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back to article Conformist Google: Android devices must LOOK, WORK ALIKE

Don't expect to see "skins" like HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz on kit made with Google's new versions of Android for devices, a source familiar with the company's plans has said. Much like how Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI if they want to carry its new Android Silver brand, gadgets running Android …

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Slow learners?

Can one UI ever really work well in different situations, or is Google having a 'Metro' moment?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slow learners?

> Can one UI ever really work well in different situations [...]

No, not really, but there's no known cure for Corporate Stupid.

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Re: Slow learners?

I tell you one thing - it'll work a hell of a lot better when trying to support BYOD phones and tablets. That's just one situation but it's definitely one that would benefit from a uniform interface.

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Re: Slow learners?

They're not saying one UI for all devices, just that manufacturers have to stick more to their (Google's) stock UI for each device.

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Re: Slow learners?

@paul how about having a look at the "Material Design" docs to see? They're not perfect but the show that it's not a "Metro moment".

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Re: Slow learners?

All in all this is probably a Good Thing(TM). Hardware manufacturers are basically crap at software interfaces anyway. Every TV/PVR/DVD/VCR I've ever owned has had some bewildering and ridiculous UI or menu structure.

Also, none of them have ever had an update released, even for glaring bugs (like my Panasonic TV doesn't accept a PC input from it's VGA port in its native 720p resolution, it either a) takes a 4:3 signal and stretches it, or b) takes a 1080p input and forces you to scroll around it, a 720p signal just causes a blank screen).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slow learners?

They are having a consistent UI across the various device categories rather than across all android devices. Therefore all TVs will have a similar UI but that will be a different UI to 'smartwatches' and phones.

There will be an underlying consistency and codebase for app developers though so it is quite easy to convert an app from one format to the other if you follow the correct guidelines.

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Re: Slow learners?

While this is mostly true, two outstanding exceptions in my experience have been the Mitsubishi U52 VCR in the 90s and TiVo in the early Aughties. To date none of the TV interfaces can match the TiVo experience from a decade ago. I haven't used a TiVo in years, but I hope it has only improved and not taken a dive.

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Re: Slow learners?

@Craig and AC, Did you miss this bit? - "The company has said that it plans to use Material Design to deliver A unified look and feel across ALL of its products, including phones, the Chrome browser, and even web applications like Gmail."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slow learners?

"Did you miss this bit?"

Didn't miss it, no - material design isn't the same as the 'UI'. One is a design paradigm the other is a user interface.

Metro has the same UI and design, these Android devices don't.

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Meh

Isn't Android open source in the first place?

I don't see what Google can do against anyone putting Android on a TV, as long as they stick to the Android core, published by the Open Handset Alliance. They might block the play store and other googly closed source stuff, but who needs the Google Maps app on a TV?

That said - who needs Android on a TV, anyway? - But that is another question.

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Re: Isn't Android open source in the first place?

>That said - who needs Android on a TV, anyway? - But that is another question.

Android is already replacing windows CE in some places. I.e. I know that some STBs here in Japan are running android even if its not outwardly apparent. You'll see android all over the place.. I wonder if it'll end up replacing windows XP embedded in cash machines at some point.

Of course people can take the AOSP source and do what they like with it.. Otherwise there wouldn't have been Android tablets before that was officially supported. What Google is trying to do here is stopping vendors like Samsung from shipping products with Google's branded services for that particular class of device but fucking up the UI with poorly thought out brain farts and creating issues with their custom styles etc that don't replicate the behaviour of the stock styles properly.

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Re: Isn't Android open source in the first place?

Yes the OEM can whack their own craptastic android derived bloatfest and comply with the licence. They can't call it android or use the play store though which may be enough to prevent fragmentation of ui experiences.

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Google, your megalomania is showing

"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."

Let me FTFY: "...we want them to work the same and look the same unless we, and only we, decide to change how it works."

What Google is doing is denying any design or creative input from any source other than themselves, as though only they knew how to design a user interface. It fits with the general mentality of micromanagement and absolute control that seems to be prevailing in corporate environments these days.

