Is Material Design the Death Blow for Apple?

This is a subject that has been argued across multiple blogs. Apple was the long-reigning champ of usable designs and clean lines. The ease of use, the consistency across devices, the distinct look—all of these things made it possible for Apple products to stay the “go to” products for people who valued convenience over cost. The Apple team understood that people would rather have simpler products with less functionality if they were fail proof, easy to use, attractive and clean, and packaged correctly. This model presented and alternative to the buggy, overly eclectic world of Microsoft and Android. When someone purchased an Apple product or download it from the Apple store they had faith in what they were getting and knew intrinsically that whatever it was they were purchasing it would be easy to use, would look like other Apple products so they wouldn’t have to relearn the functionality, and it would be bug free. This was how Apple stayed on top in spite of costs that were sometimes triple that of other products. For years Google has been the most popular search engine, without any of its products having a large fan base. People used Gmail, but were more often to use their MAC mail if they had it because it was easier to use. That all changed recently. Google’s Material Design push has created an opening in the market and has given Apple a real competitor for the first time in years.

©Image by Prithviraj Singh Hada

Meticulous detail, clean lines, and consistency used to be the Apple wheelhouse, but not so much anymore. Google has entered the picture. Material Design is Google’s new design language that they have pushed hard to have applied across every type of hardware outlet from laptops and desktops to phones and tablets. Material Design like Apple before it has created a consistency for non iOS ware that rivals that of Apple. The applications look better, are easier to use, have consistent functionality and usability, and people who use the applications, whether they realize why or not where the changes have come from, are impressed by the changes. Compare the 2012 Android to that of 2015 and you can see right away the value of the changes to the over all look and feel. Android 5.0 Lollipop utilize the “flat” graphical interface so popular with users, incorporating bold, bright colors with only the most subtle of shading which, on screen, looks like it is a physical entity rather than just a bunch of code and pixels.Users love this look. Even more than the users, designers and developers like the new rules and language thus ensuring that this trend will overtake that of the new incremental changes coming out of Apple. This year’s Apple design conference doesn’t seem to promise any radical changes to the iOS 9, so it is hard to believe that the company has realized or has caught up enough to overtake the Google engine anytime soon.

©Image by Prithviraj Singh Hada

While the Material Design trend is a welcome change, many at Google felt it was long overdue. For years, Google’s emphasis was on speed and data over look and feel. Usability had more to do with what colors the human eye responded to than a real user-experience methodology. Over the years Google lost many excellent designers, and it wasn’t until Larry Page was brought on as Google’s CEO that things really began happening. Page understood that if Google didn’t make its mark and soon, it would lose the war with Apple as being the single most valuable tech company in history. While many would argue that Microsoft had that distinction, they were arguing it from a 2000 perspective. The advent of Smart Phone and Tablets blew away the PC generation, and to stay at the top Google needed to make a radical “Crazy Ivan.”


Developers were given the power to lead and make necessary changes. They drove the language and the design with the user and his or her experience in mind. It is safe to say that “Apple” was probably the subject of many design meetings and reverse engineering discussions based only on the earliest changes to the Google apps. However, what their design teams created goes far beyond copying Apple and pushes towards reinventing the dialogue.

Google’s Material Design team was given free reign to explore and place the end user’s experience over that of speed. They were allowed to play with ideas like drawing emojis to create a “different”, more organic user experience of expression. These types of things would have been off Google’s radar five years ago, but today they understand that it make a difference to the new tech user. The modern user is already jaded. They have speed, so they don’t worry about the extra millisecond. They aren’t dazzled by a million options that their eyes can’t focus on. They want white space, colors, and ease of use. The modern tablets users want “Ikea” not “Baroque”.


Already, those apps using Material Design are trending and Android is winning the war against the iOS with Google at it’s side. Companies like Samsung are coming out with better and faster phones with more bling and with the new Material Design apps they are making the Apple loyalists rethink their brand. This will not happen overnight. Apple won the culture war as being the “hipster” brand, the San Francisco -Silicon Valley darling. Not only did they do what they do best for long enough to establish reliability and trust, their product placement certainly helped to brand them as the chic product to have. The switch, therefore, will not happen overnight. However, as more and more people move to the Android and share their phones and gadgets Google may just peck away at the core Apple loyalists—especially if Apple continues on the same path of attempting to sell a new phone every seven months with limited changes and lack of dazzle.

Only time will tell with Apple if it has any tricks left up its sleeve. The new CEO is popular for being a social advocate but he doesn’t seem to have Jobs’ leadership skills or charisma when it comes to technology and innovation. It could be that Apple has had closed doors and has been developing something really radical, but based on past trends and “word on the street” this doesn’t seem to be the case. They have a brand and are sticking with it. Google, on the other hand, seems to be re-energized and on an upward tilt of brand management. Innovation has come to Google and designers are now as respected as engineers. This could be the beginning of a rebranding of Google beyond being “The Search Engine” to becoming the company that brought AI to handhelds.



#materialdesign #Apple #Google #Android #development #trends #technology #apps #applications #design

12 responses on “Is Material Design the Death Blow for Apple?

  1. Chris P.

    And people complain that websites and apps are starting to look to similar to one another–isn’t this just another attempt at restraining creativity? Is this even new? I think it looks like s*** personally from the examples provided. I honestly don’t see this as a NEW thing. Valiant effort from not only Google, but every other tech media outlet to pump the f*** out of it as being new though.

