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  (Source: Android Police)
Android is looking to follow in Windows Phone's footsteps with new update

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and virtually every major phone operating system maker has been accused of imitating popular looks or features from the others' platforms over the last several years.
 
It's hard to deny that the market is shifting from the skeuomorphic (3D/gemlike) look that Apple, Inc. (AAPL) championed with the 2007 launch of the iPhone to the flat poster style icons championed by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) with the 2010 launch of Windows Phone.

iPhone to Windows Phone

Google Inc. (GOOG) was perhaps the first to pay homage to Microsoft's design shift, when it turned its web app icons -- including Chrome from skeuomorphic designs to flat designs.  Google's flattening has been ongoing from 2011 to as recently as last year, when it comes to its web apps.  Google Chrome was one of the first icons to go flat, getting posterized back in March 2011.  

Chrome new icon

This trend continued through till last August when YouTube got a new flat icon.

YouTube Icon update 2013

These icons weren't quite as flat as Microsoft's though, as they had hard shadows behind prominent design elements.  Google's flattening paradigm is described under its "Visual Asset Guidelines" documentation on Behance.net.

Google was not alone.  Apple too, parroted Microsoft's design direction with iOS 7 (which could also be viewed to a lesser extent as derivative of Google's flattened web icon look); a release that was rather controversial and which some Apple fans still refuse to embrace.

Apple iOS 7 flattening

But Google has yet to make the move to flatter icons on the mobile end.  Its core app icons in Android are still relatively skeuomorphic, with interior gradients, shines, and other chracteristic stylings.  Android Police has gotten its hands on a reportedly leaked set of Android icons for an update dubbed "Project Moonshine", which ports Android's icons towards the web-icons.

Android Moonshine

The same icons have popped up on a Google Partners Page, lending credence that they are indeed authentic, although its unknown whether the claim that they are coming to Android is the real deal as well.

Android Moonshine

One of the users has posted a version of the icons that can be seen below without the backing.

Android Moonshine

If accurate, this will mean that both Google and Apple will now have followed in Microsoft's lines in adopting flatter design cues.  Given the controversy surrounding iOS 7, we're guessing that Android fans will have mixed feelings regarding the shift in design direction.

Sources: Android Police, Google Partners Page, Imgur



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RE: No No No No NO
By atechfan on 4/16/2014 2:10:52 PM , Rating: 3
Side effect of the move to mobile. There is less GPU power available so UIs are getting de-blingafied. I prefer it myself. I'm not a big fan of gloss and transparency in a UI. But that is subjective and should be among options.

I don't see how this is copying MS though. Unless Google goes for a tiled look, which there is no evidence of them doing, I see nothing Metro-like there. Flattening the look is just a tiny bit of what makes Metro what it is. I can see the Metro influence in Samsung's Magazine UI, but this is just the pre-Vista normal icons that everyone used to use.


RE: No No No No NO
By SAN-Man on 4/16/2014 2:13:47 PM , Rating: 2
It's not pre-Vista.

Windows has had 3D icons since Windows 95. The web has a whole hasn't had a flat look since the late 1990s, neither has most desktop software. This isn't just mobile - it's everywhere - and looks like sh!t.

The GPU power argument is silly. Current phones/mobile devices are able to render the current 3D style icons without a problem and the phones are only getting more powerful.


RE: No No No No NO
By atechfan on 4/16/2014 2:28:29 PM , Rating: 1
Android also has to run on $50 devices to maintain its market in 3d world countries. I think Google is looking more to what works well on low end and not just what flagship phones can do. But, it should still be an option to enable the bling, just like Aero Glass should still be an option in Windows 8.


RE: No No No No NO
By Gondor on 4/16/2014 3:06:21 PM , Rating: 4
Please spare us your "wisdom".

Any phone running Android has a GPU that is perfectly capable of performing all the bitblt rasterops needed for manipulation of 2D interface elements (which is what those icons are, no matter whether the bitmaps are rendered with a shade, 3D look or whatever).

If they didn't, you'd actually see the CPU pushing pixels around one by one instead of GPU performing the task for it.


RE: No No No No NO
By Reclaimer77 on 4/16/2014 4:05:20 PM , Rating: 3
I can't believe these people think icons impact GPU performance. When even the bottom end phone today can decode video in real time, and bitstream vids from the web. Not to mention play Angry Birds just fine, which I assure you uses several orders of magnitude more GPU power than rendering icons.

Maybe the argument could be made for Widgets. But the article didn't even address if there will be a new look for Widgets. I would be more interested in that than the app icons.


RE: No No No No NO
By inighthawki on 4/16/2014 4:31:26 PM , Rating: 1
Well there is definitely a push towards simpler interfaces, one of the reasons is GPU power and battery. Obviously the complexity of a bitmap will not change the processing power required to render said bitmap, but too much complexity on an otherwise flat interface with mostly solid colors can look really out of place. I think in this case it's really a matter of making things match with their design guidelines, and those guidelines may themselves define a style based on performance.


RE: No No No No NO
By Solandri on 4/16/2014 5:34:43 PM , Rating: 3
When you code a windowing UI, you have to manage virtual memory windows and viewports, and bitblt the window from RAM to display memory every time it's moved. Having the CPU do it is wasteful of CPU power, and wastes memory bandwidth between system RAM and display memory.

