2014-04-15 14_01_06-Matias Duarte, Head of Android Design on the Death of Mobile — Our blog

At the recent Accel Design Conference, Google's head of design for Android, his holo-ness Matias Duarte, sat down for an interview with The Verge Editor-in-Chief Joshua Topolsky. The wide-ranging chat touched on how Duarte approaches design, some things he looks at when thinking about Android's UX, and the death of mobile. How's that for a teaser?

Duarte explains how design is a process for him, and how that figured into transitioning Android to a more user-friendly experience. The pair hit on the 'death of mobile' about half way through. That might sound like an odd thing for Duarte, head of Android design to say, but there's a point. Duarte thinks it's necessary for designers to stop designing for one device or another – he wants to see everything become responsive. So, stop making things just for mobile devices and make them work on everything – TVs, computers, wearables, phones, whatever. Maybe that's a more web-based approach combined with native platforms, but website-specific apps aren't part of Duarte's vision.

The chat moves into Google I/O and Android Wear at about 20 minutes, and we hear that design is going to be a bigger part of I/O this year. So, designers are encouraged to apply for tickets. Duarte also ties in his ideas about responsive design to Android Wear and Topolsky tries to pin him down about Wear announcements at I/O – Topolsky is shut down. They patch things up at the end with a conversation about flat design and why skeuomorphism is lame.

Sketch by Susan Lin

Anyone interested in design will want to sit down and give the video a thorough viewing. Even if you're only interested in design insofar as you need to argue with nerds on the internet, it's probably still worth a peek.

[Image via Susan Lin – Thanks, Alexander Reddicks]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    These two together... always awesome to watch, also nice t-shirt!

  • MatthewAHoff

    Anyone interested in design will want to sit down and give the video a thorough viewing. Even if you're only interested in design insofar as you need to argue with nerds on the internet, it's probably still worth a peek. http://s6x.it/l521

    • Alexander Reddicks

      There's a ton of other videos on the Accel blog site. Many people from sites such as Pinterest, etc. were there to all talk about design. Definitely going to have to check out the rest when I get more free time :)


    Tame choice of shirt for Matias.

  • Bluewall

    Also, nice shirt and suit.

    • Taylor00

      That is not a suit...

  • dandroid13

    "Be user-friendly, remove sdcards ASAP!"

  • Guillaume

    sound is really low ? or is it my crappy speakers ?

    • Bluewall

      Nope you're right !
      I never use max volume on my Macbook for this kind of video but this time it wasn't even enough !

      • Laurence

        Why not a Chromebook? Are you some kind of Apple shill?

        • invinciblegod

          So now that you namedropped a chromebook, are you a Google shill?

          If you wanted to be truly generic, you have to say computer (not laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet).

      • supremekizzle

        I like how you name-drop 'macbook'. Couldn't have just said 'laptop'?

        • Bluewall

          Don't get mad that easily bro.
          I had many, many laptops. And the Macbook is easily the loudest I've ever used.
          Would you say "my smartphone" or "My Nexus 5/Galaxy/HTC... whatever" ?

          Don't by hypocrite ;)

          • HotelQuebec

            No it's not. Someone on my dance team brought his MacBook to practice to play the music but it wasn't loud enough so I used a 2013 Galaxy Note 10.1.

          • Bluewall

            Laptop =/= tablet :p

          • ThereGoesTheJoke


          • andy_o

            How do you know which laptops he has used?

    • http://AndroidPolice.com/ Liam Spradlin

      Unusually quiet audio.

    • Alexander Reddicks

      Yea...I had to listen to it with my headphones to hear what they were saying, it's definitely not just you.

  • RTWright

    Matias Duarte is a moron!

    • Bluewall

      You. I don't like you.

  • supremekizzle

    How Jony Ive designs...

    • invinciblegod

      Uh, no. If anything, the flat fad started with windows phone. 7 didn't add that many features and most of the android like features (notification shade) came in 6. The multitasking menu was from webos.

      • markt9002

        Multitasking is also very similar to HTC sense.

        • invinciblegod

          Well that version of Sense came out after webos so...

    • Maxim∑

      Except Android and iOS 7 look nothing alike.

