Android’s open nature has long been a double-edged sword. From security issues and fragmentation on the bad side, to insane amounts of customizations, mods, and ROMs on the good side. Manufacturers who have created custom user interfaces for its Android handsets, which is essentially everyone, have furthered the fragmentation of the OS with slower update periods and by having its custom UIs fill up too much space within the phone to successfully port the latest version of the OS. In a very small step in order to gain some consistency, Google is now requiring manufacturers to use specific elements of the Holo UI, the theme found in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, if said handsets have Android Market access.
The latest entry in the Android Developer Blog states the following below,
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 really is a rather incremental step, as custom user interfaces will remain untouched for the most part. Only widget styles, settings, and menus will be affected with this new requirement. Will failure to do so result in being blocked from the Android Market? While the post doesn’t explicitly say that manufacturers who don’t follow suit will be blocked from the Market, we don’t have much of an idea as to what the consequences would be other than that.
In an attempt to smooth some aspects of the Android landscape, at least in the look and feel department of certain areas, we applaud Google’s move. Still, we’d probably tell you to get a Nexus device anyway.
Someone tell HTC to get to work.