Google says no to custom skins on Android Wear, TV, and Auto

Google says no to custom skins on Android Wear, TV, and Auto
One of the biggest complaints throughout Android's history has been the inconsistency of the user interface depending on what manufacturer you choose. There have been fairly big differences between stock Android, TouchWiz, Sense, and others. But, Google is taking control and not allowing custom skins on Android Wear, TV, and Auto.

Custom skins on phones and tablets have been moving towards stock more (except for Samsung), and are mostly lightweight compared to how they used to be. David Burke, head of engineering for Android and the Nexus program, told Ars Technica that "The UI is more part of the product in this case"; so, manufacturers will still be able to add services, but they will not be able to change the look. But, Google is committed to offering a "consistent" experience for the new Android form factors announced at Google I/O last week. When it comes to Android Wear and Android Auto, those are more extensions of your smartphone than standalone platforms of their own. And, Google wants to have a seamless upgrade experience for Android TV, similar to what it has created with Chrome. To do that requires the software be completely under Google's control with no manufacturer customizations. 

This is a big move by Google, but it likely won't change anything for phones and tablets. Manufacturers will still be free to customize that as they wish. Of course, Google does seem to have plans in place to incentivize manufacturers that offer stock Android, like the rumored Android Silver program. Burke recently confirmed that the Nexus program will not be going away, and backhandedly confirmed Android Silver. 

source: Ars Technica

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37 Comments

1. fzacek

Posts: 2486; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

I hate manufacturer skins. This is a step in the right direction by Google...

18. steedsofwar unregistered

Some skins like TW look ugly and lag often, but they do add features not found on vanilla android. Sense and LG's last two skins never showed any lag and previous versions of both did look ugly too. Again, they did add some valuable functionality.

24. bfuller2006

Posts: 84; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

You're right i was talking to the Samsung guy at best buy saturday i asked him do you think Google may tell manufacturers to stop with over lays which i dont mind i love Samsung but Touchwiz does look a lil too cartoony to me not ugly just too much if they offer it I wish they can do like Windows did with XP give you the personalization option to Use the new interface or use the stock interface.

31. g2a5b0e unregistered

Not one bit of punctuation in this until the end. R.I.P. English.

34. sgodsell

Posts: 6912; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I guess the only thing you can customize is the watch face. And make your own apps.

30. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Opposite here.. Google can kiss my money good bye. Don't like google's UI.

32. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

Bye bye colorless life dude. :)

35. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Uneducated trolls like you give android users a bad name. Ask your parents why they created a dumb creature like you??

36. jdot104

Posts: 95; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

I do too. Probably never getting an Android phone with a skin overlay again. Hopefully this move will influence OEMs to water their skins down to give a unified experience across phones, watches, cars, and TVs, but I know they'll probably just end up making their own.

2. mistercarter

Posts: 360; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

pretty arrogant IMO, some Android skins have added a ton of features Google still havent even figured out like Samsung/LG split screen

4. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

How is split screen going to work on a watch? Or be useful in the car?

7. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

It was an example of stock Android's shortcomings. Obviously he doesn't expect it in Android Wear or Auto. Although OEMs can still add "services" to Wear and Auto so improvements comparable to split screen aren't impossible.

10. T.Law

Posts: 423; Member since: May 10, 2014

That' exactly why I'd choose the TW experience over stock Android anyday.

11. Awalker

Posts: 1962; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I've never used split screen on my S4.

16. andynaija

Posts: 1252; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Then you should try it :D

13. __0__

Posts: 242; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

Google said they could add features ,but they shouldn't change the look and UI

15. MobileNico

Posts: 94; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

I'm sure they've got it "figured out", however I'd be inclined to think it's not included in stock Android because it's not a necessary feature. It's certainly useful, and one of the few features of manufacturer UIs that I genuinely like, but I can see why, in the interest of simplicity and minimalism, something like that didn't make its way into stock Android. This move by Google is a step in the right direction. I hope for a day where Android will be understood by the average Joe and Jane. A large percentage of the non-tech crowd doesn't even know that Google makes Android. At least 50% of my cellphone store customers think Samsung makes Android. They are afraid of going from something like a Galaxy to something like a Moto Yes, there are extra features of manufacturer UIs that are useful, but custom skins serve to perpetuate fragmentation and the lack of understanding of Android by the majority of users. Android, as a Google brand, needs to avoid that happening with these new products if they want to be recognized for them, and have them be truly successful.

17. MobileNico

Posts: 94; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

They are afraid of going from something like a Galaxy to something like a Moto because to them, each skin is like a whole different OS. They don't know (or care, really) that it's still Android under all of that. So going with a single UI, made by Google, is the best way to keep that from occurring like it does with phones and tablets. (had to add this, completely skipped a whole part of my thought in the above comment)

21. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

Meh I have seen how that split screen gimmick works on smartphones, two apps are not even usable on a 5inch smartphone(even on the massive note 3 screen). Its useful on a 8"+ tablet though.

26. Jobayer

Posts: 167; Member since: Feb 22, 2013

"manufacturers will still be able to add services, but they will not be able to change the look" did you read the full article ?

3. galanoth

Posts: 428; Member since: Nov 26, 2011

Thats a good thing. Android wear has limited resources. Don't want Sense/Optimus UI/Touchwiz/Timescape to eat up resources.

5. NotAGeek

Posts: 279; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

Good decision googe.I just don't want samsung to slap touchwiz interface into the gear live

12. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Just don't buy Samsung if their custom don't suit you. In other words, Google is aware of what Samsung is cooking up with their wears. Too late for them to stop.

6. bucky

Posts: 3774; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

After using a gs5 for a week and then messing around with a nexus 5 I absolutely agree with this decision.

8. alaw.14

Posts: 414; Member since: Sep 10, 2013

If samsung puts android wear on the gear 3, I actually want touchwiz on it. Every android wear watch will be the same just different branding, size, shape, and specs.

14. __0__

Posts: 242; Member since: Jan 07, 2014

Every watch has different watch face , slightly different features . But still , consistent UI is good

9. gehrig

Posts: 423; Member since: Apr 17, 2014

THANK YOU GOOGLE!!! This is a definite step in the right direction.

19. TruthSpeaker unregistered

IMO, it would be a shame to loose the option of manufacturers skins, as it looks like that's what Google would prefer? I think the variety (of the skins) is a huge positive element of Android. Although ultimately I can't really believe any car manufacturers would miss the opportunity of putting a skin on the "auto application." An regarding the "Silver" option, if the unskinned vanilla Android was so popular, the Nexus range of phones would've likely outsold Samsung, which I don't believe they did? Although I can certainly see the attractions of quicker updates.

27. MobileNico

Posts: 94; Member since: Aug 26, 2012

You severely underestimate the value of marketing. Samsung became the number one name in Android phone sales not because they necessarily make better devices but because they spent billions in marketing while Google does not. Samsung's original "the next best thing" ads (the one with people waiting in line at the Apple store) for the GS III was what made them a household name. Name recognition goes a long way. Both the Nexus 5 and Moto X received lots of critical praise but did not sell nearly as many units as the Galaxy S4.

29. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

The court case with Apple didn't hurt their sales either, if anything it helped them. When people hear Apple saying in court that their sales have been hurt by Samsung's offerings, it made those Samsung devices a viable option for them, especially if they wanted something like a larger screen.

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