Android has been around now for enough years to enable me repeat some of the thoughts that I have expressed in the past. One of them is that software differentiation on Android not only adds a layer of problems, but is also useless in the grand scheme in terms of retaining users.
Quickly, many enthusiasts agree that Sony’s custom UI is better than Samsung’s TouchWiz, yet the latter brand has outsold the former. HTC’s Sense UI, lovely as it is, has done little to turn around the fortunes of the struggling brand. Remember that it was this same UI (or more accurately, an older implementation) that earned HTC great acclaim back in the days of Windows Mobile – and thereafter on Android OS.
In the Android ecosystem, only one thing is the final arbiter – price. Differentiate all you want. Skin it in whatever form you fancy. Beneath the skins, Android is Android. And users will go for what is more affordable. That is generally speaking, of course. Certainly, there will be a niche market that wants premium Android devices. Any manufacturer that can lock down that small segment will make money as long as they aren’t stupid enough to go after a bigger market share.
Customisation on Android also often means that an OS that is by design resource intensive (requiring humongous processors and large servings of RAM) now has more work cut out for it. It also increases production cost, as the brand needs a team of software engineers to tweak the OS for each device. In the cut-throat Android market, your guess is a s good as mine. It also slows down device software updates. Differentiation on Android is largely a bloody waste of time, and mostly unnecessary now that Lollipop has delivered a very beautiful and smooth user interface to Android. Personally, I would go with a brand that gives me the closest to vanilla Android at a modest cost. It can’t be just me: look at what the market is saying. Oh! Guess what? Google would prefer vanilla Android on more devices too.
Let me repeat it again: unless a brand wants to target the tiny premium market only, software differentiation on Android is a bloody waste of everyone’s time and money. In the grand picture, it makes no difference.