Customization has always set Android apart from other operating systems, going all the way back to its earliest days. Whether it's manufacturers crafting unique (and usually bad) skins or power users installing launchers or custom ROMs, making your phone feel like your own has always been a core component of the platform. As Android grows into a mature ecosystem, however, its audience's need to change every aspect of a device may start to shift.
Both sides of this issue popped up in the news this week. After the latest Android 12 beta removed the "Style" menu in favor of simplified Material You options, many people — including yours truly — figured it would return before the stable version ships later this year. Not so, says Google. Although testers filed a bug report with Issue Tracker, a Google employee confirmed the old font and icon options from Android 11 are being replaced by Material You's automatic customization. That's a far more limited way to tweak your phone, and it left many users feeling frustrated.
Meanwhile, the devs behind Nova Launcher — one of the best third-party launchers on the Play Store today — announced a beta for Nova7 based on the latest AOSP code. Nova has always let you change everything about your phone's home screen, and this new update doesn't deviate from that path, adding small touches like modifying the curvature of your widgets. While alternatives have definitely won over some users — Lawnchair fans, sound off — it's still great to see a long-running app like Nova still in active development.
It's two sides of the same coin. Third-party launchers keep expanding well beyond their initial scope, while Google continues to pare down options in Android (even if those efforts are mostly limited to Pixel phones). With all of this in mind, it'll be interesting to see where our audience falls on the issue of customization. Is it not even a question, or does it not really make a difference either way?