Stock Android, as seen on the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and upcoming Nexus 6, is Google’s exact vision of how Android should look, function and feel on a smartphone or tablet. And with Android Lollipop, the platform has never looked better. So why, oh WHY, are OEMs still using their clunky, dated-looking custom skins, when there’s something far better available?
The main reason espoused by HTC, Sony, LG and Samsung is that custom skins like Sense and TouchWiz is to do with branding; they want you to know you’re using a Samsung phone, for instance, and the only way to that –– in Samsung’s eyes –– is with their own custom skin. It’s also a great way to push software (read: bloatware) onto unsuspecting consumers –– things like Samsung Apps, ChatOn and the like.
I get this position, too –– although only from a historical standpoint. Back in the day, you see, stock Android was pretty fugly and grey and not all that nice to look at. But all this changed around the time of Android Jelly Bean, which, of course, was quite a while ago now. In the last three years, though, things have moved along at an unprecedented rate, culminating in Android Lollipop, which is one of the best looking mobile operating systems around.
And yet, only a select few people –– those that buy Nexus or Motorola –– will see the software in its full glory. To me, this is criminal. It’s also one of the reasons I’m absolutely over the moon about Motorola’s continuing commitment to stock Android, despite no longer being part of Google. And firms like Huawei could learn a lot from this. Now, allow me to explain…
Earlier this week we reviewed the Honor 6 and the Huawei Ascend Mate 7, which are both built by Huawei. Both devices are very serious additions to the UK’s smartphone space. They have excellent specs, excellent hardware, excellent battery life and, most importantly, an ultra-low RRP attached to them. Personally, I’m all about the Ascend Mate 7 –– it just looks and feels stunning.
But there is a problem and it goes by the name Emotion UI. And for me it’s a big problem, one that’d stop me from buying the phone – and this doesn’t just apply to Huawei, either. I love Android and feel, in my heart of hearts, that it is the best mobile OS on the planet. But I want too SEE Android, which is why, since around 2011, I’ve exclusively used Nexus handsets. As of 2014, there is one other brand I’d use, however, and it goes by the name of, yep, you guessed it – Motorola.
You can of course root your handset and do something similar, but for a lot of people this option is off the table for a variety of reasons, despite how easy it is to do these days.
And here’s the real kicker: most consumers –– those that have only ever used Samsung or HTC phones –– might not even know what stock Android looks like. It’s not on that many handsets these days, despite the growing popularity of Google’s Nexus line of products, and I think Motorola realized this and opted to go stock because A) it was easier and B) it gave their handsets an edge over devices from LG, Samsung, Sony and HTC.
And with only two real players using stock Android setups on their hardware, there’s plenty of room for another, which is why I’d love to see somebody like Huawei –– or Sony, for that matter –– adopt a stock configuration on their handsets. No one uses bloatware. Never has. Never will. In this respect, it’s sort of like all that guff that comes installed on PCs and Macs that you never even open. If you want games, media or content you go to the app store or, in the example of PCs or Macs, download the relevant software.
So, yeah, I’d love to see some one like Huawei embrace a completely stripped down version of Android similar to what you get on the Nexus 6 and Moto X. Do that, let the hardware do the talking, and I think Huawei would start making A LOT friends in the UK and US. It’d also help with getting newer software into the hands of their customers, as less tinkering is required – just look at the speed Motorola got KitKat out to its Moto X and Moto G.
I mean, imagine THIS, running stock Android Lollipop…