Gold Bricks

“It’s no good to pump out gold bricks if you’re crushing the souls of tiny unicorns in the process” – Matías Duarte

If the above quote is not a great reason to listen to this week’s episode of Material, in which we interview Google’s Vice President of Design Matías Duarte, then I don’t know what is.

More Thoughts on Apple Music for Android

I had a few more thoughts after writing this post about Apple’s first Android app. The most interesting one was this: Apple Music on Android has the potential to be the best music app Apple has ever made. Bear with me here:

  • They won’t be burdened by any legacy implementation: they could literally build it from scratch, with all the lessons they’ve learnt to date.
  • They don’t have the burden of having to play your local music like the iOS app, it could be a dedicated app for Apple sourced music only.
  • They can update the app as often as they want, iterating on things fast, since unlike iOS it’s not tied to OS releases.
  • The team building it probably has far less oversight from the Print Designers that seem to run Apple’s User Interface division these days, so they can probably be a bit more experimental and try out some fun new interface paradigms.
  • Assuming they don’t clone their iOS app, they’d be free to rethink how things should be laid out to work best for their users.

I know this is just a dream. I know Apple probably has a tiny team working on this whose only goal is to clone the iOS feature set and get the job done. I doubt there’s a tonne of resources allocated to fancy animations or new interface ideas. It’s a shame really, at times like this I wish Apple were slightly more divisional. I wish that the division building the Apple Music service as a whole were focussed solely on making that an amazing experience on every device. I acknowledge though, that’s not how Apple rolls. The Android app will be, I suspect, a re-skinned version of the Beats Music app that preceded it.

Overall I’m conflicted by the commercial realities of the situation. In the long run is it better for Apple to make amazing apps on Android that entice people to look into their hardware, or is the sounder strategy to build a wall around their content and apps that will only run on their own devices? The optimist in me wishes the former were true, but the realist knows it’s the latter.

Apple’s First Android App

Remember back in June when Apple promised to bring their music app to Android in September? No? I do, because I was sitting in the keynote room at the time. My prevailing thought at the time was a simple one: “This is going to be fascinating. Will Apple try to clone their iOS app, or embrace Material Design, rise above pettiness and make something amazing?”. There’s two competing interests here of course, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to know that Apple hates Android. That said they clearly know that in order for their music service to be successful, they need to be on the biggest mobile platform in the world, Android. I love this kind of conundrum and I’m fascinated by the direction they’ll take.

I don’t know how much of an indication it gives you, but here’s their first ever Android app, released today:

icon

Ummm. Ok. That’s not how Android app icons work.

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Yeah. It’s a poor attempt at making an Android app look like an iOS app. If you’re being generous, you might think Apple did this to make you more comfortable about moving to iOS. You might even say they wanted it to look bad, because they want the amazing experience to be on iOS, not Android. Maybe. It’s certainly one way to look at it.

If this is the way they go with their music app though, you’ll know they let their arrogance and showmanship get in the way of the success of a great service. I sincerely hope they don’t, and that this app is just a fun little diversion before their music app ships. The date seems to have slipped to ‘Coming this Spring’ so we’ll have to wait a little longer, but I for one am fascinated by what they will do here.

Picture This

Have you ever wondered about how Google Photos emerged from Google+? What are the aims of the Google Photos team for the future? What are some core philosophies of the people driving the product?

We had the privilege of interviewing John Nack and Aravind Krishnaswamy from the Google Photos team this week on Material. If you don’t recognise those names, you really should. John is the Google Photos Product Manager and Aravind the Engineering Manager. Even more interestingly John used to be the Product Manager of Photoshop and Aravind a Senior Technologist also at Adobe. Everyone I’ve met that knows both of these guys said they were amazing to work with.

It’s really interesting to me that both have gravitated towards Google Photos and that Aravind found his way there from Google+. If you want to hear more about them, you really owe it to yourself to listen to this weeks episode.

One final thing that struck me: how they talk about being intimidated by joining Google. These two highly accomplished individuals are just as intimidated as you or I when they start a new job surrounded by people who seem smarter than they are. Food for thought.