Dec 16 AT 9:39 AM Anthony Domanico 109 Comments

Matias Duarte not bothered by custom skins


When Matias Duarte, lead user interface designer at Google, showed off Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich two months ago, he was beaming with pride in his team’s creation. And he damn well should have; Ice Cream Sandwich is a thing of beauty, and may be the first Android version that is the perfect mix of both form and function, the lack of which has been one of the main focal points of Android critics to date.

Ice Cream Sandwich was supposed to be the version of Android that would require little customization by Android handset makers, though that dream was short-lived. Many handset makers are hard at work bringing their custom skins to Google’s latest Android OS, with Samsung this week demonstrating Touchwiz 4.0 running on a Galaxy S II device.

So how does the man behind Ice Cream Sandwich feel about all the custom skins ruining his creation? Surprisingly, Mr. Duarte is mostly okay with it, since Google’s Nexus program is still up on running, giving individuals who want a stock Android experience that opportunity. In a response to a question by Andrew Kameka of Androinica in a recent Google+ hangout, Mr. Duarte had this to say:

Well, it would bother me more if we didn’t have programs like the Nexus program. The idea behind the Nexus device is to do exactly that — to give consumers an option to use the baseline work that we do if they choose…the philosophy of Android, the idea that partners can customize Android if they want to, is really important to making Android successful.

I think as we see more and more of the basic UI, the basic operating system — the home screen, the notifications system — kind of meet all of the needs that the customers want, you’ll see that OEMs invest less time trying to fill in the features maybe that were missing there and more time adding completely new features to differentiate each other. Or taking the baseline Android experience and trying to transform it to create something completely different that is more of a niche product like the Kindle Fire.

And I think that’s good; I’m excited for that future. I hope that with Ice Cream Sandwich, we’ve done a lot to deliver that baseline so that OEM’s are going to feel less like they need to fill in the holes that Android left behind and actually focus on adding value. I think with the new Asus Transformer Prime, you’ll see that the level of customization they’ve provided on top of the base Android is much less than has been provided in the past. In fact, they even allow you to turn off all of their customizations and revert to the stock Honeycomb UI, which I think is a really cool development, too.

We always look at whatever manufacturers launch but we have to kind of keep ourselves very firewalled. We don’t want to show them what we’re doing before it’s ready and they don’t want to show us what they’re working on before it’s ready. It’s really important for the community to kind of have an even playing field.

Individual designers, product managers, and engineers maybe follow one particular mod or OEM more than others, so that becomes part of the gestalt of different ideas that are out there.

It’s always exciting to see when somebody does something really cool, really interesting, and really different. One of the designs practices that we have is that when you start a a new design problem, stop and think, Ok what’s the obvious way to do this? And then just challenge designers and engineers to say, Ok, technology aside — assuming that there’s no limit — what would be the coolest way to do this? What would the most compelling, fastest way to do this? And let’s see what that would look like the way that nobody else has done this before and then let’s see how close we can get to that.Matias DuarteGoogle

As a proponent of a pure Google experience it’s really hard to agree with Matias Duarte on his assertion that he’s okay with custom skins, but I understand that manufacturers want the ability to differentiate their products from the large number of other Android devices on the market today. Companies focus on creating a competitive advantage in their offerings, creating an experience that draws the largest amount of customers to their products (and away from others). Furthermore, handset makers occasionally do come up with pretty cool things that later get incorporated into the next version of Android. I get it. I don’t always like it, but I get it.

The solution that may make everyone (including my crotchety self) happy can be found in the third paragraph of Mr. Duarte’s’ statement, where he talks about how ASUS is handling the custom UI on the Transformer Prime tablet. ASUS has prepared a minimal UI overlay for Honeycomb (and presumably Ice Cream Sandwich) that users can turn off and revert back to the stock Google experience, if they so desire.

If more handset makers approached custom skins like ASUS, allowing users the choice between their custom skin and the stock Android experience, users could get the best of both worlds when it comes to their devices. That said, we won’t be seeing companies adopt this strategy anytime soon, since these companies strongly feel that their custom skins improve the Android experience, rather than detract from it. Guess I’ll just keep dreaming.

What do you guys think? Do custom skins bother you? Do you want companies to provide customers the choice to revert to stock Android if they so desire?

Source: Androinica

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • levigarret

    Ill admit, when i first got my EVO 4g, i really like sense. I really didnt know what i was missing out on though. much more happy with my nexus s

    • Sean the Electrofreak

      It’s not so much the look of the skins that I hate, but the fact that they add months to the amount of time it takes for a phone to be updated to a newer version of Android.

