When people tell me that Android is the new Windows Mobile, I partially agree. See, they’re completely right in the sense that this is the new platform you can do anything you want with, but then again, being able to actually do everything you want requires a skill that not every user has. Windows Mobile was different in that sense. One simple example was the old and defunct Today Screen that is now known as the Launcher on Android. Back in the Windows Mobile days, Samsung would either load TouchWiz on your device or HTC would load Sense, but you could always go back to the Today settings and simply turn the skin off and get the barebones Today screen that some of us preferred on Windows Mobile.
On Android that’s a different story. Surely you can buy any Launcher that you want and load it, and some of these do a good job in looking like the stock Android launcher some prefer, but they aren’t as polished or efficient as we’d like them to be. And it makes sense for Google’s stock experience to be superior to any third party solution; I mean Google has a full department that’s dedicated to making Android what it is, and third party launchers are sometimes built by one person or a small company. At the end of the day, going stock either requires special skills, extra money, or putting up with some mid-tiered solution, but it’s never as easy as hitting a button to switch it on or off.
This is frustrating for some of us. If you ask why, well, it has to do with the fact that stock Android is actually really good. If you would’ve asked me about this a couple of years ago in the Gingerbread days, I would’ve never preferred stock Android because it was very archaic, but after Ice Cream Sandwich was born, Google really put their minds at work to make the experience worth your time. Now the biggest reason why we prefer this is due to fluidity. Those of you who have run Jelly Bean on such an underpowered device as the Galaxy Nexus will understand what I mean. The Galaxy Nexus feels like a quad-core beast thanks to how fluid and well-done Jelly Bean is, so could you imagine for a minute how fluid your current HTC One X would be if you had the option to simply switch HTC Sense off?
The question is, which would be the best way for OEMs to approach this? I’ve got a couple of ideas to start.
The Windows Phone Approach
One thing I’ll admit I love about the Windows Phone approach is that OEMs have to focus on differentiating their hardware and features, but not the experience of the OS. I love that mentality. Windows Phone is a well oiled machine on its own, it requires no help from any “hardware” OEM, and OEM’s are forced to leave it as it is. Choosing between a Nokia device or an HTC device becomes a matter of choosing which added features fit your needs, and you wouldn’t have to worry about the phone being good or bad in the basic and stupid things like reliability. Seriously, think about it, Android at times is hit or miss. If OEMs would focus their energy on hardware enhancements and not software, innovation would actually move at a faster pace.
An example of this is the HTC One X. It’s an amazing smartphone with a gorgeous design and a beautiful UI, but that Tegra 3 seems absent most of the time when launching basic things like the email app. Nexus 7 customers don’t have this issue running stock Android over very similar specs. Shouldn’t it be that if HTC can’t figure out how to optimize their UI, they should leave that to the experts (Google) and focus on bringing us additional added features they can really excel on?
If this mentality could be ported to Android, you would buy a device with the stock experience, and then you would simply select the software added features that you consider important for your needs and not install those that you don’t care about. If you prefer the slow but elegant email client form HTC, install it, and if not you could simply stick to the stock email experience that Android provides.
Yes, I’d be willing to pay
Just like you would pay for a third-party launcher on an HTC device, if HTC ever chose to charge me extra for their custom Sense experience, or even if they chose to bill me extra for the option to launch stock Android, I’d be willing to pay. As Android users, we do that all the time with custom skins in order to get added features. Yeah I know there are a ton of you that prefer to just do it the hard way with a root, but let’s admit that there’s also an insane amount of new Android customers out there that have no clue how that is, and that have just dropped an iPhone for “a new Galaxy” and are willing to pay for things.
Be it $10 or $25, the advantage of having a device with the stock experience is that you also wouldn’t have to wait to get your software upgrade. You could get Stock Jelly Bean today and wait for HTC or Samsung to publish their skinned UI for the device without hindering your experience as an Android customer.
The Bottom Line
Yes there are also a ton of things in which Android and the old Windows Mobile are very similar on, but there are certain things about the way Microsoft focused Windows Phone that should also be similar. As Android customers we always complain about how hard it is to buy accessories for Android devices since one vehicle dock doesn’t fit your next Android phone, and since lots of these things are in a standard spot on Windows Phones, a lot of your old or new accessories will have longer usability times for you.
Whatever the case may be, I’m at times frustrated by Google’s lack of responsibility over Android. They treat it as something that they just throw out there for OEMs to do whatever they want with, and that mentality hasn’t really proven to be positive for every Android customer. If you don’t agree with me, ask those people still running Eclair on their two-year-old Xperia. The reason why I blame this on Android OEMs is because they’re currently free to do whatever they want, and they decide to actually complicate things. That said, it doesn’t change the fact that my thoughts are that Google should take more control over their work of art.
What about you? Would you pay for stock Android, or do you like Android as skinned on your device as it is. If you’re rocking a Nexus device, you’re clearly willing to pay so leave us a comment.