Since the launch of Google’s mobile operating system Android, the main argument between Apple loyalists and those who follow within the ranks of the Android Army, has been that the little green ‘droid is all about customization and input, while Apple’s mobile OS is what Apple wants, and there’s not much else left. There are other arguments, of course, but you’ve got the “openness” of Android and Apple’s “walled garden” that started it all. What I haven’t heard all that much lately, though, is that Android has gotten stale – at least, not until Android 4.0 hit the scene.
And now, I’m starting to see it pop up here and there. And actually, as I look back over the last few years that Android has been around, I think that’s an argument that is pretty sound. And I know it may sound strange, due to the fact that every other mobile OS out there probably looks pretty stale nowadays, but I don’t think any one of those operating systems are “advertised” in the same way. Sure, webOS had the same kind of “do what you want” look and feel, but it still wasn’t about the out-right customization or openness.
And I think Android 4.0 goes a long way to show why, exactly, Android is built around those customizations. You look at Android 4.0 and Android 2.3, and the similarities are there, but even the similarities have been tweaked. Android 4.0 looks like Android 3.0, yes, but we’re keeping the conversation about smartphones. And, honestly, the differences between 2.3 and 4.0 are drastic, and much needed.
Because I think Android is one of those things that need revolutionary and not just evolutionary changes to make it stand out. The Android fans are going to say that that isn’t necessary, that Android stands out against the likes of iOS and BlackBerry OS all on its own, but these would probably be the same people who go out of their way to make Android uniquely their own, and focus on customization. Android is about customization, about making your phone different than your friend’s phone. So, why did Google make it so necessary for manufacturers to make Android look different?
You know what I’m talking about: proprietary user interfaces. Things like HTC’s Sense UI, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, or any other manufacturer’s out there who have chosen to put a custom skin and in-depth alterations to the Android OS on their phones. Some would argue that Google made Android a blank slate, more or less, so that those manufacturers could make it different, but over the years we’re just looking at the same stuff. Vanilla Android looks like vanilla Android, and Samsung’s TouchWiz has looked the same since its launch. Features change, yes, but where’s the customization we’re talking about? Why hasn’t Google made the huge changes we see in Android 4.0 in every other major update? Android 2.0 should have looked hugely different from Android 1.0, and I’m not just talking about icon alterations, or color changes.
I think Android 4.0 is a long-time coming, and it’s something that Android absolutely needs. I’m not even talking about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, that’s just hardware. Android 4.0 should show that Google is ready to make the changes to Android that they should be making, and not leaving it up to manufacturers to make the alterations. We know that HTC is planning on releasing Sense 4.0 with whatever devices they release next year with Ice Cream Sandwich, and hopefully Sense looks different, but it probably won’t.
So, thank you Google. Thank you for giving Android the visual boost it needed. And, here’s to hoping that whatever version of Android for smartphones you release next has another huge graphical and technical boost that we’re seeing now. Fingers crossed!