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While Android is the most-used operating system in the mobile market, many people don’t know the difference between stock Android and other versions of the OS. As a result, you may miss out on the multiple benefits of using stock Android.
So what is stock Android? And why should you consider using it on your next device? Here’s an overview of what stock Android is and what it offers.
What Is Stock Android?
Stock Android, also known as pure Android, is the version of the mobile operating system as shipped or released by Google. It has no alterations or changes by smartphone manufacturers. This contrasts with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) skins or custom versions of Android, which usually include changes or proprietary apps made by smartphone manufacturers.
For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Note 10 smartphones carry a custom operating system called One UI. While this OS is based on Android, it contains drivers, apps, and other software that is not shipped with stock Android. As another example, Huawei uses its own custom Android-based OS called EMUI.
As of 2019, the majority of Android device manufacturers still use custom versions of the OS. However, more brands are releasing devices with stock or pure Android. Meanwhile, the Android One line of devices use a near-stock version of Android with the stock Android UI.
If your phone didn’t come with stock Android, you can still get or approximate it. This is possible either by rooting your device or using apps that provide a stock Android experience.
Is Stock Android Better? Reasons to Choose Stock Android
Many Android enthusiasts will argue that pure Android is the best Android experience. However, this isn’t simply about preference. There are some real, tangible benefits to using stock Android.
Here are a few of the major benefits of using stock Android over modified OEM versions of the OS.
1. Security Benefits of Stock Android
One of the biggest criticisms facing Android, especially from iOS fans, is the potential for security issues and malware. And while the platform isn’t exactly a hotbed for malware, it’s true that multiple security flaws have been found in Android over the years.
While Google is quick to develop patches for these flaws, these updates 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 everything is compatible. This delay increases security risks for affected users. After all, you should always keep Android up-to-date for security reasons.
Google has taken steps in recent years to improve the rollout of security patches. However, the best way to get the latest security updates on time is to have a pure version of Android.
2. Latest Versions 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.
Sometimes the only way to get the newest version of Android from specific manufacturers is buying their latest device. 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 new versions of Android for their phones if they run the stock OS. This makes the update process much quicker for users.
In a sense, stock Android future-proofs your device. With the latest operating system also comes the latest versions of Google apps, like Google Assistant and its newest features. There are also UI and performance improvements included in new Android patches, which many miss out on due to device manufacturers.
3. Less Duplication and Bloatware
Phone manufacturers change pure Android in various ways to create their custom skins. A notable example is the inclusion of manufacturer-branded apps. The problem is that these various apps are also accompanied by the pre-installed Google apps.
As a result, you end up with a significant amount of app duplication. Google gives you Chrome, while your manufacturer gives you their own 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 the Galaxy Store for Samsung devices).
This creates a lot of unnecessary clutter. You’re not likely to use many of these duplicate apps and there’s no way to uninstall them.
4. Better Performance and More Storage
Bloatware can impact the battery life and performance of your device, especially if those apps run in the background. Google has recently made strides to improve Android’s performance, including battery optimization.
But bloatware can obstruct these enhancements and end up slowing down 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. And because it’s not possible to uninstall the bloatware apps in most cases, you’ll have to find workarounds to free up extra space.
If you have a phone without expandable storage, you’re more likely to miss those extra few gigabytes of space. A severe lack of storage can also slow down your device, creating a vicious cycle of bad performance.
5. Superior User Choice
Many consumers want the power of choice, without apps and skins forced onto their devices. One of the benefits of stock Android is that the core apps are far fewer in number, so you choose which apps you want to install on your 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 appearing throughout its many revisions.
Now that a lack of features isn’t as much of a problem with stock Android, many people have called manufacturers to give them the pure Android experience on their devices.
What Stock Android Phones Are Available?
So if you want to buy a phone with stock Android already installed, which manufacturers provide this option? In recent years, more smartphone makers have moved to pure Android or near-stock Android.
A few smartphone brands that consistently use pure Android, or near-stock Android, include:
- HMD Global: Nokia smartphones
- Google: Pixel smartphones
- Lenovo: Motorola Razr and Motorola One
Any phones that are part of the Android One program also use near-stock Android. Manufacturers create these phones in partnership with Google, with an agreement to not alter the OS. You can see a full list of Android One phones on the program’s website.
A few notable Android One smartphones include the Xiaomi Mi A devices, the LG G7 One, and the Nokia 9 PureView.
Ways to Improve Your Android Phone With Updates
One of stock Android’s best benefits is certainly timely updates. This is largely because of the major role updates can play in improving device performance, not to mention the fun features that yearly upgrades of Android bring.
But in fact, you can make solid upgrades to your Android phone without buying a new one. Find out more about improving your Android phone’s performance, camera, and storage without shelling out for a new device in our guide.