wear watchImage: Jon Phillips

Google says OEM skins won't dilute Android Wear, Android TV and Android Auto

Google lost control of how Android looks on smartphones long ago, but it won’t suffer that same indignity—or confusion point for consumers—with its new Android iterations for wearables, entertainment devices and cars. 

Speaking with Ars Technica, Google engineering director David Burke said that the user interfaces and software code for Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV will be controlled by Google, and not device manufacturers. This will put an end to the too-often-frustrating problem of Android looking one way on Samsung devices, another way on HTC devices, and entirely different ways on handsets and tablets from LG, Sony and the rest of the Android hardware universe.

“The UI is more part of the product in this case,” 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.”

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Android Auto should look the same whether you're in a Honda, Audi, or any other ride.

Burke said Google will directly manage software updates for Wear, Auto and TV hardware, pushing out new versions much like Chrome desktop updates. This should put an end to the heartbreak so many smartphone owners suffer when they have to wait a matter of months for their handsets to receive the latest system code.

Google is clearly asserting a ubiquitous, consistent design across all the new types of Android devices—a software philosophy that’s worked wonders for Apple’s iOS. Says Burke: “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.”

moto 360 Image: Jon Phillips

Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 will have their own custom watch faces, and of course display specs will vary from watch to watch. But the underlying Android Wear experience will remain consistent.

Cars with Android Auto, and TVs and streaming boxes with Android TV, should be rolling out by the end of the year. But right now, people interested in Android Wear are researching watch models from Samsung, LG and Motorola. The Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch will starting shipping in early July, while the Motorola Moto 360 is planned for late summer.

But here’s the kicker for Wear-curious consumers: When they’re narrowing down their choice about which watch to buy, they can focus solely on aesthetics, build quality, weight, dimensions, comfort, display quality and a few brand-specifics apps and services. They won’t have to stress about whether they prefer a Samsung skin over an LG skin.

And that’s great news, because Google’s UI vision is usually better than the OEM visions, and the end of excessive skinning across all Android devices can’t come soon enough.

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