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Android’s New Holo Theme Should Help Manufacturers Update Phones Faster, is a Requirement for Android Market Access


With Ice Cream Sandwich and it’s shiny new theme, the Android team has decided that it wants parts of it to remain untouched going forward, even from manufacturer skins. The theme is called “Holo” and can be seen in bits in the images up top. And when we say “remain untouched,” we mean that these themes are required if Moto, Samsung and HTC want to keep their access to the most important Google app of all, the Android Market. +1 to that?

The Android developers team has released a blog post detailing “Holo” and its requirements:

In Android 4.0, Holo is different. We’ve made the inclusion of the unmodified Holo theme family a compatibility requirement for devices running Android 4.0 and forward. If the device has Android Market it will have the Holo themes as they were originally designed.

This standardization goes for all of the public Holo widget styles as well. The Widget.Holo styles will be stable from device to device, safe for use as parent styles for incremental customizations within your app.

This should lead to a more uniform look and feel to Android going forward, something that I think most of us would agree is needed. While manufacturers tend to use their skins to differentiate, this will at least allow you, your mom and brother to all carry different phones, but to still pick up each others and know what the hell is going on.

And on a related note, the Android team also has made it clear that their new handling of themed items should allow for manufacturers to updates their devices much faster:

Formally separating these theme families will also make future merges easier for manufacturers updating to a new platform version, helping more devices update more quickly. Google’s Nexus devices alias DeviceDefault to the unmodified Holo themes.

So a more standardized Android look, plus faster updates from OEMs? I’m happy with that.

Via:  Android Developers

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like all the blue crap in ICS, I hope they let you change the base color to green or red or something other than that horrid, ugly blue color.

  • Anonymous

    good article

  • Heads must be exploding at Motorola, HTC and Samsung.

  • PC_Tool

    This sucks.  I actually like TouchWiz 4.  Hopefully this does *not* mean they are going away entirely and it’s just the settings/menu items that cannot be redone (ala MIUI).

    The TouchWiz 4.0 launcher was beautiful, IMO, and the widgets as well.  Hopefully this will not bar the OEMs from still shipping the phones with their launchers/widgets.

  • 98% of people who commented on this thread missed the point entirely. UI overlays are not going away.

    • PC_Tool

      Thank God…(not that they missed it, but that it’s not going away…)  😉

  • Jim

    Thank the Lord!

  • PowerofPicture

    I think we will always have some form of HTC Sense, Touchwiz, Motorola, etc.  It will just be regulated to certain areas like the launcher and widgets.  Personally I don’t want every phone to look like stock ICS.

  • asdf asdf

    For Android its the other way round
    (especially on ICS) – on tablets I find it mediocre but love it on phones.
    Have yet to see a flagship ICS tablet when my opinion might change.

    . Claw Digital


  • Really smart move by Google here. OEM’s can still do their thing with Andriod but now it’s with in limits. People can get updates faster and still get the extra functionality they want but with a more standardized look. That sounds like a reasonable compromise. I’m really liking ICS, you can see just how much thought has gone in to making it right.

  • Isn’t android supposed to be open? What about people that like changing themes? What if I want a ROM that changes the theme? 

    Maybe I don’t understand what this means, but this seems like it is taking away the openness that I love about android

    • PC_Tool

      Fork it.

      Okay, maybe not you…but MIUI did it.  It’s Android…with a heavy sprinkle of iOS.  Works on a good many devices too.  I make it a point to make sure it either *is* available or very likely *will* be when I purchase a new device.

      It works *great* on my old Fascinate and will hopefully be working soon on my G’Nex.  Just the theme support alone on this fork of Android is astounding.

  • Sirx

    Finally, a Google App that we can all agree has been LONG overdue:

    Google Balls!

  • Anonymous

    This doesn’t mean skins go away.  If you look at the screenshots of the GSII 4.01 and 4.03 ROMs, you’ll see that Samsung has a let the Holo theme show through.


    Especially look at the Settings screenshots and compare to the one above in Kellex’s post.

  • Anonymous

    So this means no more skins? If so this is great news.

    • Tim242

      No, this does not mean the end of skins. Sorry, but no skins would make Android quite boring. Sense adds a lot of functionality. I have the Nexus. I miss some features of Sense, like auto text reflow, the dialer, and the lockscreen.

