Matias Duarte currently leads the design efforts for the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world — Android. But he doesn’t think there’s a future for mobile. At least not the idea of it anyway.
“Mobile is dead,” Duarte told Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of The Verge, at this year’s Accel Design Conference in San Francisco. “Everybody is so obsessed with mobile…It’s time to stop that.”
That may sound strange considering mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) have been partially blamed for contributing to the biggest PC sales decline in history. In February, Enders Analytics reported that Americans used smartphone and tablet apps more than PCs to access the Internet for the first time ever.
But Duarte says that mobile as a platform isn’t dead, just the concept of it since mobile has become the norm.
The term “mobile” was more meaningful when it signified a clear distinction between how people interacted with devices. When more people were using feature phones that smartphones, for example, those people were probably using their laptop or desktop computers to handle most of the tasks they now perform on their smartphones. But since smartphones are now the norm, it’s time for developers and designers to focus on what’s next, Duarte said.
“We need to stop thinking of mobile as a distinct category,” he said.
This essentially means that developers and designers should be thinking about how products extend across multiple platforms rather than focusing on just one.
“If you’re product is about finding a ride, it’s not ok that you can get it on a 7-inch screen but not on a 2-inch screen,” he said.
While Duarte stressed the importance of a streamlined experience across devices, Google’s primary platforms are still clearly divided between desktop (Chrome OS) and mobile (Android) as Topolsky noted.
The goal, according to Duarte, is to get to the point where a single interface could be seamlessly used across screens of different sizes, whether you’re using a 10-inch tablet, 2-inch smartwatch or 13-inch laptop.
“Technologically, that’s the vision that makes sense and I think everyone wants to get there,” he said, mentioning that it’s difficult now because the technology is still young.
Duarte’s words hint at what we may see from Google in the future. For example, recent leaks have suggested that the company may redesign Gmail and its other popular apps so that they look the same across all platforms — including smartphones, laptops and tablets.
It also says a lot about what Google may try to do with Android Wear, its upcoming software for smartwatches and wearable devices. From what we’ve seen, Android Wear sounds like it will be a notification-centric version of Google Now made to fit on your wrist. The rumoured Gmail redesign, which was reported by 9to5Google’s Seth Weintraub, described a similar design that could make Gmail look a lot more like Google Now’s card-style notifications.
It hints that Google is trying to optimise its most popular apps to work exactly the same across smartwatches, tablets and desktops, just like Duarte suggests.
Here’s the full video of Topolsky’s interview with Duarte: