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back to article Google risks OEM wrath for unified Android UI plan

Conflicts of interest with Android supporters helped kill Google's Nexus One project, but that is not stopping the search giant embarking on another bid to keep Apple-style control of the Android platform. Google is reported to be planning a unified user interface that will be imposed across Android products, ending the …

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WTF?

Good and bad really

Simple solution (ish) is that all the custom elements from HTC and Moto all go onto the Android Market as a download...personally I wouldn't want to lose Sense as it's a great addition over the stock Android experience, but can see how it's slowing down updates and keeping the platform unified. But HTC's Exchange app and other utilities are far superior to the ones on the default Android anyhow, so adding them to the Market wouldn't be a bad thing for everyone...if a little counter productive for the OEMs.

WTF as frankly I like both sides of it, can't win either way I guess.

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What's that?

What's that you say? So there's actually a benefit to Apple's tactics that is not just to piss others off?

-dZ.

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Slightly inaccurate

The way Apple has dealt with higher resolution screens for the iPhone 4 is actually very clever. They are still the same aspect ratio which makes this change easier to understand

Yes originally they stated the screen was 320 pixels by 480 pixels.

Now with the iPhone 4 isn't doubled up. Apple has subtley changed the definition of the screen. It's now 320 points by 480 points. This mean in your code you say the an image view is 320 points wide if you want it to stretch the entire width of the portrait screen.

Now, and here is the clever part. If I want my image to be full resolution on an iPhone 3G screen I simply create an image.png file at 320 pixel width.

However to support the iPhone 4's screen i simply create a file double the size and call it image@2x.png and the software works out which one to use automatically.

Very clever and works great, so long as the aspect ratio stays the same

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Anonymous Coward

Very clever? Works great?

I'm sorry, but that isn't particularly clever. It's been done for years in a multitude of other places. Probably even in windows 3.1 (Dialog box units <> pixels would be a example).

I presume from your description that the points are floating point? Or you wouldn't be able to address odd number pixels individually.

A 'better' way might be to normalise the coordinates (so all coords are 0.0-..1.0). Nice simple job for the renderer to scale up to the required resolution.

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Anonymous Coward

iPhone 4 screen definition "Very clever"?

Or just "bleeding obvious"?

I suppose it depends on whether you are a Kool-Ade drinker or not.

Also, I see you avoided mentioning the iPad, which does *not* share a screen resolution or aspect ratio with the iPhone. Not quite so clever then after all, eh?

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Acorn solved this..

..quite a few years ago when they hacked together the BBC Microcomputer with its 8 different graphic/text modes. The screen was addressed as 1280 points wide by 1024 points high, regardless of the resolution of the screen.

As I understand it, browsers have been able to have em-spaces as a size measurement for years, too.

Clever, yes. However it's not Apple being clever.

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Good!

3rd-party overlays are a plague upon smartphone users!

Death to HTC Sense on all platforms!

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Anonymous Coward

Idiot

You've obviously never used it, have you?

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Used it.

Hated it.

No point splintering the dev community.

Now who's the idiot who didn't check their facts?

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Terminator

Praise be

The whole "fragmentation"/"legacy" issue has been caused by OEMs and carriers trying to differentiate their offerings by adding unnecessary bells and whistles. In addition, they have, in some cases, been subtly crippling some aspects of platform functionality.

Let them differentiate purely in terms of hardware offerings and price points.

I'm using a Nexus One running "Froyo" build FRF72 - and that's the way it should be for every Android device - the latest updates available without carriers and manufacturers placing roadblocks in the way.

I would have thought that Motorola especially should be grateful for their first successful handsets since the RAZR - rather than throwing hissy fits and threatening to leave the OHA and develop their own o/s, unless Google ditched their direct sales model.

Android is a massively dynamic platform, and that is its principal strength.

Bring on the Gingerbread

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The Android UI is now better

Ever since Android 2.2, the default Android interface is better than the OEM skins.

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Commoditization highway

Windows dominance in the PC space helped drive the commoditization of PC hardware forcing makers to compete solely on terms of price and specification. It is understandable that the handset makers don't want to run into the same situation but it already loping down that road at a good clip. We are already seeing the similar things starting to drive differentiation with MHz & Megapixels. The problem is that once a phone is fully featured the only place to go is commodity unless one can either innovate / acquire new differentiators or establish a dominating brand presence, which really only buys time for innovation / acquisition. Notice that Apple has been playing this latter card quite well as it morphed from computer maker into CE wizard.

