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Android Fragmentation is Much More Than Just Numbers, It’s About Skins Too [Opinion]

Most of the time that fragmentation is discussed it is in direct reference to different versions of Android running on different handsets. The cause of this fragmentation is usually identified as the sundry skins that manufacturers develop in order to differentiate their devices from others and create brand awareness and loyalty. Though critics and users have often called for stock Android to be at least an option on Android handsets (if not the standard), manufacturers like Motorola, HTC, and Samsung have continued to create more and more invasive and intricate skins on the devices they offer to consumers. Though a lack of updates is certainly reason enough for users to be upset, a more important issue may be the very different experiences that are presented to consumers because of these skins.

If the average consumer were to pick up the HTC Sensation and then pick up the DROID Bionic, they might be inclined to believe that the phones run totally different operating systems. And in a sense (no pun intended), they do. A phone made by HTC and running Sense offers a completely different experience than a Motorola phone running Blur (or “Android with Motorola Enhancements” as Motorola inclined to call it these days) or a Samsung phone running TouchWiz.

These manufacturer skins have altered Android so much that something as simple as unlocking your screen is a fundamentally different experience on different Android phones. On a stock device like the Nexus S I simply slide the lock tab to unlock the screen, but on a TouchWiz device I push the lock screen away or complete a puzzle, on a Sense device I slide down the lock bar or slide the lock ring upward, and on a Motorola device I slide the lock tab which also varies in location from device to device. In other words, the first screen that a consumer sees in a store when looking at an Android phone can be completely different from the Android phone next to it.  

The Droid X2 is only a few months old, and yet the Droid 3 has a completely different lock screen. On first glance a consumer might be convinced that the Droid X2 and Droid 3 are made by different companies because of how different the lock screens are. On a device with TouchWiz 4.0 there are additional sliders for missed calls or new test messages, yet these features are completely absent from any other Android lock screen. It gets even worse on an HTC device. The image above shows all of the possible lock screens you can select on the HTC Sensation.

I like being able to customize my device, but there comes a point where these skins aren’t just differentiators. They are creating a completely different experience, and by proxy a completely different OS. Sure, I can play Dragon, Fly on my Droid 2 or on my Droid Incredible and get the same experience, but when I hit the home button I’m greeted with a very different home screen on each device. On my Droid 2 I have a row of 4 buttons, three of which are customizable, whereas on my Incredible I have three buttons on the bottom, none of which are customizable. The polish of HTC’s widgets is incomparable with the widgets offered by Motorola or Samsung (or Google for that matter).

In a community like Droid Life, skins can be somewhat irrelevant because many users hack their phones and use custom ROMs or use a home replacement app like ADW or Launcher Pro to hide the manufacturer’s home screens, but to the average consumer the notion that the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy SII both run Android is asinine – they do not present the same interface in the least. When someone buys a phone like the Sensation they get Android, but they get the Sense interface too. I’d wager to say that a lot of consumers buy a Sense device because it looks pretty and polished and pass over a phone like the Photon because it doesn’t have a giant, magnificent weather widget for a lock screen.

The community has called out manufacturers for putting skins on their devices that delay updates – the question is, does the problem run deeper than updates? Is there a difference between someone who loves Android on the Samsung Galaxy SII and someone who loves Android on the HTC Evo 3D? Would Android be a better platform if Google stopped allowing customizations like Microsoft has with Windows Phone 7? Does Sense or MotoBlur or TouchWiz make an Android handset better or worse? Should Google stop offering Google services to devices that offer such a vastly different experience? There are no definite answers, but I think the questions are important ones for the community to ponder.

My first smartphone was the HTC Touch Pro2. It ran Windows Mobile 6.1 (though it was eventually updated to WinMo 6.5). Anyone who ran WinMo 6.5 knows that HTC TouchFlo 3D (the precursor to Sense) was near essential to make Windows Mobile useful, though my TP2 did suffer from slowness because of the skin. When Android first came out it needed a lot of polish. How many of us would be comfortable going back to the Éclair interface? My Droid Eris originally ran Android 1.6 – there is no way I would have found Donut’s interface likeable compared to what iOS was offering at the same. In the Donut and Éclair eras, skins like Sense made sense (pun intended). It made sense to make Android look prettier and in many ways easier to use, but can anyone honestly say that Gingerbread is that confusing to use? It’s not my favorite UI, but it is leaps and bounds away from the drudgery that was Android 1.6.

As Google continues to improve the polish of Android I don’t think skins will be necessary anymore. In fact, I think Android skins like Sense, though gorgeous, will be detrimental to Android in the long run. The only commitment that Google has gotten out of manufacturers has been to support devices with updates for up to 18 months, but often those updates are impossible to accomplish because of the skins. When my Droid Eris was updated from Android 1.6 to Android 2.1 I loved the new Sense features, but my phone was doggedly slow (often the phone would ring several times before the screen would respond to my finger’s demand to answer the call). I think Android will be better off if Google begins pushing for a consistent UI across devices. Manufacturers can differentiate through form factors, not skins, that way updates come faster and having an Android phone doesn’t mean dozens of drastically different experiences for consumers.

If the message from consumers to Google and manufacturers has been a demand for updates, then the message to Google from manufacturers has been that the only way they believe they can compete is if they skin Android to the point that their experience is vastly different (and in their eyes, superior) to another manufacturer’s skin. This doesn’t lead to the united front against iOS and Windows Phone 7 that Google wants and Android fans envision – it leads a confused consumer base a system fragmented by both updates and experience.

What do you think? Are skins good or bad for Android? Should Google exert more control over user experience? Does a phone’s skin impact your decision to buy it or not? Sound off in the comments to let us know where you stand on Android skin fragmentation.

  • Chip Cooper

    If we want our Open source phones to rule the wireless world, it’s only a heartbeat away, and Google knows this. Not too long ago, Uncle Sam realized the stifling of technological advances occurring in MA bell and right now, because of this, almost any company can become a land based network provider, we have hundreds of them.  If Verizon, AT&T, Motorola, HTC, Samsung and Nokia don’t want to be the first and winner of this race; let someone else give us what we want.  Most people in technology today don’t remember the days when AT&T was the only network (pretty much) and the only phones you could buy were from your phone company.  Change wire to wireless and cooperative Capitalism will prevail through Uncle’s help or those greedy corporations in charge today who want the whole bag cookies will be left only holding an empty bag.  Few know or remember even that the AT&T of today is not even the same company from the olden days of 30+ years ago.  At one point, AT&T the brand was so run down and a red headed step child that no one wanted it. That is until Pacific Bell, SWBell and Florida Bell bought the name when the government relaxed regulation.  The wireless regulations petty much are allowing this already (how many wireless phone companies are there).  Yes, even the electric companies are being relegated to building towers and maintaining the connections to the customer.  A network, is a network and Uncle has realized they should all be treated the same.  Anyone can supply power to the grid, anyone can become a power company, internet provider, hardware provider, you name it.

    It’s clear to me that Microsoft has already realized the potential to losing out to Linux based machines; and although I think Linux (and yes, I use it too!) is a long way from the user friendly OS of Apple and Microsoft, they majors all realize what they have to lose.  Google is showing the way to the future. (and, no, I do not work for them, or own their stock – yet) The same should be said of the Smartphone Manufacturers, and the Wireless Network companies lest they want to fall the way of power lines, land lines.
      
    In other words, all you need do to be a internet company on the land line is have a contract with a Tier one network and provide a standard DSL modem configured with proper access protocols and user identification and password.  In fact, many major land based Internet providers use Teir one networks which are not owned by them. Who hasn’t heard of Level III communications,  Qwest, UUNET (aka Verizon), NTT communications, Cogent Communications, XO Communications and within the world a myriad of others.

    If wireless network companies continue to stifle proper competition by working in collusion with the hardware companies it will only be a matter of time before some new name rises on the scene and helps us and our open source operating system to take over the world.  Remember Commodore 64 once a High ranking home computer… no?  IBM wised up, and so did Hewlett Packard, Packard Bell (who’s that?) shall I go on?  I know this stuff, because I lived it.  History *does* repeat itself.

  • Anonymous

    Touch pro2 FTW, one of my first real smartphones!

  • Evileclipse

    Excellent article! I guess I am in the minority of android users. I started with a 3g, moved to android and the droid, and eventually got an Incredible. I loved the stock experience, but once I started using sense I found a stock device or even a senseless rom to be very bland. To me, the extra graphical effort goes a long way in making for a more pleasant experience. I have converted a few ios users with the Droid, but I have had tons of people go buy an HTC sense product because of the experience on my rooted, debloated, custom rommed Incredible. I hate to admit it, but I’m sure many, many android devices have been sold because of that big flipping clock/weather widget. I know I’m not the only one out there that is more excited for sense 3.5 than ICS.