      As a Samsung customer, I can’t believe the amount of time I’ve spent waiting for updates to come to my phone only to find later that they’ve decided to “upgrade” my TouchWiz too. I don’t hate TouchWiz, but I’d rather have my Android updated much sooner than gain some silly feature.

      • zerosix

        Well, actually, that customizations are good.
        I dislike wp7-way, all devices are absolutely the same, just the color of tiles differs.

  • Lane Montgomery

    If he is so proud of the Nexus program what does he think about it completely selling out to Verizon?

    • josegb2011

      He didn’t sell out…he simply gave a opportunity to the carrier that has not Had a nexus device can y’all be so our turn …eventually every carrier will have it ..

      • stenzor

        That’s not the point he’s trying to make. If Matias is so proud of the Nexus program, why did Google allow Verizon to modify some parts of the phone.. the branding on the back, the Google Wallet fiasco, etc

        • Lane Montgomery

          exactly, thanks

          • Futureboy

            In the first paragraph of his quote, given his statements about being ok with overlays, perhaps he feels that Verizon’s mods fall into this category. As long as the “baseline work” (vanilla Android) is out there and available to consumers in general (on other carriers), he doesn’t mind the carrier adjustments.

            The thing is, from where he’s sitting, I’m sure he can have pure vanilla on any device he wants, on any carrier. So this issue doesn’t really effect him at all. For him, I can only imagine that it is satisfying for him to release his project into the wild and see it flourish in many forms. However, it’s a different story for the rest of us. Rooting and flashing aside, the bulk of the population is not as fortunate. We are at the mercy of the carriers and therefore, see the overlay/no overlay issue a little differently.

        • Dirge

          Does that somehow alter your experience with the phone itself? Is it not a pure Google/stock android experience with no manufacturer skin? Two measly apps don’t do anything to negate the fact that the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is still a Nexus. The branding doesn’t really matter. Google Wallet fiasco? T-Mobile and AT&T versions of the Nexus S don’t have it either. What about that?

          • itzxdjx

            Yep def don’t agree that they sold out. And if version is paying for exclusivity then damn straight they can app two measly apps. And wallet is still in testing phase, so I don’t think it was a fiasco. all with due time.

          • PacoBell

            @itzxdjx “wallet is still in testing phase”? Where did you get that from? Google was ready to launch Wallet at the get go. It was VZW that put the kibosh on that plan because they wanted Wallet to be compatible with Isis’ particular format of authentication (one that they conveniently control). Google beat them to market fair and square and VZW backpeddled and pulled out the banhammer, regardless of their assertions to the contrary. And if you haven’t heard, Wallet works fine on the GSM Gnex. This is totally a political maneuver to stall for their own pet project to complete.

        • vitriolix

          Clearly because Google cares more about making sure a high end, vanilla Android experience is available to largest group of people possible more than it cares about a pissing contest about who’s brand is on the back. If it bugs you (it does me) to see the Verizon logo on there, buy a Google stick and cover it up.

        • redraider133

          only thing is google wallet is only on the sprint nexus s so what’s that say about the other nexus on the other carriers???

        • Jason

          The branding on the back of the phone has exactly zero to do with Matias’s work on ICS. That’s hardware. The ICS UI is software.

          From a UI perspective, Verizon removing Google Wallet from the phone or adding two apps to it is no different than you adding Angry Birds or the Google Earth app. It doesn’t make the UI itself any less vanilla.

      • Evokill1


    • MJM128

      It’s not good to completely start bashing on a partner even if he does feel that way. I doubt he’s speaking everything on his mind simply from a PR standpoint.

  • faun

    Whenever I buy an android device I always take it as somewhat of a given that I’ll revert it to AOSP at some point.

    I had a HTC Hero and really enjoyed what that original version of Sense bought to android back when it was (frankly) pretty ugly at 1.5. But then when 2.1 came out, I put an AOSP rom on it so I could get it faster than the carrier, and because I had grown tired of all the HTC spit-polish.

    Now with a Galaxy SII, I’ve not minded the TouchWiz skin they’ve put on it so far for gingerbread – it’s not so different from stock, after all. But with ICS coming out I’ll definitely be going back to AOSP to stay up to date and try out the fantastic new design for myself.

