Android should collect and share information on third-party 'skins'

Customized Android interfaces make Android even more fragmented, for basically no good reason.

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... For the most part, Sense tends to bury Android’s functions under layers of unnecessary UI elements, and it can be slower and more cumbersome to use as a result. For example, Google Now is buried under a long press of the home key, which is much less intuitive to access than the swipe up gesture used in stock Android 4.1. Additionally, Sense’s handling of the legacy menu button still found in many apps is less than elegant, and the DNA doesn’t have the ability to change the function of its dedicated multitasking key like the One X.

The review goes on to name seven pre-installed and non-removable apps, all of them benefiting Verizon or its promotional partners, all of them eating into the 11.5 GB of space available to users.

The final, equally maddening piece of this skin game is that not every Android phone made by the skin-makers has their own skins on them. Motorola, in particular, has released a few phones recently with stock Android interfaces. So you're never quite sure how many phones out there are running MotoBLUR, or a particular version of HTC Sense, or which variant of Samsung's widely variable TouchWiz. Besides would-be how-to helpers like me, I have to imagine app developers whose apps might hook into or conflict with certain Android functions would like to know just what users are seeing on their Android devices.

So, Google, I ask of you: in addition to collecting Android version, screen sizes, and OpenGL availability on the Android Developer Dashboards page, could you start collecting and publishing which "skin" is used? My "About phone" menu shows that you take in Android version, Kernel version, and Build number, all of them up to the firmware creator to fill in. Could you offer an option to report which "Interface version" is used, and then let us all know, for example, just how wide TouchWiz is actually distributed?

In the meantime, I'll be working on Section II, Part B, Sub-Section iii of the Message chapter, "How to download an attachment from an SMS message on HTC Sense."

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