Will Android 3.0 Stifle Upgrades?

Gingerbread Man side

Android 2.2 is only just rolling out to the Nexus One, yet talk of the next big version is already ramping up. A Russian podcast shared details about Android 3.0, dubbed Gingerbread, and it looks like Google may be moving to take more control over the platform. The primary change to appear in Gingerbread involves Google’s locking down the use of special interfaces. This will directly impact HTC and Samsung, as both companies have developed interfaces designed to make operation easier while providing a level of brand awareness for their respective phones. Will either company choose to stick with version 2.2 that allows these interfaces?

The success of Android is evident in the number of handsets already on the market and the future models no doubt in the production phase. The proliferation of Android phones makes it more difficult for phone makers to make their own handsets stand out from the crowd. HTC is the largest maker of phones using the platform, and its HTC Sense interface is a firm effort to create brand awareness for the company’s phone line. Samsung is gearing up to hit the U.S. market with six different Android phones in its Galaxy S line, and the TouchWiz interface is the key feature on these phones to make them stand out.

Android 3.0 is expected to be released near the end of the year, and will require some high-end hardware components. According to the report a 1 GHz CPU will be the slowest permitted, and while a 3.5-inch display will be the smallest allowed a higher resolution (1280×760) will be created for screens larger than 4 inches. That sounds an awful lot like an Android tablet.

If Android 3.0 does restrict the use of custom interfaces like Sense and TouchWiz by locking down the standard interface across the board, will these companies decide to stick with earlier versions of the OS? This would insure the investment in the interfaces — and the brand awareness each brings to the table — can stick around for a while longer. It is not clear how else phones can be produced that have a uniqueness in such a crowded playing field. Google may have to rethink the interface lockdown, and at least compromise for its major handset partners.

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