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Re: Google, your megalomania is showing

"What Google is doing is denying any design or creative input from any source other than themselves"

What Google is actually doing is trying desperately to prevent Android being stricken down by the same crap that made those same manufacturers fail without it. Phone manufacturers and networks have a long history if ignoring user needs and randomly changing things to get some imagined competitive edge while actually making the experience worse for the end user. What Google are saying is that the platform will succeed because people are familiar, just like with Windows, and that the hardware people just need to make nice hardware which is what they are good at.

This is one of the things I quite like about Apple - they may not advance very quickly but they are oblivious to the competition and so user experience is pretty stable as a general rule. Even when they completely changed their interface recently all they did was skin it. I realise many people think the opposite, and I guess change and chaos is what Android is there for so maybe Google are wrong after all.

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Re: Google, your megalomania is showing

Just compare the UX on Sky STBs to Freeview STBs to see the benefits of having a common UI for a product.

Just about anyone in the UK can operate any Sky box, but most people are stumped for a few minutes by every new Freeview box they encounter.

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Re: Google, your megalomania is showing

Hi Mr Roper, I see where you're coming from but I think you're not quite getting the right 'read' on google's thinking. They don't really care about stifling UI creativity. They care about user data and sales though the play store.

If you want to be a cynic, goggle wants to make sure none of the OEMs will screw with google's ability to slurp every bit (geddit?) of data from every user. They want their RoI for the OS.

If you'd like a more benign read, they don't a repeat of the fragmentation mistake that plagues their phone platform. Its the OEM's 'creative input' which means that users have to wait, often in vain, for the OEMs to send out OS updates rather than the users getting updates from google.

As with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

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Don't bother to do any research or anything before writing clickbait headlines.

Android One - that is the lower end smartphones that Google is involved with - which are for countries like India will run stock Android with no skins, and Google will be responsible for the software updates.

This does not affect existing or new smartphones sold by Samsung, HTC, LG etc etc, there is nothing anywhere that suggests that Google will prevent manufacturers who make their own phones and tablets from adding their own customisations to Android - just as they always have.

Android Auto is not allowed to be altered for a simple reason, safety! Google have sat with legal terms at car manufacturers, governments and all manner of safety types to come up with the interface for Android Auto that complies with all the necessary regulations on distractions and what not.

Android TV and Android Wear are both "stock" for purely cosmetic reasons.

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Meh

First thing I did when I bought my last two Android phones was to change the Launcher.

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Trollface

Google - More like Apple every day

Remind me, I thought the big deal about Android, you know the one that fandroids bang on about ad nauseum was how Android was free. Customisable and not at all like other OSs that sheeple use.

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Re: Google - More like Apple every day

And that's the way it will stay for those who can be bothered.

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Coat

Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI

Customisation is one of the primary means that manufacturers use to set their devices apart, also consumers like having that choice.

Nice move Google - Now watch the manufacturers grab their coats and run for the exit, switching the lights off as they leave.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI

I don't think that anyone has ever bought a TV based upon the 'look' of the UI. Samsung, LG, Sony etc all cope very well at the moment differentiating their TV by size, curvature, contrast etc, but very few say in their one page newspaper ad "The most revolutionary UI ever".

In fact the UI on most Smart TVs is slow and disjointed and they probably can't be arsed to have a few hundred developers working just on that one TV interface continually updating and securing it and rolling out updates (My TV has never had an update in 3 years).

Therefore they may well be happy to allow all the time and expense sub-contracting that task to Google. It might lower costs for them and allow them to reduce their time to market.

Just have to hope Google don't abandon it in a few years for something else (GoogleTV, Nexus Q ..)

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Re: Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI

A/C you miss the point, El Reg states

"Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI if they want to carry its new Android Silver brand"

So your happy with every phone having the same UI, the only choice you get in the plastic case it comes in?

The reason android has been so successful is because its flexible and adaptable. Personally I happily run with vanilla Android, but I also like having other options available to me!

