Why manufacturers should just leave Android alone

We’ve all read the comparisons, we know about the rivalry, but one thing that has recently started bugging me about the epic Android vs Apple battle is the omission of a key fact. One of Android’s strengths, as I mentioned in a previous post, is that it’s available on a wide range of handsets, giving you plenty of choice. With this choice, however, comes a few sacrifices and I’ve only come to realise this key fact now.

Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson are the four biggest manufacturers supplying Android phones, and although they run on the Android OS, each of these manufacturers adds its own little, or sometimes major, touches to the user interface and functionality of the handset. Samsung adds TouchWiz, Motorola adds its MOTOBLUR and Sony Ericsson’s UI is known as Timescape.

The only one I have personal experience with came on my HTC in the form of its Sense UI. Make no mistake, this is a very slick, very good looking wrapping for what many deem a “raw” form of Android, Froyo.

After Froyo — short for frozen yoghurt — Google released Android 2.3, codenamed, Gingerbread. And this is where my gripe with Android starts. HTC Sense looks great and everything, but why can’t users choose whether they want it or not? In other words, why can’t Android users just get what is referred to as “Vanilla” Android as a choice?

I get that HTC wants to offer its best possible product, but for users who value stability, speed and battery life this just simply doesn’t work. That is why there are literally hundreds of Android forums online, discussing rooting, troubleshooting, devs providing support for their ROMs, because many of those users want the vanilla android experience, and their phones are all the better for it. I don’t want it to kill the dev community, because I don’t believe it could, but I think there is real value in it for users.

It’s why I rooted my Desire and its performance was much, much better. ROMs built straight from the Android source code, such as Oxygen, offer incredible improvements to supported devices. However,

I recently got my hands on a Samsung Nexus S and as a Google branded phone, there are no traces of Samsung software, often referred to as bloatware, here. It’s all pure Android and it’s just better.

It’s slick, provides killer battery life and it, in my mind, is a true reflection of where Android is compared to the old nemesis, Apple. In shine and polish, Android isn’t quite at Apple’s level, and I doubt it every will be, I do, however, prefer dark backgrounds on a screen to lighter shades, so it works for me.

Functionality is where Android really comes to the party though, from the much discussed notification drop down menu iOS 5 borrowed from Android, to the NFC technology available in the Nexus S, Google is ahead in the tech side of things, and that’s only Gingerbread, wait until Ice Cream Sandwich launches on the new Galaxy Nexus. Then the game changes again.

So back to my gripe, manufacturers taking choice out of the equation for users by loading bloatware and the like on their handsets, this will not do. Android is very fragmented, yes, and for a true indication of which is the most current version available via Google, check out the Nexus range. The Nexus range is the only true Android competition to Apple, because it’s the only real Google handset, designed and conceptualised by the search giant.

If manufacturers would just realise that they are the ones exacerbating Android’s fragmentation, maybe we can all stay up to date, all the time.

It’s the way it should be, it’s an open source project (well much less that I originally thought, I have to add, but that’s another story for another time), and distribution, which results in progress, should not be hindered by handset manufacturers.

What I mean is, imagine Apple releasing an update that isn’t available to all its users timeously…I think the internet might just break.

Image: etnyk



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