    So I guess I’m somewhat ambivalent. As long as I have the option to change it myself, I’m fine with OEMs skinning android – I just need to make sure I buy a popular enough/open enough device that I’ll be able to put a custom ROM on it down the track when I do feel the need to change.

    • YMS123

      And that is the beauty Android, giving you the power to do whatever you want with it

  • thekaz

    I don’t mind Sense. It still allows me (with some third party tools) to customize my look… I think it is also good for people who are not technically inclined, or don’t WANT to put the work into customizing their look (also known as iPhone users).

    I do wish there was a legit way to “opt out” more easily. I think I can change my “home” to take me to vanilla android rather than sense on my Droid Eris, but…

    • AppleFUD

      yeah, a stock option has been asked for for some time now but it isn’t going to happen. it appears that Google really does not want to support devices (in the same way MS supports PCs).

      That’s fine. However, my beef is, the Nexus program only gives me ONE CHOICE–that feels an awful lot like apple. And I don’t like that feeling!

      • PacoBell

        I’d rather have that than having Google’s talent potentially spread too thin and weakening the Nexus brand.

    • alxrock

      Having a choice of UI is one of the things that makes Android so great. Between Vanilla Android, Samsung’s Touchwiz, and HTC’s Sense (among others) It’s great that you can see what works best for you. I love the look of Sense (especially the widgets), but it’s nice to switch it out with AOSP as well. A simplified option to switch between would be great.

  • AsakuraZero

    it doesnt bothers me, though i preffer stock android, sony UI is beautiful, the samsung Touchwiz and they love to look like a iphone is… a bit unappealing but its not that bad.

    htc sense, i dont like it its ugly, or atleast the version on my friend phone which idk which version is it.

    never used a motorola or other handset so i cant say much about them.

    but asus is on the right spot, and other OEM should imitate that, people should be able to choose, and that is the idea of android, choosing

  • Darknight42020

    Manufacturers will always find a way to mess things up to their liking thinking everyone else will like it… Good thing we have plenty of devs and themers to help create a unique experience for those who want one.

  • melvin javier

    the customization i think would be in the middle of both worlds, it may be a downfall or it may be a success, it all defends on the taste of the customers and to the likes of us, im also happy bout the 3rd paragraph were we gotta choose whats best for us :)

  • taketheleap

    The custom skins isn’t the part that pushes me to root and install a new ROM, it’s the bloatware that the hardware manufacturers and carriers add in.

    Samsung can add their own skin, doesn’t bother me. But until they remove all the other garbage they install, I’ll stick with my Cyanogen, thank you very much.

    • PacoBell

      “But until they remove all the other garbage they install…” *cough*CarrierIQ*cough*

  • anon

    But you know he isn’t stuck with one either. The problem with custom skins for a customer is that they make it harder for those involved to update Android. I think Android should require manufacturers to make a stock option available for a certain period of time. Problem is that the companies in the way of this don’t benefit. They would prefer to sell you another handset or lock you into a new contract.

    • AppleFUD

      Yes, I’m sure we will see hardware manufacturers pushing craptastics updates now that hardware is to the point where it should handle the OS for several years–I can see them pushing updates that make the device pretty crappy to use and blame it on the “old hardware” and the average user wont know any different when in fact the hardware probably could last a lot longer.

      In fact, I’ve read on some forums that this has already happened. That’s always the problem with the OEM having full control of the hardware. Just look how apple gimps their devices (both hardware & software)–they are constantly pushing customers to upgrade to newer hardware and at a certain time they will break backward comparability to ensure that everyone must upgrade to new hardware.

      This give MS an edge that people aren’t really looking at right now due to their poor performance in the market–but seriously, think of a quality Nokia device that is supported for as long as the hardware can handle it though, I don’t know if that will ever happen either. Really seems to be that everyone is pushing harder and harder toward that 6 month upgrade cycle–from what I’ve read that’s the current upgrade cycle in Korea.

  • stenzor

    I would definitely love a choice as well. Sure there are custom ROMs available which you can use to customize your device anyways, but this should really be a stock feature. Another thing I disagree with is that while yes, there are Nexus phones, that product line is very small. People like me who have phones like the Galaxy S2 which is one of the most popular phones right now all have to stick with Samsung’s touchwiz. I don’t really mind touchwiz right now, but I’d really like the ICS upgrade… things like these custom skins are really slowing down that process.