      • PC_Tool

        Same here.  Bought the G’Nex…miss TouchWiz 4.0 big-time.  Loved the launcher, loved the widgets….now I can’t go back (still have my old phone) because there’s too much about ICS I love.

        ….so definitely hoping someone port TouchWiz 5 to the G’Nex one of these days.  Heck, I hope we see ports of Sense and Blur as well.  That’s what this phone is all about, right?  Options?

        The more the merrier.  😉

        (Hopefully sbrissen wins one of the G’Nex devices from Rootzwiki…he’s a huge TouchWiz fan and a beast with smali.  He’d have it ported in no time…)

  • This is the right move to continue building out the Android empire (which is surprisingly democratic !).  Glad to see it finally happen.

  • Anonymous

    Just hope HTC, Samsung, etc don’t get upset, and decide to just partner with Amazon for their Market instead so they can continue to include their own launchers on their devices.

    • TLW

      Lol.  Yeah…..that would be smart on their part. 

  • Blood


  • Treknologist

    Next step, block the addition of bloatware from service providers!  I know ICS allows removal of bloat, but it would be best to not have to deal with it at all.

  • Meggiequillinan

    sorry guys… android fan network got it right

  • Rufusx

    Probably just means we will not see as many devices updated to ICS 4.0. Device manufacturers may just feel like not upgrading to the latest OS if they can’t customize the hell out of it. Also, might mean new hardware will likely launch with GB instead of ICS.

    • Anonymous

      Highly doubt this. Not sure if you use ICS but the amount of polish compared to GB is unreal in my opinion. I’m using mostly stock apps and every app that isn’t (Nova Launcher and ICS Browser Plus) is the stock app with only feature improvements.

      Manufacturers want a phone that people buy and don’t constantly come in to ask questions about (or return). ICS supports this idea.

    • KevinC

      and then google wont let them have the market on old android versions

  • Mjc2251


  • Can they also make a rule that HTC can’t use their disgusting black to less black gradients that they use everywhere? Seriously, it’s just hideous. And it feels so bloated.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think means phones won’t have stuff like blur but it’d be awesome if you could chose between stock android or the manufactures skin. Hell even have the manufacturers skin default and stock an option to pick.

  • Anonymous

    Exelent! As I said the best way to do skins its by turning everything into an app manufacturer home and Widgets and features overall, everything can be made an app and even be updated via Android market

    • Tim242

      They aren’t just “skins.” They add functionality that has to be deeply built into the OS. I wish my Nexus had auto text reflow, like Sense browsers.

  • Mood

    +1 to Android

  • Lam Nguyen

    Wow that’s pretty whack if this is correct. I hated iPhone and WP7 because all of them looked the same. I really liked the diversity of manufacture’s UI on different Android phones. 
    I can see Android’s daily activation lowering. Yeah all of us would like it but it’s the people that aren’t already “Android-holics” that will see Android OS as another boring OS.

    • Anonymous

      As long as Android has options from free to top of the line people will buy. A lot of people don’t get Android because they like the customization, they get it because it was cheaper.

      Just for the record, my friend that isn’t a smartphone buff hates touchwiz and the bloatware on his phone. He is basically confused by all the bloatware apps and put off by the look.

  • Bigbox

    Seems to me that this is just one more reason for OEMs to continue to put gingerbread (or 2.2) on some smartphones… Only way to make it “theirs.”

    • Anonymous

      Read the source; I think not a single person commenting really gets what’s being said, here.

  • Frankfiorta

    Goodbye to manufacturers. They are not needed. Google just make the damn phones…

    • Anonymous

      no, google doesn’t make phones, they only make the OS, and yes manufacturers are needed, google does not make hardware.

  • The Verge got it right.. http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/3/2680410/google-holo-theme-android-4-0-required

    • Anonymous

      The Verge almost never gets Android stories correct, and this is no exception. Read the source; this actually helps with manufacturer’s skins/themes. It’s a good thing, though, as it will promote faster updates without a manufacturer sacrificing differentiation all while allowing the user to have a more universal experience (provided app coders use the API, of course).

  • Jeremy Edwards

    The new Holo theme while a requirement to be present on Android 4.0 won’t really matter all that much until about at least 2 years from now. I say that because it’ll take at least 1 year for Android 4.0 to gain over 50% market share. And another year for it to have 85%+ market share a point where developers might think it’s safe to consider it the minimum version for their apps.

