Google is clamping down on custom skins and other tweaks Android phone makers use to make their handsets stand out, as it looks to tackle the ever more problematic issue of OS fragmentation.
Android is a famously open platform, allowing phone manufacturers of all hues to get on board with it for free and apply their own touches to the vanilla version of the operating system.
But while this freedom has resulted in some smart innovations (CF: HTC Sense) that have enhanced the Android experience, it’s also cleared the way for some sub par handsets that have damaged the Android brand. Furthermore, it's the primary factor behind long waits for updates experienced by phone owners due to complications getting new iterations of the platform to work with custom skins.
Mindful of this, it seems that Google is now assuming more control over Android. According to a report from Bloomberg's Business Week citing unnamed execs from 12 handset partners, from hereon in manufacturers will have to secure advance approval for changes they want to make. What's more, to ensure they stay in line, Google is apparently giving priority access to new software to companies who abide by its rules.
The report states: “From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google's most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android group.”
Google claims the move to shore up Android is aimed at squashing bugs faster and working towards a more unified experience. However, the change is being seen by many as the first step towards a much more closed OS akin to the approach favoured by Apple and Microsoft with Windows Phone 7.
Bloomberg Business Week