updated 07:20 pm EST, Tue January 3, 2012
Android 4 UI elements required to get Market
Google in an update for developers has revealed that it's taking a hardline stance on including Android 4.0 interface elements. Although HTC, Samsung, and others can still have a default custom interface and theme, the code behind the stock theme, Holo, now has to sit on the device if a hardware maker wants to have access to Android Market. The policy will make sure that hardware makers can update faster by keeping their theme separate from the OS and provide a consistent look for apps without having to continually adapt code.
Apps don't have to be rewritten to support the new themes, Google said. Android 4.0 knows to adjust the theme depending on what OS version the app was targeting.
The change, which had remained mostly low-key until now, is a further step to address a still-growing problem with delayed or abandoned updates on Android phones. Despite the Android update alliance pledge for fast, long-term update support last May, most Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) still take months to deliver upgrades or don't update beyond one or two patches.
Samsung's decision to abandon Galaxy S support may have been explained by Google's policy. It has claimed it doesn't have space to include TouchWiz with Android 4.0 and may have not given headroom for more than its own theme. The company has so far refused to consider dropping its custom interface to give the more advanced features.
iOS hasn't had the freedom of customization of Android, but its one theme and focus on common, reusable interface elements from the iPad to the iPod has meant that Apple can update its entire platform at once rather than having to wait for OEMs and carriers.