    That’s only considering apps that start development or are very early in development at that point. Now for apps that are released now and probably 1.5 years in the future. This won’t matter much still until developers/designers take the effort to support this. It is complicated by the fact that they still have to support 2.x for a very long time.

    Fortunately, the task of updating apps to the new theme is basically dropping old stuff and following the instructions on that blog post. But I’m doubting the effort will be done by many apps because it won’t make sense as all the hard work was already done.

  • About time.  When you think of it, it’s ridiculous that an OEM could completely erase any trace of stock Android UI elements if they wanted — you could practically see the months of update delays pile in front of you.

    This probably also explains why the original Galaxy S can’t get 4.0.  Samsung may have cut the hardware requirements low enough that it didn’t even think that it might need to fit more themes than its own.  I know the Fascinate was especially lean.

    • Jsh1972

      i have a nexus s 4g and a fascinate. i’m keeping the nexus stock and waiting on the update. in the meantime, i got a cm9 ice cream sandwich alpha running on the fascinate, and it’s smoother and faster than the nexus running stock 2.3.7. now that google says holo is a requirement for the market, the galaxy s will get ics, the only possible reason they weren’t going to put it is because of touchwiz… i don’t see how they could have people still on contract that can’t use the friggin market. well, other than keep them on old 2.3 touchwiz, i suppose… still, the fascinate handles it just fine.

  • Anonymous

    Great, so they just guaranteed that no existing phone with a manufacturer skin will get ICS.

    • Anonymous

      facepalm… you think that an update can’t change the skin… what do you think an update does? only change code… no… it changes the system files. which if needed could be those that have oem changes already made… just like how blur changed from 2.2 to 2.3, it can be deblured in 4.0.

      • Anonymous

        No, I’m suggesting that they would chose not to so they could retain their experiences on the products they have already sold.  I’m suggesting that rather than throwing money at de-bluring/sensing their current products, they would opt to stick with GB, and just not skin ICS on future devices. 

        But if Droidzilla is right, I didn’t understand the article correctly anyway.

    • Anonymous

      I think no one gets what this means (sorry, Kellex; this is a poor write up). This will actually make it easier for manufacturers to update and keep their look and feel while making the user experience more uniform (provided app makers utilise the API).

      • Anonymous

        Yea I read it as no vanilla = no market access, and I expected that in return companies like Moto would said well F it, we will just update our skin on GB and worry about ICS for our next device.

        • Anonymous

          You read it incorrectly. Read the source.

  • Lgreg64

    this is great i still think OEM’s need to add things to make there phone different but that does not mean they need to change everything (sam, htc, )

  • Google puts their foot down, its about time!

  • NorCalDroid

    take that you stupid phone manufacturers

    • Anonymous

      This actually helps the phone manufacturers use skins and give a more uniform experience. Read the source.

  • This is huge. This is an end to irremovable, intrusive manufacturer skins. Serious props to Google.

    • Tim242

      Ummmno it’s not. You apparrently don’t understand what all of this means.

  • TheVaan

    Nice for stock rom users, crap for custom roms. It says “the original Theme must be in the firmware” – but what should be modified on a rom else then the theme?

  • Finally Google is taking some control over Android. Hopefully they comply and hopefully developers will start developing their apps with the action bar so we can have a completely uniformed OS

  • Michael Forte

    Faster updates…yeah right. I don’t think I’m ever buying a non Nexus phone again, and if I do, it has to have an unlocked bootloader.

    • Tim242

      You say you buy the Nexus for the latest updates. Howevevr, if you have a custom recovery installed, you don’t get OTA’s…

      • Michael Forte

        Yeah but with an unlocked bootloader you can still get the latest updates as long as there is developer support.

        • Tim242

          You can get that on MOST non Nexus phones.

          Sent from my Galaxy Nexus

  • This is good.. very good.

  • jbonics

    cool. i like that. manufacture overlays are next to worthless

  • Go Google!

    Suck it TouchWiz!

    • Boblevel

      and Sense and Blur…

      • All three of ’em!

        • Kellex, please read my comment: http://www.droid-life.com/2012/01/03/androids-new-holo-theme-should-help-manufacturers-update-phones-faster-is-a-requirement-for-android-market-access/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#comment-399968829

          • Anonymous

            Please read my reply to that post.

