Google Android 2.2 Froyo should be available to the general public any day now, but it might be weeks, months, or never before you actually get the update on some phones. That’s largely because manufacturers and wireless carriers that customize Android by installing custom user interfaces such as Motorola Motoblur or HTC Sense. When a phone has this kind of custom UI, updating from Android 1.6 or 2.1 to Android 2.2 isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. The folks who designed the custom software need to retool the whole thing incorporating updates from Google, HTC, Motorola, or other companies.
There’s no doubt Google Android is getting prettier with each release, reducing the need for these custom user interfaces. But the truth of the matter is that most of the updates Google has pushed into each successive release of Android have been under the hood. Now that Android 2.2 Froyo has most of the features that Google wants to focus on, TechCrunch reports the company plans to focus on the overall user experience for the next release, codenamed “Gingerbread.”
The idea is to make the default UI so attractive and easy to use that companies won’t feel the need to cover it up with Motoblur or HTC Sense. Because Google Android is a much more open platform than Apple iOS or Microsoft Windows Phone 7, I don’t think Google would ever tell handset makers that they can’t use custom user interfaces. And I suspect that even if Google developed the best UI in the known universe, some companies would still tweak things to include links to partner sites for various reasons.
I’m actually pretty happy with the default UI on my Google Nexus One. But I definitely look forward to seeing what Google has in store for the next major release.