When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone about eight years ago, he said that it was a leapfrog product that was 5 years ahead of the competition. With the benefit of hindsight, Jobs’ prediction was remarkably prescient. Indeed, it only took a few years for competing Android handsets to make up a lot of ground and deliver an arguably comparable user experience to the iPhone.
Interestingly enough, the basic user interface of the iPhone hasn’t changed much at all since its inception. At the core, the iPhone user experience is and always has been dominated by a grid-system of app icons. While the design choice is familiar, Matias Duarte, Google’s head of design, also believes it to be frustratingly stagnant.
During an interesting and all-encompassing interview with Wired, Duarte spoke at length on a number of design-oriented topics. When the iPhone’s original grid design was brought up, Duarte explained that while it may have initially been a positive development, it may have since outworn its welcome.
“[The iPhone] crystallised a lot of other things that were kind of stayed even by that point,” Duarte explained, “like the rows of icons, which don’t scale very well. This idea of a tiny grid that you manually curate starts to feel very heavy and burdensome.”
As for an alternative, Duarte doesn’t present one, but makes a point of noting why he remains so excited about the current state of technology. Because “phones are starting to show their age,” Duarte intimates that perhaps bigger shifts in mobile design lie ahead.
As for whether or not the original grid system introduced by the iPhone has outworn its welcome, I’m inclined to disagree. While there may be room for enhanced functionality with things like 3D Touch, it’s hard to envision an app-dominated user experience being represented any more efficiently.