It’s Time To Stop Skinning Android

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The first commercial version of Android was released in September 2008 running on HTC’s Dream (T-Mobile G1).  It was a pure version of Android, but it was missing a lot of the functionality that the iPhone offered at that time.  Partly for this reason, and partly for their own profit driven reasons when Android began to become  more widely adopted by other manufacturers they decided to “customize” android with their own skins that ran on top of the OS.  HTC called their skin “Sense”, Samsung had “TouchWiz”, and Motorola had “Motoblur”.  Initially this seemed like a good thing for many consumers.  These manufacturer skins offered features and abilities that Android at the time didn’t have.  So what went wrong?

Delayed Android Updates

Google is pretty good about releasing updates that fix bugs, offer new functionality, and enhance the user experience.  But the problem with the customized skins that the manufacturers have imposed is that now the responsibility of providing those Android updates falls to them and the cell phone carriers instead of Google.    And experience has told us that they are not really concerned with providing those updates.  Why should they?  You’ve already bought their phone and are locked into a 2-year contract.  How does giving you OS updates benefit them?  In their minds if you want the latest Android updates what should you do?  Buy a new phone!  But you and I both know that this is not a realistic solution.  So…this has created the problem of…

Android Fragmentation

This is the big complaint that everyone loves to talk about.  ANDROID IS SO FRAGMENTED!!!  And this has been a real problem.  There were a number of popular apps that wouldn’t run on older versions of Android.  But…this is not an Android problem, it’s a manufacturer/carrier problem!  Google has released the updates in a timely manner and those updates are available to everyone.  But it’s not Google who’s preventing your phone from being updated.  Granted, there are some older phones who’s specs would prevent them from running the latest and greatest Android OS.  But there are also a number of newer phones who could really benefit from updates.

This is a primary reason why so many Android users have decided to root their phones and install custom ROM’s.  They’ve either come to the realization that their manufacturer or carrier is not going to release the latest Android update OR they are tired of all the bloatware that the carriers install on their phones OR a combination of these and other factors.  This bloatware often cannot be uninstalled unless you first root your phone.  I count myself in with this crowd of people who have rooted in the past.  I owned an HTC Sensation and was excited when I first learned that my phone was going to receive the ICS update.  But after seeing the screenshots of the updates I was disappointed to learn that it still was a heavily customized version with HTC’s Sense.  So I learned how to root my phone and installed and ICS “senseless” ROM called Virtuous Inquisition.

Pure Android…the Best Experience

With ICS and now even more so Jelly Bean, Android really is a top notch mobile OS.  There is absolutely no beneficial reason for any manufacturer to continue with their customized skins.  I have owned several Android phones since it’s release and can say without any doubt that the absolute best experience I’ve had is with Google’s Nexus devices.  I’m currently using a Galaxy Nexus as my phone and I have a Nexus 7 tablet and not only do these devices perform better than any other non-Nexus device but the UI is also much more attractive and intuitive, not to mention that these will also receive Android updates before any of their customized counterparts.  Given all of this evidence, I believe it’s obvious that it’s time for the carriers and manufacturers to stop skinning Android.


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