Should Android tablets have custom user interfaces?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: January 24, 2011

As the pending barrage of Android tablets approaches, a few questions come to mind. The most important and obvious deal with hardware. What processors or how much memory will your favorite tablet have? Will it have front- and rear-facing cameras? Recently though, there has been some talk of software and what user interface different Android tablets will ship with.

A few days ago, a rumor was spread that the Motorola's XOOM would ship with MOTORBLUR, but Moto (thankfully) put a quick end to that. Now, HTC's rumored tablet may be sporting a tablet-optimized version of Sense UI called Sensation. We already know all about the Galaxy Tab; it wears a modified version of Samsung's TouchWiz. All of these skins have unique benefits on phones – especially for newbies – but are they necessary or even wanted on tablets?

We got a little preview of Honeycomb back at CES, and I have to admit, I'm digging the new look to Android. Google has stepped up their game and turned their tablet version of Android into a very fluid and clean OS. They modified it, gave it a more desktop-like feel, and added quite a few features in homescreen customization. Sense UI is undoubtedly my favorite custom skin, and I feel it is great for phones. But after seeing the preview of Honeycomb, I'm almost positive I don't want any trace of Sense UI, Sensation, or TouchWiz on a Honeycomb tablet.

Having TouchWiz on the Galaxy Tab definitely made the experience a little more fulfilling, but it was running on top of a version of Android that wasn't meant for tablets. If and when the Galaxy Tab gets Honeycomb, it will be interesting to see exactly how Samsung integrates the interface. The same goes for Sensation. It's hard to anticipate how these custom skins will look over a completely overhauled UI. The only thing I feel that they will bring to Android that Honeycomb doesn't already offer is some very nice widgets. Decent widgets is something stock Android has always lacked. The extra real estate on a tablet's display definitely calls for something a little more exciting than a few dull icons. If Sensation or the next iteration of TouchWiz offer some nice widgets to use, the skins may be worthwhile.

Hopefully we will get a glimpse of Sensation or a skinned version of Honeycomb at Mobile World Congress and we'll have a little more to go on. For the time being though, my vote goes for stock Honeycomb on tablets. What do you think? Should Android tablets come with custom skins, or should they be left alone?

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