Android apps could soon look a lot more like their iOS counterparts

Igor Bonifacic

March 15, 2016 4:07pm

Bottom navigation bars, a design feature seen in many iOS apps, are now an official part of Google’s Material Design specifications.

The search giant updated its Material Design guidelines earlier today, noting “Bottom navigation bars make it easy to explore and switch between top-level views in a single tap.”

That said, we probably won’t see every single Android app adopt a bottom navigation bar. For apps that have three to five destinations users need to reach, Google suggests developers adopt the design feature.

However, for apps with either two or more than five top-level destinations, the company recommends sticking with the current tab approach many current Android apps adopt. In addition, the company recommends developers only use this feature with their smartphone apps, not any tablet programs they may support as well.

We’ve already seen a number of Google’s own first-party apps, including Photos and Google+, adopt add a bottom navigation bar to their own user interface, so it’s not exactly a surprise to see Google decided to address some of the design inconsistencies that mark its Material Design spec.

  • El Capitan Morgan

    Have to admit that iOS apps are more polish than Android apps. The only thing I hate about iOS is the back menu is on the top of the app. Although it doesn’t make any difference if you have iPhone 6s since you can just use the 3D touch to go back.

    • Brad Fortin

      I don’t think it uses 3D Touch to go back, just a swipe-from-the-left gesture (since 3D pressing with that gesture brings up the multitasker). There’s also Reachability to make it easier to reach.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      What was I talking about… I thought you need to press the screen to go back to the previous app?

    • Brad Fortin

      Yeah, hard swipe to go to the last app, gentle swipe to go back in a menu (instead of reaching for the Back button in the corner).

    • El Capitan Morgan

      That! thanks!

    • Brad Fortin

      The last one I mentioned, Reachability, can be used by gently touching/tapping the Home button twice.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      I am more comfortable using the screen than to use the home button.

  • deltatux

    So, Google is slowly turning Android into iOS? First the rumour that they’re abandoning the app drawer (which there are strong signs that’s the case as LG has removed the app drawer in the G5 and Samsung has released a new version of TouchWiz in the S7 that allows people to disable the app drawer) and now this?

    • OttoVonBismarck

      It basically confirms what most of us knew from the beginning. iOS apps are overall superior to the Android offering a key reason why many developers release on Apple before they do Google.
      Of course the Fandroids will cry bloody murder but who cares.

    • deltatux

      I don’t think it’s about iOS being “overall superior”, Material UI apps look very good when developers design to spec. This is likely due to Google trying to chase the much much larger Chinese market that are saturated with Apple clones. Just look at their most popular app, WeChat, which does not conform to Google’s design specs at all and has ported their iOS app directly (including its design language) over to Android. There’s a lot of Chinese OEM skins that omit the app drawers and make Android very iOS-like.

      We know Google is trying to push back in China where Apple is gaining marketshare. It’s also trying to reign in Chinese OEMs even if it might alienate their international consumers with the change.

    • mola2alex

      I wouldn’t say that using an iOS ui element is definitive proof superiority. It just might mean it makes sense. Both systems borrow from each other in both ui and capability, each being first in different things. Who really cares, pick one that works for you.

    • FlamesFan89

      The beautiful thing about Android is that even if they take away the app drawer, getting it back is a simple launcher install away.

    • Brad Fortin

      I don’t think he’s talking about the customizability of Android, just commenting on the default look.

    • FlamesFan89


    • deltatux

      Most people don’t know what custom launchers are. Usually it’s only when I show them what a launcher is, would they even have an idea that they exist. I’m talking about the default look because most people wouldn’t change it anyways.

      I personally rock NovaLauncher, but outside of technically inclined Android users, most have never heard of it.

    • FlamesFan89

      And that’s fair. All I’m saying is that in terms of looks and features like this, if they are removed, one of the things that makes Android great is that you aren’t stuck with the whims of Google, and can change things to suit your needs.

    • deltatux

      Yes, I know. My complaint is less about not being able to change it afterwards, my issue is that it may cause confusion amongst non-technically inclined Nexus users or have major OEMs drop the app drawer altogether which will be sad to see. Usually OEMs would follow suit on any major changes to Android.

    • FlamesFan89

      I’m picking up what you are putting down.

      I’ve always thought that Google would do well to really market the customizability of Android better. Personally, it is one of the things that draws me to it over Apple products. I have a specific way that I like to set my devices up, with particular widgets that I find useful, and productive. Part of that is using the Google Play Launcher, with Google Now on the left most screen.

      I agree that most people out there don’t even know that you can do these things, or perhaps think that it is one of those things that the hacker kids do to change up their phone. If they knew that changing something like the launcher is as easy as an app install, I think that would go a long way.

    • FlamesFan89

      The early release of Android N still has an app drawer, so for the time being, the whole idea of removing it, remains fully a rumour.

      Personally, I think that LG made a mistake in removing it, though, like I said in another comment, it’s a launcher install away.

    • Mo Dabbas

      people saw that google maps video where the nexus 6P didn’t have the app drawer. People for some reason are thinking google is letting the app drawer go away. For me I don’t see how that would be possible while keeping the widgets options. It works with iOS because it doesn’t have widgets to clutter the home screens. If you think of it, with iOS the main screen is pretty much the app drawer. But with android, unless they’re also getting rid of widgets, then I don’t see it happening. It’ll just make things crowded.
      look at any Huawei phone review with Emotion UI and you’ll see the reviewer criticizing the lack of the app drawer. I know LG got rid of it but I think that’s a mistake (you can turn it back on in the options though).

    • Guile

      In fact Google is bringing back that menu. If you look at hold Ice cream sandwich Gmail app and alot of other apps of that «era», you’ll see that menu down on the screen… Google tried to get rid of it, but apps were less easy to use without it…

  • FlamesFan89

    Personally, I prefer the swipe in from the left to get a menu style of things.

  • Andy Ferber

    I wonder if this has more to do with reachability on larger screen devices than anything else.

  • gmaninvan

    I personally don’t like this as it is a replacement for the floating action button which I think it’s a really cool idea and looks far better than a bar taking up screen real estate. I hope most apps keep the FAB and don’t go this way

  • Superb, Bottom navigation bars make it easy to explore and switch between top-level views in a single tap.