I have just read news that there is a HTC One ‘Google Edition’ with stock Android reportedly in the works. I see a handful of

How is stock Android better than customized versions?

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I have just read news that there is a HTC One ‘Google Edition’ with stock Android reportedly in the works. I see a handful of people all so excited about this news. Days ago, we also got to know that there will be a TouchWiz-less version of the Galaxy S4 with stock Android. There was some excitement surrounding that too in the geek community, same way the community gets excited over every Nexus smartphone and tablet. Honestly, I do not get what the excitement is all about. I know that smartphones running stock Android get firmware updates faster than others. But besides that, what else are the benefits of using a stock device?

Here are my observations in the stock versus customised Android debates:

Custom Android look better

I swear by my great grandfather’s beard! Stock Android is inelegant. Bland. Unexciting. I have used a few stock Android smartphones and then others with custom UIs, and in almost every single case, the custom UIs make Android look and feel better. TouchWiz, Sense UI, and Sony’s nameless touch are examples. They just make the phone look better. Yes; sometimes, they don’t look much better, but better is better. I hope.

Custom Android are more user friendly

With more shortcuts in the drop-down notification bar, and more tweaks to the home screen, custom Android versions lets the user get things done more conveniently. Faster too.

Custom Android provide more functionality

Usually, custom Android versions come with a bag of extra apps that are not available elsewhere thrown into the mix. Yes; I know that you can probably get replacements in the Play Store, but some of those custom apps are really superbly integrated into the OS and do a better job than 3rd party downloads. An example is Sony’s “edit music info” feature in their Walkman branded Android music player.

Now, to give a few downsides to custom Android versions. I am a nice guy, after all.

Custom Android hog resources

For one, those customization tend to hog available resources, especially RAM. I cannot forget how the HTC One was in this regard. Sense UI was alpha and omega, and everything else could go to blazes in between. Even the Sony Xperia P that I have here now is not free of the RAM hugging. It is evident in daily usage. Customized Android versions tend to hog battery power too, though that is changing fast of recent.

Custom Android updates are slower – or never come

Then, there is the issue of timely updates. stock edition users get the latest versions of Android OS immediately they are out, while customized users have to wait months – and sometimes a year (Ahem! Sony.. cough!) to get updates to their devices. I am yet to get the Jelly Bean update on my Xperia P till date. Sometimes, those devices get no updates at all. Abandoned! Forgotten!

HTC One Google Edition with stock Android

Sigh. I’ve given you stock Android lovers the ammunition you need to take me on; right? Oh, well. Have fun. I still prefer customized Android versions to stock any day. And I really do think that it is sacrilege for anyone to strip the HTC One of Sense UI. Urgh!!! These guys at HTC need to go for confession. Why would anyone want to desecrate that beautiful package with vanilla Android? Why?! But then, perhaps both HTC and Samsung can see that there is enough demand to make the effort worth it. Perhaps. But Mo loves his Android highly flavoured. The less of stock Android I see, the better.

Meanwhile, at the recent Mobile Web West Africa conference, a Nigerian startup let me have a hands-on of their prototype Android smartphone. It has the sleekest and most elegant customization of Android that I have ever seen – and I have seen plenty, mind you. I had to ask the gentleman again and again if the phone was really running Android. Of course, the “About Phone” menu confirmed to me that it was Android. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures or screenshots, but a unit is heading my way soon. If that phone sees the light of day, I am likely to use it as my primary smartphone. It is beautiful, powerful and most importantly does not look or smell Android. All the things that I like about Android without some of the things that I loathe. Nice? You bet!

So, you tell me: how do you prefer your Android – vanilla or flavoured? What are your reasons? Don’t worry, the reasons don’t have to make sense or anything. It is your life and your money that you are spending, after all. Comments, my friends!

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  1. An Android Device that doesn’t look like an android device…..and its ‘9ja-scented’ to boot. Hmmm! I would want to see it before I believe. Everything these days is just a slab with octacore and 100mp, fancy graphic processor etc. At the end its still an Android slab be it Chinko or er….Un-chinko.

    Waiting to read said device review Mr Y.

  2. for any device I own – PC, smartphone etc, I love having all its resources to MYSELF and me alone, I don’t need bloat ware to share space or RAM with and I want it to be as responsive as possible. that’s the simple reason why the first thing I do with a new android device is root it and flash a stock-like ROM on it. fine I’d lose some benefits (like d sense UI keyboard on my phone now which I miss – a lot of options exist though), but its a worthy price!

  3. I wish I could root my device bcos I find few thing necessary on my device. I like it stock. Tell me how to root my galaxy Y pro duos

  4. @Sadiq Once you root your device, shouldn’t you be able to delete said bloatsware without having to install a custom rom?

  5. A Nigerian startup making an android phone that Mr Mo apparently likes so far? This I want to see, I really hope they make a good device, if they do then I’ll definitely get on the Android train, after all it’s about time Nigeria got into the mobile tech game. It should yield good results for us cheaper devices that’s optimized for our usage standards.