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WTF?

UI performance?

"However, Apple levels of UI performance are almost impossible for a platform that is geared to a wide variety of devices and vendors" - too bad that on any recent android phone the UI is slicker and faster than Apple iphone 3x (haven't seen the 4 so can't comment on that, but I also haven't seen the EVO 4G). At least with the leaked froyo beta, the android flies!

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Android UI lags a lot compared to iPhone 3Gs

I've used Android 2.1 (HTC EVO 4G) and iPhone 3Gs and can say that Android is considerably slower in response. Most people have never used both (they chose what they wanted before they went to the store to buy one so they didn't really compare performance.) I have seen (although not used hands on) Android 2.2 and it appeared to be much smoother and quicker then 2.1 and will bring Android into parity with the iPhone 3Gs UI speed. To say the Android 2.1 UI is as responsive as the 3Gs iPhone is simply a lie.

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Linux

Performance

"However, Apple levels of UI performance are almost impossible for a platform that is geared to a wide variety of devices and vendors."

Arguable. The android kernel is a fork - it can mature outside mainline and become very performant on it's target devices. Whether it can ever be re-merged back is another question though. Of course dalvik will always suffer the virtualization bottleneck that iOS doesn't have to contend with, but I think from a user perspective it will matter little if the graphics subsystem is properly optimized for the respective platforms.

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Terrible idea

The current system seems to work. I've used both HTC Sense and the default UI and personally I'd probably not use Android if I has to use the stock UI.

HTC Sense make the handset on par with the iPhone in terms of usability, smoothness and overally UI experience. I couldn't care less whats running under the hood as long as I have the 'freedoms' that Android provides such as running any app, customisation, freedom of hardware etc.

Android is a great platform, but the stock UI is poor compared to HTC Sense and the iPhone. Currently an application that works on stock UI will work fine on HTC Sense, and I'd presume other UI systems like Motoblur too.

Why Google would want to do this is beyond me. With Windows Phone 7, RIM, iPhone and new symbian (that looks good / usable) next year they'd be mental to start enforcing their own UI. It hasn't been great so far...

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Gold badge

Hurray!

One interface is needed. If OEMs are so frustrated they can write their own OS or contribute open source code to the Android project.

It might also stop brain dead programming that causes security or privacy risks like this:

http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/06/16/browser-privacy-htc-senseui/

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WTF?

Something like this cannot happen with closed platforms

Having a single interface dictated and implemented by Apple would make such issues impossible right?

Have a look here:

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2008/09/hacker-says-sec/

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LDS
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Users vs. buyers

It's funny to see that after so many years someone still fail to see the benefits of a standard UI interface. On you PC noone would ever dream to move all the standard features around. But on phone you have to fight your way to the features you need for each new phone you get.

The reason is phones has more "buyers" then "users". And eye candies are a powerful incentive to buyers. iPhone home screen is one of the worst designed I ever saw. Basically, it's Windows 3.1 Program Manager, very little useful informations there. But its graphical design and lots of colours has a powerful appeal on people buying candies, it talks to the children inside of you, not the adult mobile phone user.

Good luck to Google, this time I agree it has to impose a common UI - it is far better for uses, as long as it is not a Windows 3.1 interface with fancier icons.

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More opinion

Statement:

"Apple levels of UI performance are almost impossible for a platform that is geared to a wide variety of devices and vendors"

This conclusion is drawn at the end of the article without any supporting arguments in the article itself. It is, therefore, merely a statement of unsubstantiated opinion. Not good. My understanding is that, at least in terms of performance, the Google UI is comparable to iPhone on comparable hardware if not usability. In fact performance is heavily dependent upon the degree of direct access to the graphic hardware especially on such specialised hardware as the ARM ecosystems where the CPU cannot compensate for missing hardware or poor coding as well as the bloated x86 can.

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Woohoo

Woohoo!!! Google is bringing Linux fragmentation to the smartphone world! A truckload of different APIs for the developer to support, a truckload of different UIs the user has to choose from, and it's all going nowhere. I bet some freetards are celebrating this kind of "freedom" right now.

I am surprised (and appauled) about how tech hournalists/cheerleaders post numbers about Android's market share, like the "Android" is one solid thing. Well, it's NOT. At least not for the user. Go and post the numbers for all those Android's using different UIs seperately, and you will see it's way below iOS's market share.

In fact, most people do NOT know they are getting a Android smartphone. People can't really tell the difference between LG's pseudo-smartphones, and those Android smartphones will the different UIs on top of them. "This thing has apps?" "I thought only the Iphone can do it" "You mean my backflip uses the same platform as this HTC?" "No way!"

