Pixel 6 diary: Material You should act as inspiration for the next version of iOS

I’ve been using Google’s new flagship Pixel 6 phone for a little over a week now. It’s been quite a wild ride if I do say so myself. Like I said in my first entry, I’ve owned a handful of Pixels and other Android devices over the years. But the Pixel 6 continues to surprise me in delightful ways that other devices that run Google’s operating system haven’t before. In this entry I want to focus specifically on Material You, Google’s new design framework for allowing users to customize nearly every aspect of their Android experience.

Before I dive into Material You, I want to give a bit of background on Google’s design team for those who may not know. Google’s software design team is led by Matias Duarte, an industry vet who has been quietly responsible for some of the most profound user experience metaphors of the 21st century. Matias’ crowning achievement in my opinion, was webOS. Yes, that’s right Matias Duarte led the design of webOS, Palm’s last attempt to save itself from the iPhone.

Palm’s webOS introduced several important ideas that are widely seen across the industry now. The first is gestures. If you go back and watch the Palm Pre event from CES 2009, it becomes instantly clear where the modern phone gestures came from. webOS introduced a dedicated gesture area that now sort of lives on in the form of home indicators on iOS and Android. Matias’ webOS also introduced the card based metaphor for multitasking which is now utilized by nearly every single major operating system on the planet. webOS was also an extremely clean looking OS that felt modern and retro at the same time. It was the perfect blend of ideas, applying skeuomorphic ideas to flat surfaces.

Matias Duarte introduces the Palm Pre (TheNextWeb)

After Palm floundered with Apple veteran Jon Rubinstein naively believing in HP, Matias went to Google to run design. His first major company-wide idea was Material Design which was introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Material Design’s core was a digital material that acted like something you’d see in the real world. It was malleable and animated, but it was also easily customizable. The Google design team has iterated on Material Design over the past 7 years several times, but with Android 12 on Pixel 6 Google is making its boldest change to these ideas ever.

Material You is supposed to let users easily theme their entire device while still maintaining the things that make Android, Android. It doesn’t let users remove the main aspects of Google’s design language, but rather lets users implement their own take on it. All one has to do is pick a wallpaper that they love. From there, the Pixel launcher serves up a series of clever color palettes based on said wallpaper. Once you select one your apps, Home Screen, widgets, notifications, and more will all take on that color palette.