    1. Carl

      That’s true. Material design may be a benefit for poor designer but for creative people it’s a big step backwards. Every material page looks the same – I start hating it more and more.
      It is bootstrap 2.0 but not a revolution or something like this. Material design is just the current trend of user interfaces like many others before. It will not the “perfect” ux or something like this and it will not be a noticable problem for companies like apple if they didn’t copy the interface design language of google.

  2. Darryl Snow

    Is hyperbole the new exaggeration?

  3. Mils

    Not sure what you wanna say with this article. Google/android is already in the lead. Not regarding the hype, but when it comes to sales. Which in the end is all that matters.

    Apple won’t die, they will most-likely become smaller then what they are today, since more and more people finding Apple’s product overhyped. Android starting to give out good devices with a good operating-system to a fair price. (And now the hype?)

    Maybe I could say that Google rule this world; but I can definitely say that they WILL rule this world. Not (only) due to devices and cool gadgets but mainly due to personal data they are collecting, constantly.

    Design, it´s important, sure… It´s like a language that people is getting comfortable to speak. Apple gave it a punch, Google goes for the knockout.

    But still, apple won’t disappear, just step down a notch but with their capital they will come back. This time hopefully not with hype as their main foundation.

  4. WPW

    Is Material Design a deathblow to Apple? No. But it is a paradigm shift in design. However, because of material design, Android finally has a counter to the considered user approach Apple has been dominant over for a long time now. Apple will eventually find out that being cool and hip does expire at some point and they’ll be faced with adapting/innovating in a new way. The real question is, do they have another Jobs-esque visionary up their sleeve? I haven’t seen one yet, but time will tell.

    That being said, same goes for Google. This is a monumental step for them, great design really unshackles engineers to be able to create without having to worry about figuring out how to package it. Can they carry this forward and remember that design is far more important than they’ve previously given credit.

  5. Lawrence

    Design was never the main issue with Android, fragmentation was. From a user standpoint it is frustrating to find that the app you really needed to run didn’t work with your vendor’s flavor of the OS. From a development perspective one can develop for Apple in one cycle and for Android in several (straight, and one each for various flavors like Samsung). Because of this bang for the buck as a user and as a designer/developer would actually seem to go to Apple. Google does not need design to make money anyway. Between the data mining for the NSA and killer robot development for the DOD they are set as opposed to Apple whose privacy policies are giving Uncle Sam the finger.

  6. I’m not convinced the Material Design is all that great just yet to be honest as I often find myself not being able to find things on Google-branded web pages and, ironically, having to ‘Google’ the process of doing something (like changing a vanity URL for example) so I feel it still needs a lot of work. And although it’s heralded as being one that will always evolve and never be out of (or in) fashion, no doubt another interestingly named design language will come out that we’ll all usher towards and forget about it.

  7. Joseph

    Material Design has been great for Google. No doubt. Every 3rd party company’s app designed with this styling looks like Google itself developed it. Any company wanting to distinguish itself from Google will be using an alternative UI styling.

    1. Craig Michael Patrick

      I’m trying to better understand what you’re saying with the comment, “Any company wanting to distinguish itself from Google will be using an alternative UI styling.“ — can you clarify that? It sounds like you’re saying something like “Any toothpaste company wanting to distinguish itself from Crest has to have a different taste.”

      Well … yeah. Of course. You’re don’t seem to be really saying anything there.

      As I see it, Material Design is a good thing for Apple, but it seems to have a long way to go in a “seeing the forest from the trees” sort of way. Apple is all about design in the larger context. Not just visual appeal or even usability, but details. Design, to Apple, is the approach to engineering, unifying both software and hardware engineering into a near-seamless usable entity.

      Take a look at the Apple image in the middle of the article. The square isn’t absolute and as a result, either opposing blue corner is just over 30 pixels away from the opposing side. The Apple logo itself is positioned just over 230 pixels from the left purple edge of the square and 200 pixels from the right. That image is just all over the place. And for what it’s worth, I’m not trying to be smarmy here, I’m genuinely trying to share why designers more so often choose Apple products.

      Details. It’s all about the details.

      Material Design is only one facet of Google’s design conundrum. But to properly attack it, Google needs to be able to discern the trees from the forest.

  8. Some people in the comments clearly don’t get Material Design, it’s not just about how it looks, its more than that. The author makes a good point in that Android/Google design was never consistent, but Apple was so yes this does signify a design shift pattern that brings Google more in line with Apple design wise but that’s about where it ends sadly. Android has a huge issue of fragmentation and no amount of fancy UI/UX is going to change that. Those who want something that *just works* will always prefer Apple and defend their choice of Apple to the death.

  9. Apple’s consistency isnt limited to design. When it comes to features, all Apple products ressemble one another. Google products before has undergone numerous changes, and most of them are adding more things to learn. With Material Design, Google indeed made its own personality. Not because it wants to be like Apple, but it wants to be different. It wants to be known.

    Wanting more apps to be designed with Material Design, and releasing Material Design for web designers to use, Google wants us to spread Google’s big name.

    As soon as someone knows that a website’s web design looks similar to what they see on Google apps, it’ll remind them of Google even if it isn’t present. Material Design is Google’s way to spread its brand name across all digital platforms. So the more people use Material Design on their site/apps, the more people will use and remember Google.

    Google can’t, and won’t beat Apple’s simplicity anytime soon. That is the reason why it’s approaching Apple in a place where it lacks: online influence.

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