Google announced its new Android Wear products, Android TV and Android Auto last week during its Google I/O 2014 developer’s conference. All will serve as entryways into Google’s ecosystem in some form and, because of that, Google wants the experience to remain the same across devices made by different OEMs. In other words, a smartwatch made by Samsung and another by LG should offer the software experience — in general — even if there are hardware differences.
That means that Google won’t allow custom skins to be built into the products. That stance is different than the company’s policy on smartphones and tablets, where manufacturers are allowed to change the software drastically with different skins such as HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz.
“The UI is more part of the product in this case,” Google engineering director David Burke told Ars Technica. “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… The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”
Services might include different custom apps that allow for a slightly tweaked experience. The Samsung Gear Live smartwatch, for example, has a heart rate monitor while the G Watch does not. Obviously it makes sense for Samsung to include some sort of heart rate monitoring experience — the company just can’t tweak the entire UI.
Hopefully this also prevents fragmentation across all of Google’s new platforms. It should allow software updates to be more consistent, at least with devices that won’t need outside certification, like Android TV and Android Wear. Since Android Auto is still tied to a smartphone, that may still be reliant on carrier approval device approval processes.