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webOS was the inspiration for Android P


Alex

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Interesting article and for those that had a Palm webOS device, you'll appreciate this!

No Android P didn’t blatantly copy the iPhone gestures, webOS was the inspiration

Most people who saw last night’s Google I/O 2018 keynote could’ve mistaken the new gestures in Android P as an iPhone X copy, but that’s simply not the case.

Google didn’t seek inspiration from Apple’s new iPhone X. In fact, Google and Apple both drew inspiration from the same operating system – webOS. And the designer of webOS is Matias Duarte, who is the brains behind Google’s Material Design language – something Google talked a lot about at yesterday’s keynote.

For the bystander and armchair journalist it would seem that Apple was copied yet again by Google, but originally, it was Apple who copied an iconic user interface paradigm which was designed and evangelized by Duarte almost a decade ago.

Back in the day, the Palm Pre which was a product championed by former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein had a gesture based user interface that allowed users to swipe the home bar – a sophisticated control mechanism which went beyond the standard button that the iPhone and original Android phones used at the time to enable gestures. At the time, these phones didn’t have the technology to have full bezel-less displays hence that area was needed.

Using the home bar, one could flick up to bring up the dock and swipe fully up to bring up a card view of all recently viewed apps. Conceptually, this isn’t too dissimilar from what the iPhone X incorporated on its Super Retina display and what Duarte’s current team has implemented on Android.

This design change comes from one of the themes around the Android P release which has a focus on the bezel-less trend and as demonstrated by Google’s Dave Burke, VP of Android program management, even a smaller 5-inch display device like the Pixel 2.

Both the iPhone and now Android borrow this fundamental concept and rightly so, as this is an intuitive way to evolve the control cluster – as the iPhone over indexed on a singular button while Android phones opted for a medley of three software buttons or hardware buttons amongst other odd combinations.

Duarte’s vision coming full circle

More so, since Duarte is a part of Google and also the creator of this user interface concept – it would be highly unfair to say that Google copied Apple or Apple copied webOS. This concept was hobbled by the technology of the time and this is the right time for it to hit critical mass.

At the time when Duarte left Palm to join Google and revitalize the company around design, one of his first projects was around Android Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich which also drew inspiration from his work at Palm – the card based multitasking views.

It took his team two more editions of Android, an overall 2 years more, with the launch of Lollipop to mobilize the company around a design motif called Material Design, which centers a digital environment space in layers interacting like paper with touch inputs. That was 2014 by the way and 4 years later Google is again mobilized around Material Design phase 2, which further incorporates some of his older concepts.

The concepts might be old but the implementation is bang on. The fact that Apple has gone in that direction and even OnePlus has built something similar for its phones is evidence enough, even I can report that it works really well on a Pixel 2 XL, it's been a day that I have been testing the beta version.

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