If these guys from Google had any brains, they would trademark the Android logo, force manufactures to not change a thing and provide upgrades, and then advertise the OS to make people want it. This would force the manufacturers to roll out complete Android phones. But nooo, they just put some code on the server, so Android basically evolved into free technology for the phone makers to loot as they please!!

Lock this, change this, remove this, screw updates etc....

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Good, consistent user experience design requires full control.

Who knew?

Oh, right: Apple. And pretty much every user interface and experience designer on the planet.

Apple tried licensing their OS back in the 1990s. It was not a successful experiment. Google didn't learn from Apple's past mistakes and have simply repeated them.

Google should never have licensed Android to others. Instead, they should have designed and sold their own phones. (They could still have had a Chinese manufacturer actually *build* the things, but it'd be the "Google Phone".) As it is, they're just duplicating the mess that is the PC market in phone form.

Other manufacturers have had plenty of time to build their own Linux-derived phone operating systems, as Nokia have done, but few of them really understood the fundamentals of good design. (Nokia do know how to make a good *low-end* phone, but that's not a high-margin market.)

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Silver badge

If Google had done that

Android woud never have taken off. They would be suffering the same fate as WinMo. In fact, I don't think Android is licensed - anyone can actually use it without licence. That is why so many phone manufacturers ARE using it.

Other manufacturers have actually tried their own version off Linux on phones - few got past the prototype stage AFAIK. At the time (2-3 years ago) the effort involved was very high (and you needed a decent processor for the linux overheads) - nowadays you just need to quickly port Android to your hardware - why anyone would develop there own OS at this stage is beyond me.

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users want unification

Let Google pump out the updates, and the manufacturers & telcos pump their add ons separately.

Buyers don't want to be waiting for Android updates simply because the manufacturer doesn't care, or would rather they buy another handset. HTC hero & Samsung i5700 galaxy owners are still waiting for 2.1 with no dates in sight.

Let alone froyo or gingerbread!

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FAIL

I'll maybe consider android

I'll maybe consider android. When it doesn't upload everything in my messages, call-history, contacts, calendar, whatnot, kitchen and sink, to google.

If an android device comes along that understand that I don't want google to have copies of all my information, I'll consider the device. Until then, it's just as irrelevant as the cupertino trash.

//Svein

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FAIL

@Svein Skogen

Um... Get a clue.

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ui performance?

puhleeze. I think it's as simple as, get a low end android phone and the cpu is slower and screen is smaller. Get a higher end one, certainly google can match apple on ui performance. I've seen an iphone, that bar is not as high as ppl like to think.

i think this is smart of google. They shouldn't add any roadblocks to skins, but making the google ui as nice as possible is smart.

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WTF?

Not so bad

This article is a little over the top. HTC Sense and MotoBlur are replacements of the Android shell, not of the underlying GUI (which can still only be skinned). If you are writing a bog standard app, it is irrelevant how it gets launched. What you are most concerned about is the fragmentation of Android SDK versions, plus screen size variations and differences in hardware and input capabilities. The shell should, and currently does, make little difference.

Granted, if you are writing shell extensions (i.e. widgets, wallpapers, etc.) then you are going to want to write to a single spec and you may end up with fragmentation if you relay on features of a particular shell that isn't in core Android. I believe this is what Google is trying to achieve by making sure manufacturers can still replace the shell while keeping an API so that those new shells can still host developer shell add-ons. That is nothing like Apple's control-freakery. And remember, Apple barely lets you extend the shell anyway (you can put badges on your app icon - that's it).

So calm down.

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Microsoft...

...had similar problems with OEMs dolling up the Windows UI, and was partially successful in controlling them.

Unfortunately, many brand name machines continued to be slowed by manufacturer's (cr)apps.

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Go

Google is right, Motoblur is crap

I specifically bought my Motorola Droid to avoid the Motoblur crap. I just wanted an Android phone with a slide keyboard.

You wouldn't believe how much US cell operators can fuck over a phone with branded crap. T-Mobile made my old Nokia almost useless. It's why my Droid is my first subsidized cell phone in 12 years.

Hell, the MyVerizon app on the phone is the most unstable app I've ever seen. Sometimes you have to launch it 2 or 3 times to get the UI to appear. Then you'll select something, and it'll half-update the screen. Not to mention it's 1 or 2 days behind the website. It's easier to just visit the Verizon website from the phone. Their programmer monkeys must be from the same tribe as their customer service and store idiots.

