Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are the two primary operating systems for mobile apps. While app developers have complete creative control over their product’s aesthetics, each platform has distinct native guidelines and design preferences.
This article examines the design differences between iOS and Android app products, which can have an immense effect on their functionality and aesthetics. By applying these principles to your designs, you create a holistic platform experience. Products that seamlessly integrate with their native operating system appear professional while creating familiarity and minimizing learning curves for customers.
Platform-Specific UI Design Guidelines
iOS and Android each adhere to distinct interface design standards and guidelines:
Android = Material Design (Maintained by Google)
iOS = Human Interface Guidelines (HIGs), also maintained by Apple
Why Do Android and iOS Have Guidelines?
These guidelines don’t dictate your product’s aesthetics, but rather provide app developers with guidance on using components and adapting UIs according to platform needs and constraints.
Platform guidelines aim to create an intuitive user experience between devices and third-party applications. Without these controls, every app would differ drastically, forcing users to learn a new interface for each product.
According to user experience design principles and design psychology, making users think increases cognitive load, causes frustration and ultimately leads them to abandon a product-whether that be switching from Android to iOS or vice versa.
Android – Material Design
Android devices adhere to Google’s Material Design guidelines and principles. What sets Material Design apart from HIG is its open-source, themeable library which companies can utilize in creating a variety of digital products-not just Android apps.
Google released Material Design 3 in 2022, featuring a fresh aesthetic and new features such as design tokens that “simplify the work of creating, maintaining, and scaling products with a design system.”
iOS Human Interface Guidelines (HIG)
Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) offer guidance and instructions for designing and developing products related to Apple’s services.
Apple’s iOS design resources offer designers access to design files and templates for Apple products, such as iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, MacOS and more.
What is the Difference Between Android and iOS UI Design?
1.) Screen Sizes
Designing for iOS offers designers the advantage of Apple controlling every device and screen size. They can apply their designs to different templates on Apple’s platform to anticipate how their products will appear and function.
Conversely, Android presents a challenge when it comes to devices and screen sizes. With so many viewports, testing products on everyone is impossible within reasonable timelines and budgets.
2.) Unit of Measurement and Target Size
iOS and Android use different units for measurement and target sizing:
iOS = pt (points) – 1 pixel = 0.75pt
Android = dp (density-independent pixels/dips) – 1 pixel = 1dp
Tap target sizes also differ between platforms:
iOS = 44 x 44pt or 59 x 59px
Android = 48 x 48dp or 48 x 48px
Navigation is one of the primary distinctions between iOS and Android users. On Android devices, users are always presented with a visible bottom navigation bar which does not exist on iOS devices.
Android’s bottom navigation enables users to:
*View All Open Apps
*Return to the Home Screen
*Go Back to Previous Screen
On iOS, there is no Back or Home button – users can view all open apps by swiping up from the bottom left.
On both platforms, the top navigation bar (top app bar on Android) looks similar, featuring a back button to the left, title center and other action buttons to the right.
iOS will typically utilize text buttons for top navigation bar right actions when there is only one, such as “Edit,” while Android always uses icons.
4.) Floating Action Button (FAB)
The Floating Action Button (FAB) is unique to Android devices and rarely seen in iOS applications. The FAB serves as the primary call-to-action for many apps; Twitter uses it for creating new Tweets, while Gmail utilizes it for creating new emails.
iOS’ primary CTA typically resides on the far right, but can shift between the top navigation bar and bottom tab bar depending on screen layout.
5.) System Fonts
iOS and Android use different san serif system fonts; however, their style and weight are very similar:
iOS: San Francisco
The New York typeface is also available as a serif option on iOS devices.
Developers don’t need to use these system fonts, but many do in order to replicate the platform’s user experience and optimize performance (fewer files and requests).
HIG and Material Design both have specific guidelines on typography styles, sizes, weights, and usage/best practices that must be followed in order to maintain their status as industry standards.
6.) iOS flat design vs. Material Design elevation
Another significant distinction between HIG and Material Design is elevation. HIG guidelines call for flat designs, while Material Design utilizes shadows.
One great example of this distinction is Airbnb’s FAB to open the map. At first glance, these UIs appear similar, but you’ll notice that Android uses a shadow for the FAB while iOS doesn’t.
7.) Date Pickers
Android uses a standard calendar interface for date pickers, while iOS utilizes three scrolling wheels for day, month, and year selections. There are exceptions to these rules; iOS often reverts back to using a calendar when selecting date ranges while Android occasionally utilizes scrolling wheels in some time selectors.
8.) Dialogs and Alerts
Alerts and Dialogs are popup windows that present critical information and usually feature two CTAs to confirm or cancel an action. For instance, they might confirm whether the user wants to delete an item, giving them assurance of their decision.
HIG refers to these modals as Alerts, while Material Design refers to them as Dialogs. Each platform has distinct guidelines and requirements that designers must abide by when creating these designs.
Material Design utilizes snackbars to deliver low-priority messages that don’t necessitate action, such as confirming something has been saved to a user’s favorites list.
Tabs allow users to quickly switch views on a screen. In the past, Material Design used Tabs; however, Google recently changed this to what’s known as a Segmented Button in Material Design 3, creating something that looks more similar to HIG’s Tab View component.
Segmented Buttons Provide Three Functions:
HIG’s Tab View is designed solely for switching views. The platform utilizes Segmented Controls for option selection.
Overall, the choice between iOS and Android depends on individual preferences and needs. While iOS is known for its simplicity, security, and integration with other Apple devices, Android offers more customization and versatility. Factors such as user interface, app store, security, hardware compatibility, updates, cost, customization, voice assistant, gaming, battery life, file management, navigation, privacy, and accessibility.