I wish the Android team had good designers from day one, but Google as a company has never really focused on beautiful design that goes along with smart engineering. This is why even the first version of Android had to have its UI designed by TAT, the design company that RIM bought 2 years ago for BB10. Android 2.0 looked significantly better, and Android 2.3 seemed to get ever closer to iOS with more polished icons.
But it wasn’t until they got Matias Duarte, the Chief Designer for webOS, which most reviewers agreed was the most beautiful mobile OS when it was launched, that Android really started to shine as a well-designed mobile operating system, with some saying it now even surpasses iOS. It seems the Parsons School of Design agrees with this, and they have awarded Google the Gold Prize for “best platform experience”. It’s a prize that gets handed out every 2 years.
This is a welcome endorsement for the direction Matias is taking with the Android UI, and I’m sure we’ll see further refinements of the Android UI with each major release. It’s possible that even JellyBean will get a bit of a refresh for Google’s tablet, and we can probably expect more with Android 5.0 this fall. I wouldn’t expect another “overhaul” of the UI until Android 6.0, though. Google seems to want to do that every 2 years.
However, I would like to see more dramatic improvements for the tablet UI, because I think it could be a lot better. The Chameleon UI has made me realize that, even if it isn’t the best possible UI Android tablets could get (maybe a bit too cluttered). But I would like to see Matias Duarte explore an UI that is similar to that – one that takes greater advantage of Android’s advanced widgets, and one that allows for much better multi-tasking than what we have right now on any tablet.