneDrive, XBOX games, Zeiss Cameras, Cortana, Here Maps...
  • Tight integration with what? Name one single thing you can do better on WP than you can on Android. One.
  • Using Microsoft services.
  • One word: Skype
  • Get updates. Apply cold water directly to the burn.
  • LMAO
  • Type this message within seconds without any lag :P
     and have better security :P
  • And nobody cares :(
  • Xbox Music? You list that as if it is a good thing.
  • With a XBOX Music Pass I can find, stream, download, buy and synch all my music in one place, so yes it is a good thing.
  • You can also do that on Android with an Amazon Prime account, especially with their new Prime Music service.
  • Fantastic!
  • You can do all of that in Google Play All Access. Across 10 devices per account....
  • Kind of like Google Play Music, Google Drive, Google play Games, Google Now, Google Maps, Chrome Tab Pushing, Google Photos, Google Calendar, and Android Device Manager? Yeah, M$ is way better at integration.
  • I think the biggest problem is that Microsoft doesn't know how to advertise their awesome products. Whereas Giggle is an ad agency pitching their "me too" products just to sell ad space.
  • They Said Imitation Can Never Came Close To The Real One :v
  • They say if an imitator become better than the original they will become the real one. Thus the cycle.
  • Haha You and Me both!
  • Transparent was from Win7 (Aero?) now Metro, google stop ffs
    EDIT: but i've to say the music player at 0:34 looks sexy
    Xbox should borrow some of its UI
  • Nah, transparency started with aqua in OSX, nice try though
  • Actually Aero(transparency) started in Vista, which came before OSX.
  • The aqua design language was premiered in 2000, 2 years before XP and incorporated transparent elements.
  • Vista was the first to market, in 2005, with the transparency in a shipping OS though, OSX had it in a shipping OS with Leopard, in 2007.
  • No, vista was released in January 2007
  • I brought My Notebook With Vista 64 Homprem Preinstalled at 2006 Agust
  • OS X shipped in 2001, bro.
    Menus (not the menu bar,) inactive titlebars, dialog sheets, and the Dock were all transparent in 10.0. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X_10.0 You mention Leopard, that's 10.5, which was the first very major overhaul of Aqua. If anything, it reduced the amount of transparency.The menubar is about the only thing that's transparent now by default. Menus and sheets are kinda.
  • I had a 3rd party program on windows 95 which gave you new desktops, one was a 3d floating cube, and one was very much like Aero in vista, but a bit more so.
  • Aero came with Vista.
  • And vista came years after XP, did it not?
  • Just give it up
  • Why? He's right.
  • No no no may friend! Windows Vista stat with transparency. I just remember those slow beautiful moments when Windows Vista froze with no reason.
  • Lol, ok got it but thanks anyway i jumped from XP to 7 without trying Vista, so didn't know but i can't EDIT my past again
  • it just at the vista time. most hardware can't take the advantages of the software ._. still NP with my PC but it's hardware it's DAMN EXPENSIVE
  • Hey Microsoft fellas !! Lets sue Evil Google ;)
  • It's not as simple as that, I'm afraid.
  • Is your sarcastic meter off?
  • No ;)
  • Microsoft has hell lot of cash in their bag ;) so don't worry ;)
  • microsoft dont sue people for copying them, but they are happy, because someone copying them means other competitor was too afraid windows phone will rule the phone war, and start copy :)
  • If Google's not afraid of windowsphone, why have they refused to develop for it...
  • Because only idiots help the compition. 
  • Sorry mate, but you have no legal basis for that.
  • You can sue google all you want but more then likely, they will get away with the suit clean.
  • If fanboys were to be lawyers.
  • If there's a patent they can sue.
  • SkyDrive and Metro. Great names. Now OneDrive and Modern. LAAYME. So Microsoft can get sued because of 2 stupid things - names, but Microsoft can't sue cause of a design copy? Gay. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • Nice way to insult large numbers of people but the internet has never required a stupidity meter for use.  This assinine insistence on suing is just laughable and embarassing.   Ever here of use, licensing, and royalty agreements? Miss how much Microsoft makes off Android via its patents? Oh, to the alleged moderators and managers of this site, since when is the use of gay as an insult acceptable? Sadly no suprise given the stupidity of the post is on par with the incompetence of the managers.   
  • I'm sorry. It's just a thing I say due to the past. I remember when "gay" meant happy or silly. Being gay is not called being straight, otherwise being crooked. Maybe I was trying to say Microsoft was going in the wrong way? I never pointed out anyone and specifically tried to insult anyone. Sorry if I did. In fact, what you said was more offensive, but I don't really care. I'm laughing at this huge overreaction for 1 word, and I'm not embarrased.
  • You're gay? That's cool. Gay people are nice.
  • Yes they are.
  • As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...
  • This ^^^
  • Give this man a cookie
  • +1540
  • I thought that was mutilation....
  • I think we all owe Microsoft an apology when we said this metro UI was a shitty idea
  • who said that?...i bought a WP for the very same reason
  • I mean I love metro, but you're confused if you think it didn't get a lot of negative press.
  • Lots of people derided it when announced at MWC back in 2010. Even later, people called it 'boring' and too flat. It wasn't until about 2 years ago design trends began to change, following Microsoft's lead.
  • well, it's human to criticize the different from the norm, i guess.
  • It's a human character flaw if anything.
  • The sad part, MS will get kittle to no credit while the others receive praise for walking behind MS's footsteps.
  • A ton of people.  The metro design isnt a problem, it becomes a problem for those that use PCs for work.  Doubtful any enterprise would use win8 due to the metro design.    This is why the metro should of been for tablets/phones only.  Then the traditional desktop for productivity.  Combining the two caused confusion. 