They're actually pretty good at providing a signal, but that's about it.

I'm hoping Google beats them about the head with a large stick.

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open source?

so much for android being open source! you can't even change the layer! never mind anything else.So open source at the begining to play the fashionable words now we change our mind

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WTF?

Make them pointless ?

What exactly is wrong with that ?

If Google make the best interface then HTC and others will probably use it. At the momont HTC's Sense is a lot better than the generic Android UI and is why i chose the phone that i did.

On the other side of the coin it would be nice to have updates to the OS when they are first available, instead of waiting months for HTC to "optimise" their Sense UI to work correctly with the new version. (eg bluetooth file transfer would be nice).

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Grenade

Sssshhhhhhh

You mean 'locked in' software has advantages over free as in free speech software?

Sssssh, you'll upset the 'tards.

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Good point

Highly ranked because the case is never made and never discussed in a reasonable, sensible manner.

It always ends up with the FOSS community shouting down others and refusing to listen.

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FAIL

And that's the difference between Google and Apple

"Cosmetic UI skins will be possible, but many firms are going further and creating their own sub-platforms. Google wants to deter partners from taking this road by making the default experience superior in terms of handset performance."

Apple force theirs to be the ONLY one.

Google encourage theirs to be the ONLY one by making it the best.

Clearly this is a win for consumers, and Android platform as a whole.

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Google want Android to be the ONLY one

And what about Google wanting Android to be the only one in terms of underlying operating system so they can generate ad revenue.

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Vague Terminology

What is meant by "levels of UI performance"?

"Google wants to deter partners from taking this road by making the default experience superior in terms of handset performance"

Performance usually refers to a metric such as connectivity, responsiveness or speed. However I don't get the impression that's what this article intended. Is this supposed to be about the quality of the user experience rather than the performance of a handset?

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Alert

No, Luke, no!

Google, please don't ruin my hopes of finally owning something that can compete with the force that is known as "Apple", and doesn't remind me of the Gestapo.

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Linux

You underestimate Google and Linux

You underestimate Google and Linux when you say it's "almost impossible" for Google to achieve Apple levels of performance. Achieving top performance is simply a matter of proper design with the necessary hardware specific layers, and Linux already achieves excellent performance on a very wide range of hardware platforms.

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Underestimate…

After 10 years of hearing that it was finally the time for desktop linux, I don't think anyone is underestimating linux. In fact, it is consistently overestimated.

Great in the server room, poor in the home.

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Flame

Vendor Trash

For every SenseUI quality UI there are at least 3 times the number of Touchwiz abominations. I don't think these overlays are going to be missed much.

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Happy

Talk about mis-representation

Google decide to polish the Android UI with the help of their new ex-palm ui designer, and some people think its a step towards control freakery a' la Apple. Android is OPEN SOURCE, so people can choose what the hell UI they want. HTC are still free to put Sense on, Motorola can continue to ship BLUR, Google hope that they can make something better so the need to create multiple UIs subsides ... its really that simple ...

I mean talk about hedging your bets 'Google is reported to be planning' ffs what happened to factual objective based reporting rather than speculative crap who's only intention appears to whip up an inflammatory point of view based on hearsay.

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People can choose…

HTC is not a person, Motorola is not a person.

Once you have your phone with the custom UI it is actually not simple/easy for an average person to get rid of it choose something else.

And while we're discussing choice — apparently the choice to upgrade to the latest version of Android is not a choice some people get without considerable bother, even if there phone is perfectly capable of running it.

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Terminator

Probably a good idea...

Considering the craptacular UI overlays that some devs have put out using the name Android, and by association stinking it up, this is probably a "good thing".

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Big difference

In response to "Apple-style control of the Android platform."

I feel this comment distracts from the point of the article and is a straw man obscuring the real issue:

1) Google engaged their "partners" and is now trying to change the rules midstream

2) This attempt at having more control flies in the face of the "open" nature of the Android platform as trumpeted by Google.

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Whatever

Google improving the Android UI was inevitable once they made their own device.

If they improve the quality of the basic UI they can potentially do it in such a way to to make it easier for other companies to skin if they so choose actually helping to reduce fragmentation.

At the end of the day no-one is forcing anyone to use Android, its just a bloody good platform. And many companies out there that are competitive with Android would not be without. Palm have already proved that the smartphone OS market is quite crowded enough without every man and his dog trying to make their own OS.

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