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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

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 2:28:29 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.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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