  • true, metro doesn't work well for PCs
  • Disagree. PC version works just fine. It's knowing how to use it.
  • It's not even that, it's just shutting the hell up and using it. Stop crying because something *looks* different.
  • i use W8 on my PC too, but from the functionality point of view its not that great on a PC
  • I think you are forgeting that Metro is a design language and principal, it's not exclusive to the Start Screen. There is no reason why a flat, clean UI couldn't work on Desktop. The main reason people are gripping about it is because they took away existing UI features like the start menu. Whether it's flat, clean, typographic, etc. is not the issue.
  • a flat clean UI will work on a desktop no doubt but W8 is something optimized for touch more than a mouse, and touch on PC or even a laptop ain't that great of an experience.
    p.s. i use W8 on my PC :P
  • To some extent yes, but I think the "W8 not optimized for mouse" statement is way overstated. It's not like they completely destroyed mouse usability with Windows 8. I use Windows 8 on both my Desktop and my Laptop with no problem. I do both design and development work and I have found Windows 8 speeds up my work flow compared to when I use Windows 7 at work. I think the main issue is it was too much change too fast. It's not that it's not mouse friendly, it's that it's different and people can't handle that. BTW, my laptop is touch, and I use the touch screen for about 40-50% of my interation. It's so more intuitive and direct that it just naturally happens.
  • Same here, coming from a lenovo x200t with windows 7 to lenovo helix with windows 8, my workflow has improved and I'm touching the screen quite regularly too.  Very natural.
  • that's what, u moved from a W8 laptop with touch from W7 so u appreciate the changes in W8 but most PCs & laptops are non touch so for people like me its somewhat impractical
  • Well if you want to go way back, I started with windows using Windows 2.0.  I'm very much a natural mouse user.  By the time I was a few years into Windows XP, I knew I wanted to interface with the screen. My first tablet PC was a Toshiba Portege M200.  On Windows XP Tablet edition.  That failed for me hahaha, I had to force myself just to use the tablet part and it just wasn't any good.  I only used it to occasionally mark up documents, presenations, (of which people absolutely HATED) and screen shots.  Marking up screen shots was awesome but that was about it.  One note was too much effort at the time. Windows 7 still didn't bring enough to the table but MS was trying!   Since windows xp tablet edtion to windows 7, it was about hand writing recognition.  But honestly, I can't hand write worth anything. Windows 8, ahhhhhhh... (both RT and PRO).  It's not really about handwriting, most of us lost that art.  It's about typing on screen better.  However, I am finding stability issues while doing comined modern ui app activity with desktop activity but that's a different topic.  I like the expansion of the start menu to the start screen.  You can do the same in windows 7 start menu and more in the windows 8 start screen. So yea, I guess I wanted touch interface quite a long time ago but to me, it just made sense and I'm not lost with either touch or mouse.  The 8.1 made pretty much everything super mouse compatible.  Just a little bit of a open mind to the idea is all that's needed.
  • since I don't have a touch PC i won't say anything further:P
  • I don't understand the argument that Windows 8 is horribly suited for use with a mouse but perfect for touch. I have the easiest time using it with my mouse, but when trying to use it with a trackpad which uses "touch" mind you, it is difficult to close an application by swiping unless using another hand to hold down a button and then swiping. It is far easier to use one hand with a mouse and drag down to close the application.   Also, turn up the sensitivity on your mouse and it hardly takes a flick of the wrist to move from corner to corner. Why did everyone's mice stop working once the option for a touch based interface appeared? I think it suits both quite nicely.
  • i never said its horrible, but compared to touch it ain't so good
  • The metro UI is only applicable for some use cases so far. The application landscape will need to change drastically for it to be enjoyable to people from all walks. The most avid tech followers, who also happen to be programmers obviously do not see value in metro due to the nature of their work. For example, my company will not move to W8 simply because the metro UI is simply a hassle due to the kind of applications and work we do. On the other hand, my wife's company is plenty happy with their W8 transition. They are in the medical field and the applications they use are optimized for metro.  Simply put, Windows has a VAST application ecosystem and to allow metro to be usable by all will take a lot more time. My guess is at-least 5~8 more years before it becomes the norm for interaction for 70+% of applications.
  • yes, i agree. one big reason is the slow adoption of touch PCs / laptops
  • After using my Surface Pro, I routinely find myself instinctively reaching up to touch my monitor when I'm using my Win 8 desktop. Unfortunately, it's not a touch screen... :P
  • try to understand, im not saying it won't work with a mouse, just saying it works better with touch
  • the thing is what Microsoft added to W8 was mostly based on touch but touch PCs/Laptops don't have much market. So when W8 came out people found it hard to tell the difference between W7 & W8. hence the criticism and like u said it was too much of a change to handle
  • You know what I really hated?  Going from windows 98 to XP and that colourful crap. I don't know why but I seemed lost forever and kept the 'classic' theme forever.  Maybe that's what got me to stop resisting change so much there after.
  • lol...nostalgia :P
  • I feel old ;(
  • Same. I even imagined having a phone with merro UI since my phone still a nokia feature phone
  • I also bought the lumia for its live tile and lock screen style
  • Me three
  • Me, four.
  • Erm, that's why I got a WP? :-/
  • Well sucks for them. I knew from the moment I saw it that it will affect the design of everything else.
  • I liked the metro UI and I still do.
  • I have always felt Microsoft has been ahead of its time.
    So many things they give are AWESOME but people just get it after a while..
    Live tiles..interactive tiles..metro style. Just soo many things more..
  • and you still see web com