  • Ryan

    I literally could not agree with you more. Give me AOSP and a completely unlocked phone, and I will do what I want with it, and skin/change it however I like. If people really want to have Blur, Sense, and TouchWiz, manufacturers can figure out how to make them an after market product…something you can download from the market or from their website. Give me Android, and JUST Android!

  • DildMouth

    I don’t like any of them hit me with some stock android!!!

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/2df4ccp

  • Anonymous

    I have no problem with skins, persae, but they should not be so thoroughly integrated that they cannot be removed (i.e. you should be able to revert to vanilla Android if you want), and these customizations should not be allowed to delay the release of critical Android maintenance releases.  Getting the newest versions of Android is not just about the features, but about fixing bugs and patching security holes as well.  This is a very big deal, and should not be taken lightly in this day and age.  If an OEM is delaying critical patches because the updates break their skins, then their priorities are NOT in the right order.

    Imagine if you bought a PC from a particular OEM with their own custom UI that replaces Windows Explorer (which were popular in the Windows 3.x and 9x days, not so much now), and you weren’t allowed to revert back to Windows Explorer, and had to wait for patches from Microsoft to be released by your PC’s manufacturer?  That would not be a pretty picture.

    Overall, fragmentation (keeping in mind that that is an incredibly vague, generic term) is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as priorities are kept in the right order.  Unfortunately, the priorities are not yet in the right order, and security and maintenance patches on existing devices are taking a backseat to custom UI development and forced upgrades.  Google needs to get it through their heads that security is of the utmost priority, and I think they need to change their terms of use with the OEMs in such a way that their customizations cannot interfere with the core OS patching process.  Arguments about forced upgrades aside, any phone that has not reached EOL status should be able to be upgraded to the most current Android revision within a month (at maximum) of it being released by Google.  Now granted, I will admit that major upgrades are questionable, depending on hardware capabilities and such, but there shouldn’t be anything stopping minor releases from being pushed out quickly, such as going from Android 2.3.2 to 2.3.4.

  • Nemesis

    I know this has been said, but if each carrier had at least one phone with a pure Google OS with the ability to remove any program they didn’t want, that would be great.  I know i hate having a phone with trial apps and games I don’t want but can’t delete from MY phone.

  • Arthur Uscg

    I only want straight Android.
    I will have will continue to use my OG Droid until another OEM produces an unbloated Android phone.

  • John Hall

    In the #android chat channel on Freenode, this was a constant point of discussion. We had many people “bashing” the Android platform because their Samsung Fascinate “sucked” or their HTC phone was slow. I always had to spend time asking about their load and then explaining the concept of the overlay. I’ve also particularly found this obnoxious because people decide to abandon using Android and move to iOS. In my review of these situations, a lot of these people were using skinned Android that was slow/obnoxious and they have no real view of what Android is.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VNMZ67HA6QFEXTW5OXVSB4KDRM BillyBoy

    I personally love HTC Sense and prefer it over stock.  I think it’s the reason that HTC is the leading manufacturer of android phones (just barely beating Samsung).  I used to own an OG droid and rooted it with roms but realized my favorite widgets and roms were all just trying to emulate HTC Sense.  I love their full-screen widgets for twitter, facebook/friends and stocks, agenda, email, etc.  They had scrolling widgets long before Honeycomb, so to be honest, I don’t miss having honeycomb at all on my HTC Flyer tablet either.  They’re customizations actually add to the useability.  

    Unlike some of Samsung’s and Motorola’s customizations.  My second android phone was the Motorola Droid X and I had a buggy experience with my email (exchange) where messages would just stop being pushed at random until I rebooted.  The widgets were fugly.  I’ve played with the international Samsung Galaxy SII with TouchWiz 4, never seen a faster phone, but why would anyone remove the ability to select multiple emails (those little check-boxes next to each message so you can mark them read, or delete them without opening them.)   Sammy’s new email looks very iphone like IMO and a big step backwards.

