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Google curbs OEM fragmentation by forcing Android 4 UI code

updated 07:20 pm EST, Tue January 3, 2012

Android 4 UI elements required to get Market

Google in an update for developers has revealed that it's taking a hardline stance on including Android 4.0 interface elements. Although HTC, Samsung, and others can still have a default custom interface and theme, the code behind the stock theme, Holo, now has to sit on the device if a hardware maker wants to have access to Android Market. The policy will make sure that hardware makers can update faster by keeping their theme separate from the OS and provide a consistent look for apps without having to continually adapt code.

Apps don't have to be rewritten to support the new themes, Google said. Android 4.0 knows to adjust the theme depending on what OS version the app was targeting.

The change, which had remained mostly low-key until now, is a further step to address a still-growing problem with delayed or abandoned updates on Android phones. Despite the Android update alliance pledge for fast, long-term update support last May, most Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) still take months to deliver upgrades or don't update beyond one or two patches.

Samsung's decision to abandon Galaxy S support may have been explained by Google's policy. It has claimed it doesn't have space to include TouchWiz with Android 4.0 and may have not given headroom for more than its own theme. The company has so far refused to consider dropping its custom interface to give the more advanced features.

iOS hasn't had the freedom of customization of Android, but its one theme and focus on common, reusable interface elements from the iPad to the iPod has meant that Apple can update its entire platform at once rather than having to wait for OEMs and carriers.

by MacNN Staff



  1. global.philosopher

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why would companies willingly drop UI control

    Unless they are willing to be a commoditized slave to Google. I thought Google was open. Little by little they will strangle the OEMs into submission and ensure all value is only captured by Google. This is the lot for Android OEMs.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Little By Little

    This is, in all likelihood, a good thing for users--it increases consistency and improves the chances of them getting updates.

    But of course the wicked irony of it is that it is Google willingly making Android less "open". It depends on the particulars of the definition of "open" you want to use, but it's been proven over the past couple of years that the more freedom carriers and manufacturers have over the OS the more they will reduce overall value for the consumer.

    Meanwhile, Apple, who sells the whole widget and doesn't give a c*** about carriers, is generally maintaining the most overall value (unless you're all about rooting your phone, which accounts for approximately 0.01% of the market).

    I will be interested to see if in a couple more years Google has almost completely locked down Android in an effort to keep it together as a platform rather than just a label. If so, I sure wouldn't want to be an Android hardware "partner"--not only are you being shoved into an ever-more-commoditized box, but Google has Motorola on hand if they decide to change their mind and play by themselves.

    Frankly, I'd be terrified. If I were Samsung or HTC, I'd seriously consider joining a group of some kind to buy WebOS and throw a few million at it to see if it can be salvaged into something usable.

  1. Jubeikiwagami

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Android is open? Hahaha not for long!

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Google is finally trying to stop the fragmentation festival. Amazing that it took them until 4.0 to finally do it. Then again, there really isn't any reason to do it. Seriously.

    Google doesn't care about the user experience. They just care about ad revenue. 96% of Google's income is from ads. Cell carriers don't care about the user experience. They just care about selling expensive big-minute voice plans and expensive data plans. Handset manufacturers don't care about the user experience. They just want to differentiate their handsets through hardware and software tweaks. Hence fragmentation.

    Nobody cares about the Android user experience. Not Google, not the cell carriers, not the handset manufacturers. And boy does it ever show.

  1. dimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    As of right now, Amazon's Fire is the only commercially successful Android tablet -- and it achieves this with a cheap a** price, and the extinction of all things Google possible. Seems like Goog are upset that the only tablet to ship is not at all their design.

    Looks like we won't see ICS on the Fire anytime soon: and Amazon doesn't think this an issue.

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