Google Locking Down New Android Offshoots, and Why That’s Fantastic
Android is a really great mobile OS. It is not, however, quite as great after tech companies like Samsung, HTC, Amazon, and more get their hands on it and start monkeying around. The Kindle Fire Tablet in particular offers a terrible spin on Android, and Samsung’s TouchWhiz skin can mess with Android so much that it can be hard to count how many bugs you find. So it’s a relief to hear that when it comes to Google’s newest Android offshoots – Android Wear, Android Auto, and Android TV – the company is clamping down on the amount of messing around OEMs can do. That amount? Just about zero.
The news comes from a post on Ars Technica, which features comments from Google engineering director David Burke. He says that as part of the agreement to build a device running one of these operating systems, companies have to keep things more or less as they are, ensuring a consistent user experience across different devices.
Said Burke, specifically referencing Android TV:
“The UI is more part of the product in this case. We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same… The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”
That’s a huge relief for fans of Android – though, as the post points out, OEMs will lose the ability to differentiate their devices from those of competitors. The result will be blandness across different devices, which accounts for why so many of the recent reviews of the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live explain that when it comes to how they work on the software side, they’re essentially the same. But on the other hand, this could induce manufacturers to work harder at making more interesting, desirable design choices and to pack their products with impressive, quality hardware specifications.
Having used Samsung and HTC phones before switching to the pure-Android Nexus 5, I can say with confidence that whatever downsides might come with Google locking down these new operating systems, they’re worth it. An unaltered Android works far better than any of the other filtered and forked versions I’ve encountered. And anytime there has been a problem, it’s been much easier to diagnose without some weird manufacturer-altered UI getting in the way.
For further proof that this is a great move on Google’s part, look no further than the Moto 360, the Android Wear smartwatch that we know almost nothing about, but which has garnered tons of positive press for no other reason than the fact that it’s round. Compared with its rectangular competition, that design choice alone has helped it stand out as a desirable product, and it’s got nothing to do with changes it’s made to the Android Wear operating system. Let’s hope other OEMs learn from Motorola’s example and bring us some amazing products running these new Android cousins.
[Source: Ars Technica]
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