    • stenzor

      Also, Mr. Duarte needs to trim those sideburns

      • thekaz

        crap. are long sideburns no longer in style? once again, I’m on the cutting edge of “out”

      • Futureboy

        With what he’s doing for Android and the mobile landscape as a whole, I wouldn’t care if the guy showed up to work and/or interviews dressed as a baby with a full beard! =)

  • benben

    I think Matias Duarte’s pragmatic approach is completely in line with the philosophy of Android.
    Also, it’s the complete opposite stand point of that of Apple and IOS.
    Android is open so of course manufacturers are free to customize in the ways that they find appropriate. If we don’t like that we have the option to go for a Nexus device or buy a device that we know can be rooted.

  • zyphbear

    I commend him for saying that he likes keeping it an even playing field and that he even mentions ASUS for their options. I think more companies should offer that feature.

    I did notice one of the biggest things though, was that he didn’t mention the update cycle and the delays that have gone along with it when companies insist on doing Skins. I think this is an important thing to note since some devices might be unprotected from security flaws due to the skins being forced on the devices and the companies not wanting to go back to old devices and continue the work for something that isn’t making them any money.

  • auronblue

    They would bother me less if I had the option to turn them off. However with all of the third party launchers out there I feel it is less of a problem to customize to your own liking.
    That being said I have never had a Nexus device and stock ICS is calling out to me in my dreams.

  • mikesuds

    When I got my first OG Droid and my roommate went with the cheaper Eris, I was a little jealous of the Sense overlay on his phone, and it’s what initially spurred my interest in Beautiful Widgets. However, this was just the beginning of my Android life and I soon came to feel that stock is the best experience to have for myself.

  • Rob Vermeij

    Touchwiz is actually very good on GB (2.3), it adds some hw acceleration and some more features. However, it sucks when you gonna use it on ICS :( ICS just has a beautiful UI of its own.

  • Ironzey Lewis

    I don’t know, everyone comes down really hard on sense, (not) blur touchwiz and all the other “unpure” android expirences. The OEMs do add a lot of functionality out of the box. With my old Nexus One I would spend a good hour setting up services the way I wanted them to be, download this app configure it that way. Setup facebook, tell it not to sync contacts and so on.

    When I tried Sense for the first time I was surprised at how many less things I had to do to get the device to feel populated. It cut my setup time by about 75%.

    I for one welcome the OEM enhancments. Remember Gingerbread didn’t come tih a panorama camera, app shortcuts in the notification pane and a bunch of other things that are a native part of ICS. The OEM enhancments save time and make things easier for people who don’t want to mess with their phones all the time.

    • jimtravis

      Like you, overall I like the enhancements added by Sense, TouchWiz etc. I do have a Nexus One, Nexus S, and I am sure it won’t be long before the Nexus 4G is added to the collection. Although I don’t like all vendor enhancements, overall they are a plus. For me, the individual enhancement feature pluses outnumber the individual enhancement feature negatives. There are times (when using the Nexus) I start to do something requiring a Sense or TouchWiz enhancement, and then realize it is not there (and miss it) in the “pure” Android. It would be nice if there was a master control panel with Sense, Touchwiz etal which allowed you to turn on / off each enhancement offered by the vendor over the stock Android, and of course a master switch to turn all enhancements off to revert to “pure” Android. That would be the best of both worlds, use the enhancements you like, and disable the enhancement features you do not use.

      I respect other opinions, but for me, the vendor enhancements overall are a plus at least pre-ICS. After I actually use (rather than just see videos) of ICS, I will reassess my opinion.

      I do like the overall look of Sense, and have been using Sense on Classic WM, and Android devices. The 7″ HTC Flyer is an excellent device. I particularly like the browser, and Gallery enhancements. The supplied web browser wordwraps just about all webpages when you pinch zoom, something stock Android only sometimes does, and iOS never does. I am referring to pinch zoom, not double tap zoom. With the Gallery app, HTC added the ability to stream directly from NAS, and other network devices something missing in stock Android. I realize there are 3rd party apps that can add that functionality, but it is nice to have the enhancements built-in out of the box.

    • PacoBell

      There are Sense ROMs for N1, ya know.

  • Jason Hernandez

    What I’ve come to love most about Android is that there is no shortage of options. I like having choice. I like the Nexus serious because it gives us that stock version of Android and serves as a way to compare what the manufacturers are dishing out.

    Aren’t most of you going to root anyway?

    • eliander mendoza

      I am and I don’t see the day “yet” where I won’t have to root my android smartphone.