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Re: Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI

I suspect it is unrealistic for Google to expect manufacturers to put their brand names on products that are essentially outside their control - Google can't have Apple- or Microsoft-like control of their platform and not be the brand.

They've clearly toyed with the idea (Motorola) and then got cold feet at being in direct competition with the people they currently need to make phones.

I can see that just right now it's in everyone's interests for Samsung et al to keep pumping out product and that some strong direction is needed to help deal with the instantly-abandoned models and fragmented user experience, but I can't see that ending in a situation in which anyone other than Google brands the devices in the long run.

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Re: Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI

"Google is forcing device makers to stick to the default UI _if they want to carry its new Android Silver brand_"

And therein lies the caveat for all hardware developers. No one has said that these manufacturers can't still do their own thing. It is just that they won't carry the Android Silver brand. So it'll just be business as usual for these manufacturers. Kinda like that whole "Works with Windows" sticker and the "Made for Windows" sticker and the "Vista Basic" sticker vs the "Vista Premium" sticker. It's all about slapping a sticker on a product called Android Silver.

And has been said before in comments above, for those that care, they can still do what they want with their phones and slap on whatever new launcher or themes or whatever that they want. I can't even BEGIN to tell you how many times I have seen some of my friends install a completely hideous theme on their phone turning it from something readable into this gaudy pink and purple MESS.

My read on this whole thing is that it is just a "certification" that Google is introducing here just like Microsoft having put the "Windows X Compatible" certification out there for anyone that wants to have it on their software.

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"but LG's and Samsung's don't start shipping to the general public until early July"

The first are shipping in 3 days time...

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"

"but LG's and Samsung's don't start shipping to the general public until early July"

The first are shipping in 3 days time..."

So that makes it until the 3rd July then. So what's that if it's not "early July"?

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The "but" is trying to make it sounds like it's a significant wait, whereas it's probably the same delivery time you'd from a number of online retailers if you were to purchase something today.

So, whilst technically correct, I find it a little misleading.

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Devil

History repeating...

So let me get this straight...

Google have embraced the Android Open Source Project...

... then they extended Android, by means of providing a whole load of APIs and a store that rapidly became #1, thanks to the discoverability offered by their majority share of internet search...

... and now they're trying to extinguish deviation from their brand of Android...

Sounds hauntingly familiar...

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Stop

Re: History repeating...

Pardon me - didn't Google _create_ Android, and release it as Open Source to the AOSP?

I know you're trying to draw a parallel, but it seems more like a right-angle to me.

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Re: History repeating...

No.

Potted history:

Android, Inc. (Founded 2003) _created_ Android. Google _bought_ Android, Inc. in 2005.

Android was originally meant to be an OS for digital cameras until they realised the market wasn't big enough at which point they switched to developing a smartphone OS intended to take on the awful Windows Mobile and ageing Symbian (this was before the Google buy-out). Early prototypes had no touch-screen and a QWERTY keyboard, like a Blackberry.

Google open-sourced Android in November 2007 at the same time as the Open Handset Alliance was announced, it's not clear if that was their original intention or not.

The first commercially available Android handset was the HTC Dream, launched November 2008.

For historical perspective, the first iPhone was announced in January 2007 and went on sale in June 2007. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, was on Apple's board of directors from August 2006 until August 2009.

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Updates

One of the reasons why Google can't directly push updates for many Android devices is the crapware that the manufacturers put on them.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks like TIFKAM to me...

Flat, solid colours, devoid of depth, grace or beauty. Next up is the neo-cubist interface, this will let us see all sides of our apps (including their adverts) at a glance. Or perhaps marginally a Salvador Dali design language, constantly flowing app & adverts, a fluidic design that changes with every motion sensed by the devices accelerometers.

MEH!

Looks like Google's take on the Swiss graphic design that MS used in TIFKAM, and hey; isn't TIFKAM pretty much universally despised by end-users? I know it won industrial design awards, but that's just designers patting each other on the back. Where the rubber meets the road it fails.

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