        • Anonymous

          Kellex, you kind of missed what was being said, I think (sorry if I’m off base). According to the blog:

          We have no desire to restrict manufacturers from building their own themed experience across their devices. In fact we’ve gone further to make this even easier. In Android 4.0’s API (level 14) we’ve added a new public theme family to complement the Holo family introduced in Android 3.0: DeviceDefault. DeviceDefault themes are aliases for the device’s native look and feel. The DeviceDefault theme family and widget style family offer ways for developers to target the device’s native theme with all customizations intact.

          This is saying that the new API allows for consistent theming on a specific device, not accross the Android platform as a whole. Basically, you must have the Holo theme, but you can have a separate DeviceDefault theme. This means a Sense themed phone will have Sense themed apps, TouchWiz will have TouchWiz themed apps, and the Nexus DeviceDefault will have Holo themed apps (since that’s its default).

          This is actually pretty cool, since it will allow themers and manufacturers a really easy, quick way to differentiate their devices in a deep, universal manner (provided app makers use the API, of course). It will not, however, make Android more universal (unless app makers specifically code for Holo and not DeviceDefault, but I can’t see that happening).

          If ICS provides a way to switch themes, and that method carries over to stock devices, this could open up theming (or simply using the Holo theme on non-Holo DeviceDefault themed devices) to the non rooted masses. Lots of potential, here.

          • Ben

            This is a terrific explanation and definitely on par with how i interpreted this as well. +1 to you. 😀

      • Anonymous

        Id still keep Blur. Well the Blur launcher at least. After messing around with CM7(and completely stock thx to my new-to-me OG) I still dont get why people hate Blur….I mean its just a launcher now….

        But to each their own.

        • Jason Naylor

          Blur is not just a launcher…

          • Anonymous

            Then you havnt used it lately. 

            Seriously though. Ive used stock(up to 2.3.7), Sense and Touchwiz. I do hate Touchwiz and Sense….but Blur is pretty much a launcher nowadays. Yeah Blur DOES extend to the camera(which you CAN change that btw. I use the DX camera on my Bionic for example) and lockscreen(again….I use WidgetLocker anyway) but what else is different from stock? Honestly not much. Out of the 3 major OEM skins MAP(What you know as Blur) is the lightest and least resource intense. 

            You have to realize that Blur has come a LONG way from the “MOTOBLUR ACCOUNT” Cliq days. I didnt always like Blur….hell I didnt even like Motorola for YEARS AND YEARS….until I replaced my Blackberry Storm2 with a Droid X. That phone(with the early GB leaks) literally changed my mind about a company I hated for so long. 

          • Mack

            Trust me, Blur is still more than a launcher although not as bad as it was on 2.2. I have a Droid X2 running 2.3.5 and Blur goes way past the launcher. The camera, gallery, launcher, sms app, etc. Looking through the framework of the software you can see just how much of it is a part of MotoBlur. Even looking through /system/app you can see all the Blur apps and services.  

          • Lgreg64

            but of all the OEM skins it’s the closest to stock.

          • Anonymous

            I dont have an X2(that kinda funny since I have quite a large Motorola collection), but the X2….which WAS the Bionic(Etna…has the exact same specs and part numbers as the Etna prototypes…but Moto salveged it, shoved it into a X body and called it the X2) can be considered a failure. Its common knowledge that Motorola ISNT  a very good software company. But Blur has gotten better with time. 

            The Froyo days are over…lets be honest here….out of the 3 major skins Blur is the least bloated. Sense is the worst resource hog now and Touchwiz is….well its Samsung so id rather see it burning holding all the Korean babies with it(spent too many years in South Korea….I dont care for them). 

            I still agree that OEM skins should be an option for the masses. Its an option for me and I kept Blur. I like Gingerbread era Blur WAY more than stock. 

          • Mack

            I definitely agree that Blur is the least invasive and bloated of the three major Android skins. Personally I just wish it wasn’t there at all but it is still very tolerable and if you like it, awesome – it’s just not my preference. As far as the X2 goes, yeah it’s a disappointment mainly because of the screen but I wouldn’t call it a complete failure. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not stuck with it for two years. I got it as a Droid X (fell off a car – go insurance!) replacement from Asurion for $100 so my contract is still up for renewal this August. I feel bad for anyone who paid anything over $100 for it and is stuck on a two year contract with the X2 though. 

          • Jeres88

            Blur is the best and least invasive of the manufacturer skins, but it is still far from just a launcher.  My wife has a Droid Razr, it is still in the camera, sms, settings menu, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Definately a step in the right direction…

  • Ronaldramsayii

    Definitely will cut back on fragmentation as well. I’m definitely for this!