  • bellken

    I would love the choice to revert to stock Android, though, I would like to actually try it, first.

  • ramenchef

    What manufacturers need to do is give consumers a choice, not just shove it down their throats.

    • desean

      Yes, all manufacturer should go in the direction of what Asus Transformer Prime is doing, give to option of turning off and go stock!

  • Samar

    I like HTC’s Sense UI than anobody else’s. But then again, pure ICS is good too. Will be interesting to see how they mingle it.

  • Trinhbo

    The concept of custom skins bothers me but only because as the user, I wish I had the choice to revert back to stock Android to see what it’s like. Of course I’ve loaded custom roms that offer that but I wish I didn’t have to jump through hoops to be able to do that.

    With that said, I don’t mind TouchWiz on the SG2. It is fairly full featured and I only become annoyed at the experience when it affects performance (i.e., adds lag) or is missing certain features. For example, I’m annoyed that in TouchWiz there is no easy way to add an app to the homescreen between existing apps and have the other icons automatically rearrange themselves like it does in iOS and some other UX. If you like to keep apps in alphabetical order, it’s a pain moving every single app on the homescreen to get things organized.

    I wish Android would just have a new feature that allows the user a simple setting to revert back to stock Android and switch back and forth to a custom overlay if they don’t like it.

  • Louis A

    It’s very simple the way I see it. Give the consumers the option to turn it OFF!

  • Tim

    My Nexus One was starting to lag and was running out of internal memory so I had to switch. The Sensation was only $100 when it was $200 everywhere else. So I took the plunge. I like Sense but still miss stock. I hope what happened with VZW isn’t what will continue to happen with Nexus. I want pure Android and no carrier crap, or the ability to take it off if I want. If they start taking away the biggest positives of Nexus there is no point to it.

    • PacoBell

      I’m still on my N1 out of a sense of obligation to make the most of my investment (I purchased it full retail off contract in the summer of ’10). All I’ve gotta say is thank the devs for *2ext and s2e. Now if only that touchscreen bug and GPS sensitivity were a bit better…

  • Mike Jones

    The problems I have with these customizations aren’t remedied by installing ADW or Launcher Pro. This isn’t just about taste or about the look. These manufacturers are replacing stock apps such as the gallery and email client. I have had devices in the past that didn’t have copy/paste in the e-mail client. That meant that every time I set up the phone (I’m a flasher) I had to create my long e-mail signature from scratch. Also, I have grown accustomed to picking my wallpaper from my online Picasa album. When I switched to the Motorola Photon, it’s picture picking feature of the gallery app they installed didn’t allow that. I guess Motorola didn’t feel it was an important feature but it was important to me. There are other issues such as size of the ROM. When HTC released sense 3.0 and announced that it would not be coming to older devices that should be a red flag because all Android devices can run stock Android. I have no interest in high quality weather animations. I want my phone to perform as well as it can.

    I believe manufacturer customization is a bad thing. It causes an inconsistent experience across devices. I now have to exercise caution when shopping a new device. I have to remember what is important to me and test these phones out to see which features, normally provided by Google, have been removed.

    I do, however, understand why Matias is okay with this customization. It keeps the manufacturers involved. It keeps the phones pumping out of the factories. The manufacturers for whatever reasons feel it is necessary to change things up and if you strip away their right to do so they may be less enthusiastic about Android.

  • Marc’us H.

    “What do you guys think? Do custom skins bother you? Do you want companies to provide customers the choice to revert to stock Android if they so desire?”

    The OG 4.0 that they’ve shown off and is on the Galaxy Nexus is a very sexy beast, and after looking at Touchwiz 4.0 I’ll have to admit ICS is much, much better. I unfortunately am in the minority when I say I never minded Touchwiz, but flat out ICS just seemed “fresh” in comparison.

    I would love an option to chose your “skin” out of the box, but I know that’s now how it works in the world of the manufacturer, because hell … look at MotoBlur and how well THAT turned out.

  • mjforte

    I find it funny that manufacturers want to try to differentiate themselves by using custom skins over Android. Wouldn’t using stock Android be a different approach than anyone else is doing? There are so few phones that have stock Android anymore and I think it would be a great way to differentiate from everyone else. Or if you are going to use customizations, at least give an option to go stock like ASUS is doing. ASUS seems to be the only ones that get it, and I’m interested to see how they do once they get into the phone game.

