Android Wear, Android TV, and Android Auto wont feature custom skins
Google engineering director David Burke revealed that skins and custom interfaces will not be allowed on Android Wear, Android TV, or Android Auto screens. Burke is well known for managing the Nexus program. Customizing might appeal to some of the OEMs that use the operating system, but the user experience is not always very good. Samsung’s TocuhWiz is one that’s often cited as having some weird design decisions. They just kind of cram as many buttons as they can into settings panels and they do some other things that are kind of inconsistent as well. Then, if you jump from a Samsung Android phone to an HTC Android phone you have to relearn a bunch of stuff all over again.
So Google is trying to eliminate some of that confusion for users and make it so that one Android Wear watch or one Android TV box works just like another watch or box. The search giant is treating these new devices that they’re launching as an opportunity to take some of the stuff that has not been so great about the operating system on phones and tablets, and to correct it. The problem that the OEMs introduce when they’re making these new skins and adjustments to the code under the hood is that they also have to manage their own software updates. As we all know, they’re not always good at doing that in a timely fashion.
Both the Gear Live and the G Watch are running the exact same version number and build number of Android. So it looks like Google is going to be able to manage the updates directly for these devices in a way that it hasn’t been able to on phones and tablets. That’s part of the main goal to keep all these wearable devices from getting as fragmented as phones and tablets have. In addition to a fresh new start for Android, there’s a whole other aspect to consider here. Some of these skins really add a lot of cruft under the hood and slow things down so we might actually see some improved performance simply by staying with stock Android on a lot of these devices.
As part of the standardization, Google also announced that they’re going to be managing software updates directly, and they also call that process automatic and seamless. We’ll just have to wait and see if that will actually be the case.