    Now that I think about it, when I owned the locked down Motorola Droid X, I argued for stock as an option because the skin sucked.  But for me, with HTC Sense, I prefer it to anything else.  Can’t wait for Verizon to get an HTC Sense 3.x device with a big hummer-sized screen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThornfullessRose Devin Jones

    Can’t wait to switch to iPhone 4… Android is just a big mess. I used to root for the android team but now I realize I was just being a huge fan boy. I used my sisters iPhone and everything is just AMAZING. When I went to use my droid afterwards, everything looked so boring and slow. The only way to enjoy android is to spend ass loads of money on the latest devices and that’s just not right. You shouldn’t have to root and all that extra crap for phones that were left in the dust because they weren’t the “latest.” There are so many problems with these phones because they are put together so fast and put on shelves just to be kicked off a month later. There’s no real time spent on the actual phone and software like apple does with iPhone and IOS. That’s why iPhone is so smooth and put together. Sure no phones gonna NOT have problems but we both know who has more problems with their software and phones. Everything is just 10 times better on iPhone and you all know its true.

    • tomNasty

      I feel the same way….

  • Davros

    All I ask is give us the option through the phones settings to opt for either Stock Android or the Manufacturers Skin with all it’s bloat. Some people like skins, some of us like stock. Some people like Coke, and some like Pepsi.

  • http://whitemarket.freeforums.org/ Avery Dejuan Herron

    I love the skin on my Droid X² and love some if the custom apps the google stock camera sucks ass!

    • Anonymous

      They do really need to update the camera UI… it’s terrible. 

  • Booboolala2000

    Android good. Skins bad. If they think that their skins are so damn good. Why don’t they sell them in the market?

  • Anonymous

    >> Should Google exert more control over user experience? Does a phone’s skin impact your decision to buy it or not?

    The problem is Google has stated again and again that they will not dictate whether a handset maker is allowed to skin their phones (in fact, I think Andy Rubin said it one himself in an interview about Honeycomb.) IMO, I don’t think Google will change their mind any time soon. It’s just not in their DNA.

  • Anonymous

    I personally think that Verizon needs to mandate stock Android builds for all DROID branded devices. A Motorola DROID is completely different from a Samsung DROID or an HTC DROID. Mandating stock Android would be the easiest way to ensure a consistent user experience across DROID devices no matter who makes them. Stock Android was half the reason the OG DROID was so great. Verizon could also
    add “gets timely software updates” to the list of things DROID does.

  • Rich C

    I am very tired of the Skins placed on Android phones. Like you I needed it with my Droid Eris when it launched, but after a little while I yearned for a Nexus, pure Google device. Since Verizon doesn’t offer one yet it has driven me to the iPhone for now. Ii wish that they would make their skins more like LauncherPro or ADW and make them a separate APP upgradeable separate from the OS, and allowing prompt updates to the OS instead of baking them so deeply into the OS that OS updates take 6 months to a year. The current status quo is hurting the platform and consumers loose.

  • Brian

    For everyone else who’s already commented, its not as simple as just turning a theme off, when you run something like sense it literally is a different os with android as its base, for anyone who’s run a pure vanilla android os, there is nothing like it in terms of responsiveness. Its like saying that’s have two of every app butbut so they look different.

    My opinion no skins, people like consistency whether or not they are a “geek” or not, that’s why so many people reach for an iphone, chances are theve played around with a touch before or seen one. Thus making the learning curve miniscle.

    What google and consumers alike could benefit from is infinite with the removal of skins.

  • Omar Amer

    I think Google needs to work with the different manufacturers to come to some middle ground between stock and their own custom skin. I mean, I do agree that these skins are slowing down updates for phones across the board and it’s fine if the different manufacturers want to differentiate themselves between phones/versions/each other. I dont think it’s fair to their customer base for their skins to be slowing down the update process for the phone. If they can put a custom overlay on the phone and still get the latest update in a timely manner, they it would be fine. But currently the whole skin thing is just part of the reason for fragmentation, since it is slowing down the update release process. Gingerbread has been out since what? February? and Thunderbolt is still waiting for the update with ICS about to be released soon. If Google can just work with the “alliance” phone producers to find a good middle ground for skins and update period, then I’m sure the Android user base would be all happier for it. Waiting on 6+ months for an update that happened before the phone even released is NOT COOL.

  • http://mariasama16.livejournal.com/ J Harrell

    As someone who was rooted, running a custom ROM (CM) with themes and an alternative lockscreen (thanks Widgetlocker!) and has recently gone back to bone stock (update almost bricked the phone and I haven’t taken the time to get it back rooted), skins definitely change the experience of the phone and as a result, are also causing fragmentation. Look at polls on this site, how many people are more excited about an HTC phone being released vs a Motorola phone (yes, locked bootloader tends to be part of it, but so is the skin). There’ve even been polls of which is a determining factor on a phone, and the skins are a large portion of that for people (and I know it is for me, personally). 

