It is time for one manufacturer to commit to stock Android

The explosion of Android occurred because many manufacturers adopted the platform. These manufacturers have been fighting to differentiate themselves by creating custom user interfaces (UI) on top of the Android software. Examples of this is HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s Blur, and Samsung’s Touchwiz.

I understand why these companies are doing this, but lets be honest, the average consumer has no clue about any of these UI’s. The average consumer is buying a device based on brand, recommendations, and more importantly, what their chosen carrier offers. Since just about everyone has abandoned the concept of stock Android, it seems like a perfect time for one manufacturer to commit to producing only (or mostly) stock Android devices. There are some advantages that are worthwhile to both the manufacturer and consumer.

The manufacturer will continue to have differentiation in the marketplace since there are very few devices that are stock. The only risk is that others jump on board, but it is unlikely since everyone is so deep rooted with the philosophy that they need differentiation. If by chance they do adopt the same practice it will be because it was such a success and the manufacturer who adopted this concept first would have increased its market share already.

Costs could be reduced or at least be more efficient. This manufacturer could concentrate less on developing their UI and devices could be released quicker. They could release better hardware specs before anyone else. It is unlikely software development could be completely abandoned because I believe some investments need to be made for developing applications that are exclusive to their devices. These applications can be offered for free to their customers through their own marketplace or offered to others at a charge. They could even outsource some development. Maybe their is a hot new keyboard or video editor from another developer that they could offer as an exclusive to their customers.

How about software updates? This is an issue across the board. There are companies like HTC and Motorola who are the fastest, but unfortunately winning a race with a bunch of turtles is nothing to brag about. I don’t want to see the announcement of Gingerbread and then have to wait 4 to 5 months for the update even if it is considered speedy as compared to everyone else. We need faster updates, and stock Android will enable that.

Lets go back to the phone that really kicked Android into space, the Droid. The Droid was basically a stock Android 2.0 device and it was very popular. The first major update was Android 2.1 and it was released for the Droid a little over 2 months after the SDK was released. That wasn’t too bad since it was the first Android phone by Motorola and Verizon Wireless. The wait has increased to a minimum of 4 months to maybe 1 year for lucky Samsung owners. A lot of phones never get updated. I do understand that some of this can be due to hardware limitations, but we all know a lot of the issues have absolutely nothing to do with that. The UI’s are the main culprit.

Which company is better suited to do this? It could be a company that has a very small market share that wants to create a niche, but I think Motorola is a perfect candidate. There is a lot of negativity on Blur and Motorola is still trying to reinvent themselves.

It doesn’t matter who it is, but somebody needs to step up to the plate. It doesn’t have to be 100%. Maybe 75% of their devices are stock and the rest have some sort of UI. They will be applauded by the media and myself.

About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.

  • Tenkely

    LG seems like a nice choice…

  • Robert Aitchison

    Sadly the clueless “average” user is the main reason the manufacturers use the customized UIs.

    If you’ve never used an Android phone before and your first device is an HTC device with Sense that will become what you are used to and when the time comes you will be averse to anything that’s different. They are trying to get you to buy their brand again and again. It’s similar in concept to how AOL abstracted their users from the Internet at large and kept their users as “indentured novices” who were fine with AOL but didn’t want the big, scary Internet.

    If everyone uses stock Android all the phones will look and feed essentially the same and it will be much easier for the average user to simply chose a phone based on features or price.

  • curse

    Too bad Nokias CEO had too much Microsoft stocks..

  • donniezazen

    Google need to exercise more control how Android is presented in the market. Different UI fuels creative competition among manufacturers. HTC obviously wins the race as all other manufacturer’s don’t really care to bring the latest upgrade. I can’t imagine people are still using eclairs.

  • Azalea

    I can only partly agree with this. Moto blur and touch wiz are terrible overlays in my opinion and do nothing but slow the device down. While I like blur for some of the security features and touch wiz for its customized app tray all in all not worth putting on a device. With stock Android however, things feel a bit plain unless you opt for a home screen replacement.

    My biggest disagreement is my absolute love for HTC Sense. By and far it makes my Android experience twice what it is with stock Android. Great Widgets and customization options built right into your device. If stock Android were to add some of the features I would totally agree, but take away my Sense and I feel it takes more steps to get the information I desire.

    In conclusion, this is all obviously my opinion but having used 9 Android devices since the G1 I have come to find what truly makes a device work for me and what user experience I prefer.

    Devices : G1, my touch, behold 2, my touch slide, Samsung vibrant, Cl IQ 2, G2, my touch 4g, G2x, and Motorola Xoom.

  • Tenkely

    Someone name something Sense does that cannot be completed using an app from the Market.

    I don’t think Stock is plain at all, It think it has a very sleek look to it.

  • Azalea

    Friendstream. Nothing in the market compares for me. It just look lovely and works great. Additionally the changing of themes changes the color of bars and after you touch. I don’t root my devices obviously but most average users don’t. However, I will amend my previous comment saying yes I would like to see more stock devices but not be rid of overlays all together.

    Just talking about Sense has me now craving the Sensation so please no more. Lol.

  • Curt

    I bought my Droid X for the screen, processor speed and carrier….. NOT for the MOTO BLUR LITE.

    Why cant the manufacturers leave the Android phones stock, and have a download for people to get their UI if they so desire? There is no logical reason why they force this home replacement screen on their customers. Of course there is no reason to include apps that the user doesn’t want and cannot remove either….

    It is bad programming practice to couple something like Motoblur, Sense etc so hard to the operating system. I understand that they want the customer to have a great UI expirience, but let the customer make the decision, do not make it for them. Decouple your UI from Android.

  • Angelo Giuffrida

    Agreed! Hopefully Ice Cream Sandwich has enough polish and shine by default that custom UI skins aren’t required… :D

  • Hawon

    Think about how many people are rooting their phone and installing CynogenMod?

    I’m completely agreed with the article. I’ve been using Stock Android only since G1, Nexus One, and G2. If it’s not a stock android, i don’t even consider to purchase it unless I can root it and use stock android on it (Verizon Samsung Fascinate).

  • Motorheadabega

    Cyanogen for everybody. There. Done.

  • b-rice

    Couldn’t agree more!

  • Gab

    I’ve heard some people actually like sense. and on Sony some people like this timescape thing or w/e it is.

  • King_Rat

    Huawei have done so ^^

    My IDEOS U8150 was pure Froyo [now running CM7 2.3.3]

  • QDOG8

    Why can’t they do what the HTC EVO did? I don’t know if newer updates changed this, but if you go to Applications, you can force stop Sense UI and go back to stock Android.

  • Tenkely

    +QDOG8 – It only changes the launcher, the other fluffy parts of the customs UIs still remain on the device.

    I still think all phones should just have the option of two flavors, Vanilla or Manufacturer.