Android apps are going to start looking a bit more like iOS apps in the near future. Google updated its Android design guidelines yesterday telling developers that, in some cases, they should place a bar across the bottom of their app that can be used to navigate between different sections. If that sounds familiar, it's because that's exactly how most iOS apps handle navigation.
Google is putting its own spin on the navigation bar
Google is putting its own spin on what it calls the "bottom navigation bar." Unlike on iOS, Google wants the bar to disappear when a person is scrolling, freeing up more of the screen. Buttons will also enlarge ever so slightly to indicate that they've been selected; in a case where there are several buttons on the bar, the highlighted button might also push other icons slightly out of the way to better indicate its state.
Until now, Google has relied on the "hamburger" button — those three lines at the top corner of an app — for navigation, having the button pull out a drawer that included access to the app's various sections. Though the reliance on a drawer helps to give Android apps a unique look (and to free up screen space), it also means adding a step when someone needs to move from one part of the app to another. By switching to the bottom navigation bar, it'll be easier for people to quickly move around an app.
Google's bar (left, in white) is taller than Apple's bar (right, in gray).
This isn't the end of the hamburger menu, however. Google says the bottom navigation bar should only be used when an app offers three to five core areas. If there are two areas, developers should use tabs; if there are six or more areas, developers should stick with the hamburger menu. Three to five sections is still a sweet spot that many apps will fit into. But even in that case, Google says the hamburger menu can be used as an alternative to the bottom bar.
Google is already starting to make use of the bottom navigation bar in its own apps. Google+ was updated with the bar months ago. And two weeks ago, Google Photos was updated to include a three-button navigation bar; previously, it required users to swipe side to side or tap a hamburger button to access areas of the app. For now, at least, it looks a bit out of place — as though you accidentally opened an iPhone app — but that may change as more Android apps adopt the bar and pick up Google's Material Design-specific flairs.