  • Adryan maldonado

    He might not be bothered by it but the other like 90% of us are. I know i am

  • Futureboy

    ” Transformer Prime tablet. ASUS has prepared a minimal UI overlay for Honeycomb (and presumably Ice Cream Sandwich), which they allow users to turn off and revert back to the stock Google experience if they so desire.”

    I would +1 this all day long.

    Turning off manufacturer’s overlays can be done. It is being done. It should be done across the board. Overlays can be great for innovation, but they should be “plug-ins” like any computer or browser, allowing a return to stock when I see fit.

    • phaet2112

      Toshiba’s is also stock, and their customization is a set of apps which should hopefully be able to be frozen and eliminated with ICS.

  • Wilson Lara

    I think it would benefit everyone if the OEMs would release a Vanilla android device at least once a year along with their regular line-up… I would just like to have more choices and options than just the one Nexus device each year.

    • Steve Heinrich

      That’s true. I know that once and a while another non-Nexus phone will come out with stock Android. The G2 did when it came out. But I agree, it would be nice to see more options.

  • thechad

    good article

  • Jon Nguyen

    After flashing MIUI and other ROMS, I must say that Stock Android is the best. Plus, my G2X came as a “Vanilla Phone” anyways.

  • Jason Spears

    “these companies strongly feel that their custom skins improve the Android experience”

    I would say they are mostly aiming for “adding value” and “driving revenue” and similar business-speak. Very often, business objectives have nothing at all to do with improving anything for the customer, who doesn’t exist as an individual but rather is an aggregate of focus group results, massaged statistics and plain old guesswork.

    Bundling crapware, add-in services that lock customers to a content delivery mechanism, dumbing down user interfaces – these are all things aimed at lowering support costs or milking the product for revenue in every way possible.

  • Jeb

    Yes go Matias! Mods are goal, the baseline is awesome but no one solution works best for everyone. Choice is where the gold is at. I have used stock android from the start and only recently switched to a custom launcher.

    I still use many stock apps, they are awesome. But it was time for a change on the launcher. I can’t wait to get ICS, and i can’t wait to see what kinds of mods the community will come up with and the kind that the manufacturers will come up with.

  • Mrwirez

    Skins are THE number 1 reason for update delays..

    My new Galaxy Nexus has an unlocked boot-loader and IS rooted. It took 2.5 seconds

    …What Verizon Apps?

  • Raveesh Bhalla

    This is coming from someone who’s almost definitely going to be working at Samsung July onwards on their Android team (straight out of college)…

    I hate TouchWiz, and I sincerely wish I’m not on that team. I could understand before, when the UX of Android wasn’t that great, but to be honest, TouchWiz was worse at all times. Sense offered some nifty stuff, which eventually became part of future android versions, but Samsung’s work is just plain wrong. I actually spoke to the recruiter about the UX, and he said I won’t get to work on it because “they hire trained people” from the top design college in India (and also elsewhere, based on the company’s strategies).

    I’m praying to God I get to work on something a lot more useful, something which can actually add to the Android experience. Because if I’m going to be working on TouchWiz, each line of code I’d be writing I’ll be reminding myself that I sold my soul to the devil just for some decent cash and an employee rebate on Samsung products.

    • PacoBell

      Umm, Raveesh, speaking ill of your employer or their products in a public forum is a Career Limiting Move (TM). While I appreciate your candor (I actually find it hillarious), you might wanna watch your back at corporate.

  • RayMatthew

    A choice of both Skins and stock Android would be nice.

  • cherrytree

    I am using a SGS an i dont think TouchWiz is that bad! using TW 4 at the moment! But also like the stock experience in CM! The best would be if you can choose between them!

  • jamal

    The OEM’s need to get with the program. Having options is good but the problem is that most OEM’s put their own skins on all their products, instead I think it would be greatly appreciated if they made some smartphones with stock Android.

  • Steve Heinrich

    I think that customization is key to the success of Android as well. That is what sets it waaaay apart from iOS. While some of the mods that the carriers are adding might not be all that great we need people to be thinking about how they can improve (however misguided) the experience. I do, however, think that a choice to revert to stock would be nice.

  • Tony

    This is pretty already known knowledge.. he stated this when he appeared on the Verge not very long after ICS was announced with the GN.

    It isn’t the look of skins that hurts, while they’re all ‘to each their own’ as far as I’m concerned, I’ve always preferred vanilla Android. It’s the changes in framework, proprietary drivers, etc. that end up causing delay in software updates for devices with Sense, TouchWiz, Blur, and others.

