One of the most interesting things to come out of Google I/O as Google moves into smart watches and other wearables is that its taking steps to lock down the user experience in the same way that Apple has had it locked down since the beginning. Even though they mention “in this case” I’m thinking that this will be Google’s strategy going forward, and if you ask me this is a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s good for new users who are bewildered by the variety of different interfaces on all of these Android phones – unless of course you get something direct from the big G. For example, on my Galaxy S4, I’ve got my Google Apps, my Samsung apps, and its just overkill. Whenever an alarm goes off, I’ve got three calendar apps vying for attention! On previous models, Samsung would reskin the interface, making it even more confusing. If you ask me, for the mass market, who doesn’t care about innovation – this is a good thing. They want it simple and
On the flip side, Android, from its inception, has always been more about openness. This is also of course good and bad – on the one hand you can see cool new innovative interfaces, on the other hand can allow all sorts of inconsistencies and less than excellent experiences to flourish. With Android, developers who have wanted to have always had the ability to extend and improve the OS and the interface, and that ability is slowly going away. My sense is that they will start here with a fixed interface (of course apps can looks like most anything, although my guess is that they will start locking those down as well) and then eventually extend that to the hardware manufacturers.
Of course, Google’s UX has usually been more technical and geeky IMHO, and therefore really need to up their game on the design side in order to compete with a design leader like Apple. If you check out the new designs that they are calling Material in L, then you’ll see that they are taking steps to move away from an overly technical look and feel and into something, well, more Apple like 😉
“The UI is more part of the product in this case,” Burke said to Ars of Android TV in particular. “We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same… The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”