  • Anonymous

    Like yourself, I had a Touch Pro2 before I had an Android phone (although it wasn’t my first smartphone, that being the Samsung Omnia, nor my first WinMo device, that honor falling to a Dell Axim x51).  I’m an admitted fan of HTC phones. I liked TouchFlo (I’d actually got TouchFlo running on my Omnia).  Sense helped me feel at home with Android.  I enjoy Sense on my Thunderbolt, just like I enjoyed it on my Incredible before that.  I actually have a widget on my Windows 7 desktop that looks like the HTC weather clock.

    It’s hard to argue with the fact that skins seem to have interfered with updates (I do, afterall, have a Thunderbolt).  But I don’t think skins should go away, even to get timelier updates.  That kind of conformity is for the iOS crowd.  Instead, I think manufacturer skins should be optional and independent.  I also think that Google should slow down with the updates (which I think they’ve started to do a little).  Even without skins, the hardware vendors still need time to make sure their hardware works properly with OS updates.  It can’t help manufacturers to develop updated ROMS knowing another Android update is right around the corner.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AI3BHGGJBP6GJNSDFSMWTZFRAI Dominooch

    I think giving users unlocked bootloaders and ability to root without voiding the factory warranty would be the equivalent to a “on/off” switch and should be standard. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.goldstone Jeremy Goldstone

    Root, mod, Launcher Plus, I don’t even remember what a stock screen looks like. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to have to disagree with this opinion. I think Skins are what makes Android standout from iOS. Yes, Blur, Sense, and TouchWiz are not stock Android. But, aren’t Android users about expression? The ability to show that they are not like every other person. I’m sold on Sense. I will probably never touch another Motorola device again unless I rooted it or it was without Blur. I do not like it. But, Sense has enhanced my user experience. Contrary to the majority of iPhone owners I have seen where every single person’s phone looks the same.

    I agree, there should be the stock option to turn these customizations on and off. But, I do not think this hurts Android enough for Google to force everyone to stop. If people do not like it, do not get that manufacturer or root your phone and slap on a stock flavored OS.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to have to disagree with this opinion. I think Skins are what makes Android standout from iOS. Yes, Blur, Sense, and TouchWiz are not stock Android. But, aren’t Android users about expression? The ability to show that they are not like every other person. I’m sold on Sense. I will probably never touch another Motorola device again unless I rooted it or it was without Blur. I do not like it. But, Sense has enhanced my user experience. Contrary to the majority of iPhone owners I have seen where every single person’s phone looks the same.

    I agree, there should be the stock option to turn these customizations on and off. But, I do not think this hurts Android enough for Google to force everyone to stop. If people do not like it, do not get that manufacturer or root your phone and slap on a stock flavored OS.

  • Rizzidy

    This article could have been condensed to 2 paragraphs.  The author said the same thing over and over and over.  Poor writing.

  • Anonymous

    I think phones should have a skin on or off switch so you can choose which one you want

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately the manufactures will never build into there devices the option to turn on/off there particular interface. Those of us who want that are in the minority and the majority wins.. 

  • Bill Jenkins

    There should only be one skin and one OS on android. That is the Android OS running stock. Because I gurantee you that most people with android phones never even use the skin. Most people install custom home launches like launcher pro, ADW, and go launcher. Or they install custom roms if they are rooted. When you install a custom home launcher the HTC sense or motoblur is still on the phone but no one even notices it since most of the features dont work with a custom launcher. except the lock screen. when u install a custom rom u can delete the HTC sense or motoblur completely. So there is really no reason to even have more then 1 skin. 

    • Anonymous

      Some flaws in your argument.  Starting with “most users.”  I think you are misguided… “most” users are not changing anything.  Smart users are… but as the Android base grows, we are a smaller percentage.  Users that install custom ROMS is an even smaller percentage of overall users, and I suspect not even a majority of “power” users.

      When you change the launcher, you change the most obvious ‘in your face” parts of the Skin, but you are NOT turning off the skin by any stretch of the imagination.  Sense, for example permeates everything from colorizing the main settings menu, to customized versions of some apps, just changing the launcher does not turn it off (but it does turn off the worst of Blur… that much I will give you).