  • Billy

    Some of the third party features and UI is pretty nice and has helped push new ideas, competition, and provide choice (something Android is all about).

    However, the lack of pure Google phones is annoying and the lag time between updates is as well. I feel like there is a happy middle ground where we should have a choice (that word again) between a custom UI or stock Android on every phone (or at least some).

  • Mwandia

    Samsung is the worst in terms of custom UI so this seems terrible

  • itzxdjx

    IDK I hated touch wiz in the beginning but it’s actually really great on the s2. And mot blur was the worst for me. I I just picked up the atrix 2 and I actually like the new mofo ui. There are some advantages. But I would love them even more if I could revert back really easily.

  • Alexander drzfr3shboialex

    There is one problem with his Nexus statement. It is not available everywhere for that statement to really be true Nexus devices should be released on all major carriers, without any carrier apps, and etc they should be located in the app market(This goes for you Verizon) Now i am just waiting for the t-mobile one :)

  • Numbertwo

    I hate touchwiz but not as much as I detest htc sence, pure is always better

  • Wayne Winkler

    I think he has to say stuff like this, in political fear for his own personal job and company reputation. Saying he thinks for example Touch Wiz or Sense is garbage would piss those companies off and possible strain Google’s relationship with them.

    I doubt as the main man behind ICS he is happy to see Touch Wiz wiping out his hardwork on those phones.

  • calihawki

    Unlock the damn bootloaders! I can’t wait to get my Asus Transformer Prime.

    • PacoBell

      I wonder if CarrierIQ monitors how many people have unlocked bootloaders? Now THAT would be a statistic I’d pay to see. LOL!

  • kimminer1

    stock android is my favorite

  • HoLfElDeR

    It si better to have choise, that is what makes Android so good

  • Homncruse

    Wow, the Asus policy is news to me. THAT is why I love Asus. My original Transformer is amazing by itself, and although I have no doubt the Prime will be better, especially since you can turn off their customizations easily.

    Asus, if I throw my money at you, will you make me a phone too?

    • dacatalyst41

      I agree. They make quality products. And they do it in a way that minimizes customization and maximizes performance. Its sad when a manufacturers focus is so much on customizing and standing out that they make a product that underperforms….and they still charge top dollar for it! SMH

    • kungpaodragon

      2nd that. My Transformer makes an iPad look 1980… imho.

  • Marcus

    Maybe ICS is so greatly improved that costing skins don’t make it as laggy as it did previous iterations of Android. They still bug me, though. I think manufacturers should follow ASUS’s example and make it so where we could “turn off” the costing overlay.

    • Marcus


  • Andy Thomson

    I much prefer the vanilla experience. However, there are some really cool things that come out of the overlays so I am all for them, I just wish that it was easy to switch them off.

  • Zeratoda1

    Sense On My Sensation 4G is nice but i do wish it could be turned off or uninstall without the hassle of Rooting and flashing a custom rom to do so. but no more mistakes for me my next phone has to be a nexus

  • Jeff

    The Nexus program works great outside of the US where you can use a Nexus phone on any carrier you want. But inside the US, their sequence of releases have been absolutely horrible. Here’s their past release schedule as I remember it. I should note that I am only discussing phones that were directly launched in the US, not imports that coincidentally work on AT&T’s 3G network, as you get no warranty on those phones (plus, they cost a ton, $600+)

    Nexus One:
    Initially launched for T-Mobile in Jan 2010. Came out for AT&T in March 2010 in a very limited run. Announced for Sprint and Verizon but never released (instead steered those customers to buy the Sense-filled Evo 4G and Droid Incredible respectively). Considered a total blunder by all and Google hasn’t sold direct since.

    Nexus S:
    Initially launched for T-Mobile in Dec 2010. Came out for Sprint with 4G WiMax in May 2010. Released for AT&T in July 2010 (6 months after the T-Mobile version, making it basically irrelevant when you consider the pace at which smartphones are released). Never released on Verizon.

    Galaxy Nexus:
    Announced Oct 2011. Released in Europe Nov 2011. Released on Verizon with 4G LTE as a US Exclusive Dec 2011. As of today, not currently available in the US officially, even unlocked, with a warranty (needs to be imported). Using the past as a guide, I don’t expect it to be available through official retail channels in the US until April-May 2012.

  • sgumer

    i think custom skins are a form of self expression and are great. u should be allowed to make your device look any way you want to.