  6. Rooting your android phone would give one the ability to delete those apps that you have no need.

    I recently flash a CyanogenMod 10.1 on my phone and it felt bland with loads of stuff missing, camera didn’t work well, lost the FM radio, the display didn’t shine like before, the clipboard only let’s me paste the last copied text unlike the samsung ROM that could store loads of text and let’s me chose which to paste. God knows I didn’t use the CyanogenMod for two days before returning back to the samsung ROM.

    even if you run a google stock rom you would still need to wait for updates, as certain things like its stability, drivers need to be hashed out.

    And sometimes some devices would perform terribly with updates as the required RAM might be higher than what the device has.

    I prefer the Samsung rom to the CyanogenMod based ROMs, the Samsung ROM had more character

  7. I have used both in the past and will rather prefer a mix of the two. A custom rom that would have removed (or give you the choice of stock apps to install) the bloatwares. It leaves you with more ram space and you still get to enjoy the beauty and functionality of the manufacturer skin.

    If I flash a vanilla over my note2 for example I will loose the functionality of the s – pen. Can’t afford that at all.

  8. @khene may – yeah rooting fundamentally allows me to remove bloat ware but why not complete the journey and flash a stock-like custom rom especially when the hard part’s (rooting) been done and it potentially holds benefits?

    @martinkem – in my case I did a lot of research on custom roms available for my htc desire hd and narrowed my options to two, jellytime and cyanogenmod 10.1, both jellybean 4.2.2. I watched videos n read reviews on both to find limitations. cyanogenmod 10.1 works superbly without quirks on d fone. each fonehas custom roms for it, sometimes u r unlucky.

  9. OEM based version of android can be appealing in terms of aesthetics compared to vanilla android, they are often buggy and bloatware laden. I know the touchwiz UI has matured a lot (not sure of Sense UI tho), but I still prefer to custom vanilla version of android. Currently running Chameleon ROM on my S2 which is a fusion of touchwiz and AOSP (FM, camera and the stability of touchwiz and the customizability of AOSP) and I’ve never had a ROM so near perfect. Coupled with Action launcher pro and Stark icon packs…pure elegance. Android rocks!

  10. @veritas: is it possible to root a phone(galaxy Y pro duos) without the computer. I want to give it a try, I have been rummaging the internet to get a clue, but seem not to understand it well. Just tell me what to do.

  11. @sadiq rooting requires a lot of patience, can u imagine installing all your apps all over again, before I flashed my phone for the 1st time I had 237apps now it shows 150. can’t remember which apps I have deleted beside 4 games.
    Until you have flashed your device u won’t realize what you are missing from the previous one.

    I think I would try chameleon ROM next

    @Peter it is possible to root your device without a computer I did mine without a computer, try googling these terms with a little variation ” your phone model root xda supersu busy box root zip”

  12. @martinkem: Apps like app backup and restore helps you back up all your apps which is saved on either phone storage or sdcard. Thus you can restore all apps after rooting. You can also get titanium backup to back up and restore apps + data.

    @peter: Head to xda-developers.com to know if your phone model is rootable. If it is you’ll find guidelines. Caution!!! Proceed carefully rooting a device aint ‘beans’.

  13. @veritas thanks a bunch, I will let the house know , how I went with my rooting.

  14. Guys, rooting isn’t always as hard as u’ve put it, simple tools like one click root works for some devices with a single click. my first android phone was rooted easily, though the HTC desire HD was almost hell (it had to be downgraded to an earlier rootable OEM rom before rooting – on a Linux distro live CD session because I had screwed wit my windows htc drivers so much during earlier attempts). @peter pray ur device can b rooted easily as in many other cases.
    @martinkem, veritas is right, u shoulda installed titanium backup n done a backup of ur apps after rooting b4 flashing anoda ROM. I learnt this the hard way.

  15. am familiar with app backup, I have blogged about it in the past, I actually make two backups of my apps, for someone that has to restore close to 100 apps besides the ones that came with the phone that’s a lot of keystrokes gets tiring, just discover some apps that I haven’t restored from my Titanium Backup app. and also am experimenting with Nandroid backups now, way easier for me but at the risk of putting the device on a boot loop if not done properly.

    For now I think I would continue using the stock Samsung ROM until I upgrade or Google outs Android 5.0 with compelling must have features then would I consider flashing a new ROM.

  16. am familiar with app backup, I have blogged about it in the past, I actually make two backups of my apps, for someone that has to restore close to 100 apps besides the ones that came with the phone that’s a lot of keystrokes gets tiring, just discover some apps that I haven’t restored from my Titanium Backup app. and also am experimenting with Nandroid backups now, way easier for me but at the risk of putting the device on a boot loop if not done properly.

    @Martinkem, you can get File Expert Pro to take care of that for you. It has what is called “silent install” that when enabled, allows you to simply select the files you want to install and tap install and it will proceed with the job without requiring your attention throughout the installation process.
    It also handles backups, including backing up files at the time of installation – something they also call auto backup. A very convenient feature.

  17. @Harry I have es explorer and it can all those too, app data is the main problem..I don’t want to start over again in games and apps, that’s why I use titanium backup when even allows me to have more than one backup of any

    this post got me exploring the features of Titanium backup, it has a scheduling feature that let’s me chose which apps, appdata to backup and back hat time to do it.

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