Companies that make Android Wear, Android Auto, and Android TV products won't be allowed to dramatically alter the design and user experience of Google's latest software. Some customization will be permitted; they'll be able to add custom apps, services, and other small touches, but changing up the overall look and feel is expressly forbidden. "The UI is more part of the product in this case," said David Burke, Google’s engineering director, in an interview with Ars Technica.
That's a clear shift away from what we've seen with Android on smartphones, where OEMs have for years taken design liberties and covered up Google's work with their own custom "skins" like TouchWiz and Sense. But Mountain View is taking a very different stance as it begins a push to put Android in your car, in your living room, and on your wrist. One key benefit of this decision is that Google itself will handle software updates, so everyone will receive them much faster — and at the same time. Your Android Wear smartwatch won't get bogged with useless or redundant software, and it won't be left in update limbo.
"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." Preventing confusion makes sense — particularly in the case of Android Auto, where consistency is key to avoiding distractions and keeping your eyes focused on the road. "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," Burke added. So a set-top box you buy six months from now might not say Android TV on the box, but there will be no mistaking the underlying software once you turn it on. Google is making sure of that.