      Simple fact is, that the manufacturers don’t want you to “turn it off” and are never going to offer an easy way to do so.

  • Anonymous

    I think as a user, choice and options are good. If you don’t like a manufacturers skin/ui enhancements you can choose not to buy it OR try to rom it urself.  If anything I feel it hurts developers the most, because of the varying skins and possible compatibility issues. My 2 cents.

  • Ricky Grundy Jr.

    good read. but i have came to the conclusion that i will only buy stock android. i have owned blur, sense, and touchwiz. which are deal-breakers for me. blur was the closets to stock but still buggy and some parts were not needed. sense is just too “in your face” imo. and ruins the whole android experience. i think touchwiz is too iphoney and cartoonish, but i will say i haven’t tried touchwiz 4, which i hear is better. i think with ICS coming soon certain parts of skins will b irrelevant.

  • shdowman

    Nice piece.

    I have always maintained that skins should offerable (sp) via the market and come stock. If you are an OEM, give the end user instructions on how to get their skin if they want it. But give people the choice!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Emaw-Kennedy/504157652 Michael Emaw Kennedy

    Totally know what you’re talking about, I had a friend the other day with a galaxy s ask me how i knew so much about her phone when I had a droid x. So I told her we are running the same os but she insisted that we werent

    • Warlike1919

      maybe your friend was just stupid

  • Droidscythe

    One of the best articles you’ve posted in a while.  Thanks.

  • J125w

    Custom Manufacture Skins should be banned or a least regulated (allowed to only change certain aspects of the OS). Market app enhancements like AW & LP can serve as a way to change the look and feel of your OS. This would give the educated phone buyer a much larger selection of phones to choose from if you did not have to consider the horrible skins the manufacture burdened the phone with.

  • Anonymous

    put what ever UI a manufacture wants on it, but make it possible and preloaded to flash a stock build right from the phone

  • Dsim91

    I would love to have a stock device, with the option to enable manufacturer skins or the parts that I like, but let’s be real your average consumer does not even know the difference between the more popular operating systems out there, let alone the different Android skin from manufacturers.

  • http://twitter.com/Rocko9999 Rocko Smith

    The only skin I want to see is in between my wife’s legs.

    • BionicsBugs

      Yeah, I like the skin she has there too.

  • Anonymous

    I like choice, choice is good. I like the flexibility of making and having the skin  look and feel like me. This is my reason for staying with Android and not moving over to the iPhone.  The One (iphone) is too restrictive for me. When i use my wife’s iphone it feels very controlled and too perfect like the Stepford Wives. Choice is Good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Hokin/100000334220036 Adam Hokin

    When you buy an HTC, Moto, Samsung… etc phone it should come with stock, but when you first turn on the phone you will have an option to get the skin for free from the android market. The reason why manufactures would like this is because only HTC phones get access to Sense, Moto’s to blur, Samsung’s to TouchWiz etc… so that way if you wanted a HTC phone with sense you would still have a reason to buy and HTC phone same for all of the other manufactures. Just Sayin’ it is an idea. (Since the skins are in the android market they would get updated reguraly and the base of the OS would be controlled by Google)

    • KevinC

      It won’t work.  You can’t download a whole operating system from the Android Market.  The ‘skins’ as you call it, are more than that.  They are core modifications to the Android operating system.

      • http://twitter.com/Rocko9999 Rocko Smith

        Home launcher yes, any more than that Kevins right, framework, etc. needed for real change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Gulyas/709632554 Daniel Gulyas

    Honestly, I understand what manufacturers are thinking. It’s a crowded field, and they want to feel that they have an edge. Android is insanely customizable, as the plethora of custom ROMs prove. I also understand that my little sister has told me repeatedly that she will never buy another smartphone without Sense. However…
    http://www.androidguys.com/2011/09/05/gingerbread-running-android-devices/
    I couldn’t go back to Froyo, now that I’ve used Gingerbread. The enhancements may all be under the hood, but they’re still there, and they really make a difference. Gingerbread’s been out nearly a year, yet a ton of capable phones are running Froyo for no good reason. Look at VZW’s LTE lineup. 3 phones, all fairly newly released, all on Froyo. 1 on Gingerbread (say what you will about Moto’s terrible programming, they do keep their phones fairly updated).
    I also will say that as Honeycomb is now, skins aren’t terrible, since it really isn’t quite as polished as Gingerbread.

