Google takes steps against fragmentation with new policy

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Finally. After way too many iterations of the OS being left too much in the hands of the device manufacturers, Google is now taking a stance to combat device fragmentation. As of Android 4.0, a new policy has been implemented that requires any device to have the default Holo theme as an option for it to be a Google certified device. What this means in practice is that if the manufacturer wants the device to have Google apps (Gmail, Android Market, Maps etc) they need to have an option on the device to use the default Ice Cream Sandwich look. Furthermore, developers will have the option to choose to use that theme for their interfaces, with the hopes that this will give the UI a more familiar look from app to app.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction and definitely a good thing, I’m not sure it will help all that much. UI differences has never at the top of the list of fragmentation issues with Android if you ask me, as that list is full of things like performance differences, screen size/resolution differences, and pure compatibility issues. For instance, what stops me from running Modern Combat 3 on my Galaxy Tab has nothing to do with the UI, but rather that the game isn’t optimized for its chipset. It’s not even a matter of power, just optimization. With issues like that yet to be addressed, forcing the home button to look the same across devices seems like pointing a water pistol at a giant forest fire and expecting it to make a difference. Again, it’s a step in the right direction, but still…

For those of you who like Sense, TouchWiz etc – don’t worry, those will still be there, just not as the only options. This does also not necessarily affect the launcher (home screen system) and other things that are part of customized UIs but actually apps rather than system-wide settings. It’s also unlikely to speed up any updates as manufacturers will still want to make their custom UIs available, even if there are forced alternatives.

[Android Developer Blog via Pocketables]

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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