Holo support made compulsory

Google forces manufacturers to ship default Android theme

Google has introduced a new requirement for manufacturers using its Android mobile operating system, making it compulsory for all devices to include the platform’s default visual theme, known as ‘Holo’. The move comes as the search giant attempts to control fragmentation in the Android space, unifying different strands and flavours into a stronger bulwark against Apple’s iOS.

While Android currently powers around half of the world’s smartphones and a significant share of the tablet market, Google’s OS is often customised with proprietary themes and skins, such as HTC’s ‘Sense’ or Samsung’s ‘TouchWiz’. The new UX rules will apply to all versions of the platform above and including 4.0, dubbed ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’, and will ensure that apps written for the default theme will display correctly on all devices.

“Android apps running on 4.0 and forward can use the Holo themes and be assured that their look and feel will not change when running on a device with a custom skin,” writes engineer Adam Powell in a post on the official Android Developers blog. He is careful to note that Google has “no desire to restrict manufacturers from building their own themed experience across their devices”, emphasising that they are simply required to include the default theme as an option for third-party developers.

While the policy shift is not as radical as it could have been, it represents a significant attempt by Google to re-take control of the Android ecosystem, its single biggest asset in the mobile space. A number of devices currently ship the Holo theme as standard, perhaps the most prominent being Google’s own Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which is produced through a hardware partnership with Samsung and is thought to have filled quite a few stockings over the Christmas period.
Louis Goddard

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