Custom versions of Android have been around for as long as the operating system has existed. While many have been toned down over the years, hardware manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi still like to take the base Android code and customize it for their devices.
However, stock Android is still the best version of Android. Here are a few reasons that you should make sure your next smartphone runs stock Android.
One of the biggest criticisms facing Android, especially from iOS fans, is the potential for security issues and malware. Multiple security flaws have been found in Android over the years.
While Google is quick to develop patches for these flaws, they take longer to roll out on devices with brand-specific versions of Android. Manufacturers need to customize updates based on their specific iteration of the operating system to make sure it’s compatible. This delay can increase security risks for users.
Patrick Henchie, the Head of Product and Operations for HMD Global’s Sub-Saharan Africa division, outlined security as one of the reasons why the company chose stock Android for the latest Nokia phones.
In fact, the devices are marketed under the motto: “Pure, secure, and always up-to-date.”
The company conducted consumer research to find out what smartphone users want from their device. “I think that the constant feedback that came through was that they wanted something simple, clean, and fast — and that’s exactly what Google has now got with the latest stock Android,” Henchie told MakeUseOf.
He noted that security is an incredibly important issue for consumers, so getting security patches to users as soon as possible is a high priority. The company has committed to monthly security updates as a result.
2. Latest Version of Android and Google Apps
Another issue with branded versions of Android is that manufacturers are notoriously slow at rolling out new versions of the operating system. Many customers spend years on the same version of Android, despite new ones becoming available.
If you have a phone that is still on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. Sometimes the only way to get the newest version of Android from specific manufacturers is to just buy their latest handset. Of course, with the pace of development, you’ll soon find yourself in the same situation again.
Stock Android devices, on the other hand, tend to receive updates soon after Google releases them. Like security updates, manufacturers don’t need to customize them for their handsets if they run the stock version. This makes the update process much quicker for users.
In a sense, stock Android future-proofs your device. Henchie says that a sticking point for many consumers is how quickly their handset becomes outdated. In fact, while people are still currently catching up with Android 7.0 Nougat, Google has recently released Android 8.0 Oreo.
Running stock Android also gives users the ability to have the latest version of Android without buying a new or expensive device. While some Samsung S7 owners will still be on Android Marshmallow for a while (despite their expensive device), budget smartphones like the Nokia 3, at only around $160, run Android Nougat.
The Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, slightly higher priced budget devices, also come with Nougat.
With the latest operating system also comes the latest versions of Google apps, like Google Assistant. Many users currently have to change their phone region to the United States in order to receive the Assistant update if they’re still on Android Marshmallow. But with Android Nougat, the assistant is immediately available.
3. Less Duplication and Bloatware
There are various ways that phone manufacturers change original Android in order to create a custom skin. But their various apps are accompanied by the pre-installed Google apps.
As a result, there is a significant amount of app duplication. Google gives you Chrome, while your manufacturer gives you their specific internet browser. Gmail is usually accompanied by the phone manufacturer’s own email client app, while Google Play is often accompanied by the brand’s own app store (like Galaxy Apps for Samsung Galaxy devices).
This creates a lot of unnecessary clutter, with apps that the user will probably never use and that they often can’t uninstall.
Stock Android, on the other hand, is “exactly what Google intends Android to be,” Henchie adds. It doesn’t come with unnecessary extras.
4. Better Performance and More Storage
With the bloatware that often comes with brand-specific versions of Android, Henchie points out that the extra load can impact battery life and performance. Google has recently made strides to improve Android, including battery optimization.
But bloatware can put a spanner in the works and slow your device.
One of the most annoying consequences of a heavily-branded version of Android is that the operating system will take up extra storage space. Again, because many of these apps can’t be uninstalled, users will have to find workarounds to free up that extra space.
If you have a phone that doesn’t have expandable storage, you’re more likely to miss those extra few GBs of space. A lack of storage can also slow down your device, creating a vicious cycle of bad performance.
5. User Choice
Consumers increasingly want the power of choice restored without having specific skins or apps forced on them. One of the benefits of stock Android is that the core apps are far fewer in number, so what is installed on your device is mostly up to you.
“It’s up to users to personalize device how they want to,” Henchie says.
Users have the option to use launchers to change the way their interface looks, while the few apps that can’t be uninstalled can still be “turned off.” For example, on the Samsung Galaxy S6, attempting to uninstall Chrome gives you a “turn off” option, but trying to uninstall the Samsung internet browser gives the user no choices — you can’t uninstall it or turn it off without rooting your Android device.
In the past, stock Android has been criticized for not having quite the same functionality as other versions of the operating system. But Android is becoming increasingly advanced with useful shortcuts and various optimization options.
This may be why consumers have been calling for manufacturers to give them the pure Android experience on their devices. Henchie says that HMD Global learned this from their market research, while Lenovo has also acknowledged the preference.
What Lies Ahead for Stock Android?
Stock Android lost a bit of momentum over the past few years as more brands decided to tweak the operating system for their customers. However, it may be making a comeback.
Henchie confirmed that Nokia phones will continue to come with stock Android for the foreseeable future, including their next release: the Nokia 8.
Meanwhile, Lenovo announced earlier this month that their future smartphones will all have stock Android installed. Manufacturers could finally be giving the people what they want.
Do you prefer stock Android over brand-specific versions? Or are you not sold on the hype over the pure version of the operating system? Let us know in the comments below!