      And since I know you probably don't follow Apple, Jony Ive begins working with software with iOS 8 not 7. He was not directly involved with iOS 7 that was Apple's marketing/soft team, Apple went through some big executive changes since 2012 all the way to the senior engineer of software "resigning" 2 weeks ago

      But judging by the way you attack Jony Ive I assume you wish the Nexus team had a designer like him to do something more than a plastic block with a oversized circle on the back

      • supremekizzle

        You mad bruh? Don't be jelly that Android offers so much more freedom. Look at it this way... When auto makers want to implement an OS that can interact with the car an the driver; what do they use? When home appliance makers want an OS that can automate the home; what do they use? What OS works with Google glass, smart watches, stoves, fridges, home theater systems, cars, light bulbs, and just about any peice of silicon? Android baby. Android is going to be abso-fucking-lutely everywhere in another few years. Because android is open source and can run on a mere 512mb of RAM, it is available to the masses and can be implemented with just about anything. No proprietary software or hardware needed. Apple can't say the same about iOS. What can it do? That's right, run on I phones and iPads. Quite limited if you ask me...

        • HotelQuebec

          Don't forget cameras. And, speaking of low resources. Jelly Bean is running nicely on an old 512MB phone with Google Now. OK Google!

        • http://www.theveboy.com/ Mehdi

          I personally 'dislike' Apple, but what you are saying is about "openness" not "freedom", if Apple wasn't so fond of exclusivity I'm sure the team behind iOS development would have those devices in mind too. and apart from that, this flexibility of Android is because of the Linux kernel to be honest. Linux can be used everywhere ! from a military submarine to a rocket or just a watch.

      • shlk7

        I have yet to find evidence that his team did not participate in creating IOS7. Him, his team and Craig Federighi were all involved. I personally think he did a good job but that's beside the point. Am I to infer from your comment that you believe that one of the biggest visual overhaul was done by a "soft" team? That just seems ridiculous.

  • Alexander Reddicks

    I like how excited Joshua Topolsky got when they were talking about the fact that he was wearing an Android Wear prototype. It was seriously cracking me up.

  • ProductFRED

    *bows down*

  • Tomáš Petrík

    I believe there were some hints dropped for the future of Google's user experience (I am deliberately not saying just Android).

  • jamaall

    When he says death of mobile, I hope this includes those awful mobile websites, especially the ones that won't let you change to desktop. Why would I want a mobile version on a nexus 7 or especially a 10?

    • primalxconvoy

      I just wish site designers WOULD design a mobile site for most sites AND give users the choice at the top left hand part of their site

      • Brady

        "give users the choice at the top left hand part of their site"


  • Maranello Santiago

    Dumbing down of Android, AOS. Nice work, Duarte.

  • Justin Foster

    That BitSpin purchase is about to pay off and make Android gorgeous.

    • Brady

      the clock, timer, stopwatch, and alarm clock app will anyway...

      • Phil Oakley

        It's widely believed the Bitspin guys are using their skill in Android animations to make Android much, much smoother. The clock app won't be replaced by Timely (I doubt it will anyway, that's not Google's style).

  • Naga Sridhar

    Matias Duarte talks..Put everything else on Priority 1 to Priority 5..watch the whole show and feels glad I did it!!!

  • Joshua

    I'm glad Duarte's not satisfied, as he said at the end. Android is amazing now. It's come a long way from its first iteration (and from Froyo, where I was introduced to it). As awesome as it is, I can only dream about what Duarte has in his mind about its future. With Android Wear, smartwatches, smartglasses, and so on becoming more and more mainstream, the next couple years promise to be another amazing time for the mobile environment—and not a moment too soon. Recently, smartphones have pretty much leveled off, as there's only so much that can be changed about a 5" 1080p screen with a quad-core chip and so on. Hopefully, this new direction mobile is headed will bring some fresh, interesting things to read, write, and talk about.

    • whispy_snippet


  • http://tommydaniel.com Tommy Thompson

    His talk about Flat Designs makes me believe the icon redesign even more.

  • Rodney Baitwa

    The point about having the same experience on different screens.....being treated as one product. Isnt that a hint to project Hera? Seamless transition to another device.

    • Brady

      then countered by discussion regarding android wear

  • Taylor00

    I love how he laughed when Android TV was mentioned.

  • whispy_snippet

    No questions?!? I'd have killed someone to be at that discussion. What a waste!

  • Jonathan Zelayandia

    Oh look, a stupid "android>iOS/iOS>android" war.

  • bmg1001

    I love how Matias laughed when "the next version of Android", "Android TV" and "Flat Icons" were brought up. He was like "They Know Too Much."

  • godutch

    I always thought Matias had very large hand but that doesn't seem to be the case. I am still annoyed how he moved the menu and other controls from the bottom to the top, it's so much more awkward to reach on a phone with one hand

  • Kostas

    Project HERA hints all over the place in 14 minute...

  • henry

    Josh is a really good interviewer, he actually asked some good questions and didn't let Matias wriggle away when he was trying to squeeze out of a question.

  • Don Gemus

    Am I blind, or is the date nowhere to be found on these articles (except the url)