June 16, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Android was ugly. That’s why so many people were wowed by HTC Sense, and why virtually every company releasing an Android product has decided to add its own interface layered on top of the operating system. Though Éclair improved Android’s looks and Google has hired Palm’s former head of UI to further reshape its look and feel, it’s unclear if those efforts will matter to anyone other than Nexus One users.
Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan recently wrote an article about why custom UI’s no longer make sense for Android. Even a fan of HTC Sense like me can agree with that statement, but that doesn’t mean there will be many options to express it. Take a look at all of the phones that have released on Android in the past 6 months and tell me how many other than the Nexus One came with stock Android. Exactly.
Manufacturers have made it clear that they will release phones with their version of the Android experience, and I doubt we’ll see any of them break from that for the foreseeable future. How can Motorola make its phone standout from Samsung’s if both have front-facing cameras, Snapdragon processors, and large touchscreens? There’s only so far a company can push specs to build an advantage over competitors, and phone makers view custom UI’s as the best way to do it. This has proven to be a disappointing strategy for many consumers but it is the strategy that will prevail because the OEM’s have made it so.
All of the reasons that companies have used to justify creating a new UI have been addressed by stock Android, and things will only get better in Gingerbread according to TechCrunch. However, it’s unlikely that anyone not holding a Google-made device will experience stock Android. The Nexus One was a great way to “show what Android can do,” but manufacturers aren’t taking the hint. They have invested millions into building and promoting their custom versions of Android, making it unlikely that they’ll forsake MOTOBLUR, Sense, TouchWiz, UX, et al, anytime soon – if ever. Maybe the only way for them to get the message is if the next stock Android experience is a runaway hit.