  • Anonymous

    just throwing this out there…after reading several good reviews about GO launcher…i tried it…it killed my battery life, and i kept dropping data…went back to launcherpro…and no problems

    • http://twitter.com/droid1967 Droid 1967

      i use every thing go has to offer including live wallpaper and weather and dont have any of these problems.
      launcher pro is decent but have absoulutely no idea how go launcher would use your battery more than launcher pro.  now if you use the many addons that are not available with launcher pro like weather and live wallpaper than i could see that.  
      dropping data.  this one is a loss for me how is a launcher causing data loss.
      nice advertisement for launcherpro but i dont see these things and find go launcher to be fantastic.  but over stock android.  i have no idea how it would run over a blurred,sensed phone. sicne most of that stuff still runs in the background its not a true replacement as it is a skin over a skin.

      • Anonymous

        i dont know how go launcher was causing my data loss, but it was…as i said…i switched back to lpp and no problems…i was doing nothing different between the two, and my battery would last about half as long running go as it does running lpp…other than those two issues, i really liked go…

  • Ibeluckyru

    On/ off toggle would be amazing!

    • Dan Sciortino

      that or the ability to select which skin on set up/factory reset

  • http://profiles.google.com/rutherford.atlas Rutherford Atlas

    I, for one, consider these skins to be invariably bad.  Then again, restricting manufacturers from using them goes completely against the concept of Android.

    Still, I think that manufacturers are only doing Google–and themselves–an immense disservice by skinning every damned phone that comes out.  Part of this is because you can’t easily show someone else your HTC phone and have that be representative of the Android experience that your friend may get if s/he takes your Android advice but gets a Moto phone instead.  All it does is make us and Google look like A-holes.

    Now, on a more technical front, it doesn’t get better; skins do nothing but confuse end users and break functionality.  I work in IT at our local university, and we also provide cellular services to our faculty/staff/students–meaning that someone has to troubleshoot these things when they have problems.  Not only is it impossible to have a standard fix for Android devices when manufacturers modify things like the Email.apk and Calendar.apk along with their skins, but certain skins (I’m looking at you, TouchWiz) break simple things like Exchange compatibility in newer Exchange environments.  Try your best to explain that to a new Android user; they’ll still bail on Android and choose an i*hone.  I’ve seen it happen firsthand on multiple occasions.

    tldr: There is no reason for manufacturers to be skinning Android, especially as heavily as they do.  And for every person that can provide an opinion as to why they’re good, a hundred of others will beg to differ.

    • Anonymous

      “because you can’t easily show someone else your HTC phone and have that be representative of the Android experience that your friend may get if s/he takes your Android advice but gets a Moto phone instead.”

      That is the whole frackin’ point of the skins.  If you want something “as cool” then you have to buy an HTC device.  HTC couldn’t give a rats ass less about “being representative” so that somebody else could buy a Motorola phone… they don’t want you to just buy “Android” they want you to buy an HTC Device.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rutherford.atlas Rutherford Atlas

    I, for one, consider these skins to be invariably bad.  Then again, restricting manufacturers from using them goes completely against the concept of Android.

    Still, I think that manufacturers are only doing Google–and themselves–an immense disservice by skinning every damned phone that comes out.  Part of this is because you can’t easily show someone else your HTC phone and have that be representative of the Android experience that your friend may get if s/he takes your Android advice but gets a Moto phone instead.  All it does is make us and Google look like A-holes.

    Now, on a more technical front, it doesn’t get better; skins do nothing but confuse end users and break functionality.  I work in IT at our local university, and we also provide cellular services to our faculty/staff/students–meaning that someone has to troubleshoot these things when they have problems.  Not only is it impossible to have a standard fix for Android devices when manufacturers modify things like the Email.apk and Calendar.apk along with their skins, but certain skins (I’m looking at you, TouchWiz) break simple things like Exchange compatibility in newer Exchange environments.  Try your best to explain that to a new Android user; they’ll still bail on Android and choose an i*hone.  I’ve seen it happen firsthand on multiple occasions.

    tldr: There is no reason for manufacturers to be skinning Android, especially as heavily as they do.  And for every person that can provide an opinion as to why they’re good, a hundred of others will beg to differ.

  • Mothinrust

    In a perfect world they would give you the option to run stock Android or download their UI skins in the market. Sense was nice when I first got my phone and it does make some stuff prettier, but I think I’ve replaced most of that stuff (homescreens, lockscreen, keyboard) with better, more customizable apps.