As it turns out, everything the GPU does is managing virtual memory windows, viewports, and bitblt functions. The GPU is a piece of hardware specifically designed to do this stuff. The window's contents can just be a "texture" mapped onto a flat rectangle. Consequently it actually takes less power to have the GPU manage this stuff than to try to simplify the UI so you can run it all on the CPU. Its the reason we moved drawing the mouse cursor over to the GPU in the 1980s (the "hardware mouse"). Since the mouse cursor overlaps the window, moving it involves multiple rapid window redraws which were incredibly taxing if the CPU did it. But make the GPU do it and it's easy.

The GPU only takes more power if you throw other fancy stuff like transparency, rotating the window in 3D, stretching it, etc.


RE: No No No No NO
By inighthawki on 4/16/2014 6:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'm super confused. Did you read the same thing I wrote? When did I ever suggest that the work should/is done on the CPU?

Maybe you are also overestimating the power of many of these mobile devices, but rendering even basic UIs on modern platforms with high resolution devices can be expensive. You must re-render all dirty regions, and overdraw is unavoidable. OSs these days try to do what they can to minimize the costs. Flat UI is often more simplistic and requires fewer texture resources (which translates to fewer texture samples, less bandwidth requirements). Like I stated above, the complexity of the bitmap itself makes no difference (assuming the same size and pixel format), but the rest of the UI can be designed in a way to minimize the amount of drawing.

Also these ARM devices typically do not have display memory or VRAM of any kind. Resources are stored in system memory and mapped to the GPU. Same way integrated graphics works on the desktop.


RE: No No No No NO
By atechfan on 4/17/2014 8:17:11 AM , Rating: 2
It isn't just the icons. UIs, as a whole, are going "flatter". If they flatten everything else and not the icons, they might look out of place. The icons themselves don't make any difference, but the transparencies on menus, animated effects, etc. do. Not just in terms of GPU power, but in battery life too. Sure, the GPU can handle it easily, but uses more power doing so. Battery life is one of the primary focuses in mobile now. Even seemingly insignificant changes add up when put together. I doubt Google is just doing this to follow some design trend.

Besides, if people don't like it, I am sure within days there will be icon packages to return the former look, just like there were start menu replacers and Aero Glass skins for Windows 8.


RE: No No No No NO
By Piiman on 4/19/2014 10:36:47 AM , Rating: 2
"Android also has to run on $50 devices to maintain its market in 3d world countries"
LOL really you mean like these weak S3 or S4, which you can buy for 49.99 or get free? Yeah real third world there.


RE: No No No No NO
By hpglow on 4/16/2014 11:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The web has a whole hasn't had a flat look since the late 1990s
With the exception of the Arpanet and some universities the web didn't really exist until about 95'. It was as flat or as pseudo 3d as the designers wanted it to look. The main "flatness" of the older sites came from all the rookies with no graphic design exp. making the sites back then.

I agree with you for the most part on the GPU argument to a point. However, once you start to introduce transparencies, effects, and whatever else to the mobile desktop then you start to use GPU. Flat, colorful icons are just easier to read and in vogue right now what that is the direction everyone is heading.


RE: No No No No NO
By inighthawki on 4/16/2014 2:16:33 PM , Rating: 2
I still think these icons have more detail than much of Microsoft's new metro look. Most of the metro icons are typically solid white silhouettes with colored backgrounds. Thee are closer to actual icons, just slightly flatter. I'm indifferent on the changes. I don't really prefer the old nor the new ones. That youtube logo is hideous though.


RE: No No No No NO
By atechfan on 4/16/2014 2:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
The new maps logo is pretty bad too. Not sure what the point of removing the Google "g" was. Other than that, the rest of them look fine to me.


RE: No No No No NO
By Mitch101 on 4/16/2014 2:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yea tiles are nothing more than icons with a background color applied although now you can skin/transparent the bgcolor and put a picture in place but this doesn't appear to be metro. Metro is animated signs that were based on the signs like you see when your on the highway. Informational Icons/Tiles per se.

Both are functional interfaces that's all that counts. Seems they are going more monochromatic toward icons is all simplifying them probably improves visibility.


RE: No No No No NO
By ven1ger on 4/16/2014 2:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
I like the original look a lot better. But, totally agree with you that this should be available as options for the user to choose from. If the user feels likes the UI is too slow, they could go for a simpler look, otherwise, let the user have the bling if that is their preference.


RE: No No No No NO
By Reclaimer77 on 4/16/2014 4:21:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't see how this is copying MS though.


You have to look at who wrote the article.

It wasn't like he could just report on the icon change. Nope. He had to tie it into his precious Windows Phone somehow.

Since Windows Phone doesn't even use icons, but large Live Tiles, I honestly cannot fathom how he could claim this is mimicking Microsoft's design style.


RE: No No No No NO
By Alexvrb on 4/16/2014 11:55:33 PM , Rating: 2
Large? You can adjust the size of tiles and get them quite small. In fact, I'm pretty sure if you want to you can pack in more tiles on a WP 8.1 phone than you can icons on an Android phone. Perhaps this change is in preparation for packing icons closer together.

Err, or would that be Tilecons? Icotiles?


RE: No No No No NO
By Reclaimer77 on 4/17/2014 3:47:49 AM , Rating: 2
Umm I'm aware of that. However on average Live Tiles appear to be larger in size than Android icons, that's all I meant. No offense intended.


RE: No No No No NO
By atechfan on 4/17/2014 8:19:26 AM , Rating: 2
Basically, a tile is either an icon or a widget, depending on the app. Any tile that is larger tends to display info, rather then just being a launch button.


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