• 20, Aug, 2019

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Google Play Stores blindingly white redesign starts rolling out

Google seems to be rolling out a major new redesign of the Google Play Store. We've seen this design slowly take shape through limited testing over the past few months, but now it seems like the design is finally coming to a wide array of devices. These designs are occasionally just for testing and get rolled back, but with the launch of Android Q on the horizon, we get the feeling this version will stick.

The new design is in line with the revamped "Material Design" spec that Google launched with Android 9 Pie last year. This style uses the Google.com homepage as a design inspiration and as a result it is very, very, very white. You can see a lot of this design today in Android P and Q and in the new Gmail design that launched earlier this year.

The Play Store sells Apps, Movies, Books, and Music, and the previous design used boldly colored headers to differentiate between the sections. These colors still exist in minor highlights, but the app is mostly monochrome now. Only content thumbnails provide pops of color.

 

In addition to the all-white design, the app now properly support's Android Q's new gesture navigation bar, making it transparent instead of the black navigation bar that popped up on the old design. On the main page, the content tabs are at the bottom now, allowing you to easily reach them with one hand even on your giant Android phone. The four content tabs are "Games," "Apps," "Movies & TV," and "Books," with "Music" being conspicuously absent. The Music section mostly powered the Google Play Music app, but Google Music is on the way out and due to eventually be replaced with YouTube Music. If you dig through the sidebar, you can still find the music section hiding in there for now.

Believe it or not, this version of the Play Store design actually has a dual-pane tablet UI. Google has mostly abandoned tablet UIs over the years as Android tablets have failed in the marketplace, but designing Android apps for larger screens is going to become more and more important in the future. Today, tablet-style apps are useful for Chromebooks, which run Android apps on a very big display. And if this foldable smartphone idea ever takes off, it will mean the sneaky resurgence of Android tablets, and we will all run around with devices that open up to have an 8-inch display.

There is no one version of the Play Store that will get you the new UI (though Play Store version 16 seems to help). Like many Google design transitions, there is code for both the old and new UI on your device, and Google gets to pick which one shows up with a server-side switch. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it can take weeks to come to certain devices.

Get ready for a lot more Google app redesigns

Along with the Play Store, we expect to see a rapid-fire launch of Google app redesigns over the coming weeks. The next major version of Android, Android Q, should be launching any week now, and a major push with the new OS is dark-themed apps. At Google I/O 2019, Android engineer Nick Butcher announced, "All Google applications are committed to update to support dark theme by the time Android Q rolls out." I highly doubt Google will actually update "all" of its applications, but if it wants to get anywhere close to this commitment, we're going to need to see a lot of app updates very soon.

By my count, Android Q dark mode support is missing from a lot of heavy hitters, like Gmail, YouTube, Google Search, Maps, Docs, Hangouts, Google Home, Messages, Play Music, and Google Pay. We've seen one or two of these apps get experimental dark modes in an A/B test (usually that gets rolled back after testing), but they do not have officially launched versions as of this writing. It's hard to imagine long-neglected apps like Hangouts and Google Play Music getting redesigns and dark mode updates, but Google is the one that said "all Google apps."

Even this new Play Store design doesn't actually support dark mode yet, but believe it or not, the all-white redesign is actually good news for dark mode lovers. Google's design strategy so far has been to completely redesign apps modeled after the all-white Google.com homepage and then use this all-white, monochrome design as a basis for the dark mode theme. So far, we have not seen Google take an older, colorful app design and glue a dark mode on to it.

Sure enough, if you are on Android Q and have the new Play Store, you can go to the developer options and enable "Force dark" mode, which will give you a sneak peek of what a dark mode Play Store would look like. Android Q's "Force Dark" mode is like a "smart invert" feature. It will flip your dark text on a white background to light text on a dark background, but it will leave pictures and other artwork alone. It can have some contrast issues as such, which is why a hand-crafted dark mode is preferred. But until the official dark mode arrives, this is a good stand-in.

 

 
 


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