  • Wrong. This just means that manufacturers are forced to let Android apps use the Holo theme.
    This is easy to explain with MIUI. Many apps that look just like normal Android apps look MIUI-ish on MIUI ROMs.
    That’s because they don’t include the UI elements, graphics, but instead just “reference” to themens included in Android.

    Until now, manufacturers were allowed to modify these included UI elements. This is now forbidden, but manufacturers are still allowed to use custom themes, they just may not make third party apps look different, if the app developer decided to use the holo theme.

    This may be hard to understand, I hope I explained it good enough.

    • Ronaldramsayii

      MIUI doesn’t manufacture phones like that. This generally applies to companies like Motorola, Samsung etc. At least I would think so.

      • I know. But you didn’t understand my point. I just used MIUI to explain what many Android App UIs are made of – Core Elements integrated into the Android framework, which manufacturers were allowed to customize until now.

    • The Verge got it right! http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/3/2680410/google-holo-theme-android-4-0-required

    • But.. but…. when you flash MIUI, you are also flashing a Google Apps zip… So MIUI could do whatever the hell they wanted and you could still have Google Apps.

      At least I think I’m right…

      • Gapps is included with MIUI as it isn’t open source. 

        • PC_Tool

          Any MIUI.US or MIUI Android build I have flashed has had GAPPS included (not needed to flash it separately).

          MIUI itself may not come with GAPPS (no idea), but it would appear as though most of the ports include them by default…which does breach Google’s licensing (but that’s between Google and the groups porting MIUI).

          I think the main point was that “GAPPS” exists…..and can be flashed on any phone with working CWM….making the availability of the Market less of a threatening prospect (for us technical users, anyway).

          • Yeah, you’re correct on that. Smaller developers tend to include G Apps because they’re less likely to be found out. 

            Whether or not MIUI has GApps built in, or includes a zip within the zip that is flashed, I’m not sure.

          • PC_Tool

            Built-in.  Many is the time I pulled the “new” market out of the MIUI flashable zip to replace it with the “old” market and delete the marketupdater.apk.  Of course, cannot do that any more with MIUI v4 (“old” market requires “old” framework), but I’ll live…

          • Oh okay, well, now I know.

    • Anonymous

      From what I read on the Android blog, it seems that app coders can utilise the new theme API and you can use either Holo or whatever your manufacturer has stock. Basically, this gives the option to use the stock theme (blur, TW, Sense, etc.) or the Holo theme (stock for Nexus or other, vanilla devices).

      Bottom line: it sounds like all apps for 4.x will be Holo themed by default, but they will also allow coders to use the theme API to make their apps themed like whichever skin the user is running. This is a very cool idea, and definitely a step in the right direction.

  • Lmrojas

    So my Galaxy SIII should be a champ? Lol pretty sure ill still throw CM9 on any skinned phone i buy.

    • From a power standpoint. yes, your GSII is very good. But as a android phone in general. The answer may vary. The Note may out-champ your phone because it’s bigger. The nexus may outchamp your phone because its stock and has the best dev support out there. Hell, the Razr may out champ your phone because it’s built better. Imo there is no Champion android phone…..sorry for the useless rant. I had alot of fiber this morning.

  • Unexpected62

    This is good.

  • Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssss. Finally!

    A win for Android as a whole, though irrelevant for Nexus owners.

    • Anonymous

      I actually think this is terrible! Android was founded on the principles of customization, openness, and differentiation. Google is removing the UI choice from consumers’ hands and forcing us all to adapt to their own implimentation. Despite the majority of us agreeing this is the best UI and faster updates would be awesome, we are losing the main ideas that have been driving Android for years!

      • kretz7


        • Anonymous

          I have, am, and always will be rooted. The average consumer (I.e. most consumers) will never root. It’s not about me, it’s about the majority of people.

          • Then the average person does not care enough about how the phone looks to do anything about it. I think it’s more invasive to put a UI around the OS because then it’s harder to put anything but a UI’d ROM on that phone since the ROM you’re using as a base typically has to be stripped down to AOSP.

      • If an OEM wants to stand out then they should be able to, but not at the expense of the customer. They should offer a themed version of their build for a device on their website, that way you get the choice of using their themed version which will take many more months to get to you or the stock version which you got an OTA for probably 6 months in advance.

  • Edmund75

    Go Google!

  • I have a Nexus but still. I’ll drink to that.