    • PacoBell

      Except in this case “you” is not the end user, but the OEM who foists their vision of perfection on you whether you like it or not and with no recourse.

  • sap 26

    I too enjoyed the third paragraph. I like that ASUS will give you the option between stock and their (lightly) customized UI. I understand he was referring to Honeycomb on the Prime but I sure hope the same applies to ICS.

  • tequilya

    Nice move by asus. Would love out if all the manufacturers and carriers would keep there extra stuff out of the ROM and allow us to remove them if not wanted

  • dacatalyst41

    If we could only get him to convince carriers to keep their hands off the software…..*daydreaming of a perfect world*

  • ccn_cristi

    I woud love to simply have an option to switch custom UI on and off. Asus implementation seems great, I hope other manufacturers will follow their example.

  • wild

    While we can revert to stock Android it’s ok.

  • Danny Calderon

    I also agree that there should be a way to disable it, kinda like you switch between gone launchers

  • Danny Calderon

    Oops I meant home launchers

  • the5thdimension

    I think that Matias handled this whole customization thing pretty well. If I was him I’d be like “I hate the f**ckers and their bulls**t UI’s. I’m not sure he was being totally honest though. I mean it’s gotta bother him a little more than he says it does. Android devices with custom UI’s largely outnumber vanilla Android devices. In any case, I can understand why manufacturers put the custom UI’s on their phones, and yes I think it is good for the consumer to have a choice. But really you’d have a choice regardless. If all Android phones were Vanilla, you would still be able to choose from a bunch of different launchers and themes for your phone. For me it’s all about the Nexus. I really don’t like any of the manufacturers UI’s and I’ve tried them all. I could also care less about their bloatware and carrier specific apps. Google gives me all I need on their Nexus phones. I’m pretty angry and disappointed with a lot of the same things most are in regards to the Galaxy Nexus Verizon launch. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they sold out to Verizon, but I do feel like they didn’t stand their ground on what the Nexus is supposed to be. It’s the ONE phone Google has to themselves. It’s the ONE Android phone that is truly authentic. It’s the foundation, it’s the Android blueprint, so why let Verizon tarnish that. I feel like Google gets bullied around when in fact they’re the ones who’ve got the upper hand right now.

  • lokidokie

    Custom UI’s suck. Plain and simple.
    I would like each manufacturer to make one ‘nexus like’ vanilla device, but with their own hardware.
    I think they’d be surprised how well it would sell!

  • humidity

    We should be given the choice. Period.

    • anon

      Totally agree.

    • kungpaodragon

      This is exactly what makes Android different from iOS. I applaud Google. Google doesn’t advertise itself all over the place. It just makes great products, offer it to people, and then let the open source communities exercise their creativity. Although some do suck, but lots of goods come out of it as well. Without the same mentality, Android would just be another boring phone like everything else…

  • alee

    One of the major ideas of open source software is to give people a choice in what they use. Granted, with Android devices, it’s not like on PC’s where the hardware is standardized enough that most Linux distributions will mostly work on most PC’s.

    Matias has confidence in the quality of his work, and believes that with the option to see the ICS user interface as he designed it, many people will choose it over manufacturers’ customizations.

    It would certainly be nice if manufacturers showed the same confidence in their customizations so that they would allow users to remove them if they wanted to. Then again, it’s probably simpler for them and the carriers to provide end-user support to the general public when there are fewer things that can be changed.

  • Luke Haviland

    good show sirs

  • donger

    that’s good that asus allows you to do change the ui like that. it gives the user options.

  • Deter

    i like the thought i liked custom skins after the samsung fascinate with touchwiz. got my bionic witch has quite a few proprietary apps, but the main feel of the os is still vanilla, and i do like it much better.

  • Baron

    Like so many others I went with HTC for my first Android device. Sense was such an attractive UI. (Samsung’s Touchwiz looked horrible back then and it reminded me too much of iOS). Starting with The HTC Aria to the EVO shift 4G and on to EVO 3D (2 of them, both had issues which led me to using Sprint’s 30 day program and trading it in for) my Nexus S 4G. I’ll never look back, stock Android has far less issues, and I love updates right from Google.

  • Joe

    I’ve always thought stock android is most beautiful. Custom skins usually add layers of effects that, to me, seem like the same kinds of ‘bloatware’ that slow down our parent’s computers without them knowing why.

    I am just recently in the market for an ASUS transformer prime and am extremely pleased to hear about the option to revert to stock.