Is stock Android really all that great?

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by strausd, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. macrumors 68030

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    Texas
    #1
    In preparation of a likely underwhelming Nexus 5 release, I have been considering other phones, specifically the G2 and the Moto X. Obviously the biggest selling point of a Nexus is stock Android, but is that even worth it anymore?

    If you don't like the launcher that comes with your phone, download Nova to simulate the stock launcher. If you don't like the lock screen, download WidgetLocker. And now you can even get the stock Google Keyboard from the Play Store along with just about every Google app.

    And many third party alternatives are better than their stock Android counterparts. One example that comes to mind is the Messaging app. Get a third party messaging app and you can avoid using SMS/MMS and you can get convenient popups.

    After seeing what some manufacturers have put into Android, it makes me wonder if stock Android is all that special. It almost seems kind of boring to me now.

    I have never used a non-Nexus Android phone, and I am curious to get other opinions on this. So what have been your experiences in terms of stock Android vs manufacturer skin? Do you often disable bloatware apps that you do not use? Is it just as easy to disable those apps as it is to disable downloaded apps from the Play Store on a Nexus? I know a lot of people root and flash custom ROMs on their non-Nexus phones, but I am trying to not factor that into my decision at the moment.
     
  2. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2011
    #2
    Agree to some extent.

    It only seems to get frustrating when you don't get the latest software updates. But even that, one might argue, is acceptable.

    These days, OEMs are updating faster than ever, and these days, Android's at a point where the OS is so stable and so well tuned that any new features the latest stock Android brings may not even be a big deal and/or may not even compare to features that OEM skins bring.

    : shrug : It's debatable.

    The beauty is there's choice. Choice is the only reason we're able to even have this discussion. :)
     
  3. Sensamic, Sep 30, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013

    macrumors 68020

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    #3
    I'd say the biggest selling point of the Nexus line is not stock android anymore, rather than timely and guaranteed updates.

    Any phone or tablet can be changed to look like stock with another launcher plus the stock Google apps that Google has made available on the Play store: stock keyboard, calendar app, etc.

    Now it's all about updates.

    I agree stock is now kind of boring. My Nexus 10 is proof of it.

    Besides, the Nexus also come with a lot of bugs and problems: bad camera and battery on the Nexus 4, freezes and reboots with the Nexus 10 and lightbleeding, touch problems with the Nexus 7, etc.

    Only problem is still how long Samsung, HTC and so on take for updates.

    I mean, HTC One has just gotten 4.2 + 4.3 now, more than half a year later, and my SGS3 got 4.1 4 months later and since then nothing more... It's been a year since then and now we are supposed to get 4.3.

    It's not about stock. It's about the updates.
     
  4. macrumors 68020

    TacticalDesire

    Joined:
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    #4
    I can take barebones Android, and make it mine. I can build up on it where as if I were to get an OEM's skinned phone I'd be removing things. I also like the look of pure android. And the performance can't be beat. My nexus 4 is still running like it did when I got it 9-10 months ago. It's amazing.
     
  5. macrumors 65816

    THE JUICEMAN

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    #5
    Couch said it. Updates. That's huge for those that don't want to root and flash.

    My take is that stock can be looked at like a blank canvass if you want and then you can add to it what you prefer. If you go the manufacturer skin it's opposite. You start with a whole lot of stuff then you have to remove what you don't want. I'd think starting and then adding would be easier.

    But I use a simple setup. Today my coworker said "oh you haven't setup much yet" while looking at my moto x. But what she didn't realize is that I had pretty much setup all that I needed and wanted. :)
     
  6. thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #6
    Good discussion so far. In relation to updates, I have a Nexus 7. It has downloaded and installed an "Android 4.3" update about 3 times. Haven't noticed a difference yet.

    In relation to building up as opposed to skimming down, it makes sense. Without being rooted, realistically how much of a manufacturers skin can you disable? Is it just limited to apps that you disable in settings?
     
  7. macrumors 603

    Joined:
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    Oregon
    #7
    This right here. :)

    I've tried probably a dozen different ROMs on my HTC One ranging from essentially stock Sense 5.0 with a few tweaks, all the way to a customized Cyanogenmod variant. My favorite so far is HyperDroidAOXP, but the Google Edition ROM are a very close second.

    I'm one of the folks who doesn't really care about updates because I can just flash whatever I want. The leaked versions of recently released version of Android usually show up within a few days of release anyway.
     
  8. macrumors 65816

    THE JUICEMAN

    Joined:
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    #8
    I would say it depends on not only the manufacturer but also the carrier. Some carriers let you disable apps on certain phones but not others. It's weird.

    Manufacturers let you disable a lot of the extra features but I'm im not so sure about turning off the "skin" per say. For example I don't think you can disable the toggles in a lot of the skins. But you can usually change icons though.
     
  9. macrumors 603

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    #9
    Nova launcher can give you what amounts to a "stock Android" look and feel.
     
  10. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    Mar 29, 2011
    #10
    We really need to take a moment to appreciate Nova Launcher. It's such an incredibly app, being able to bring a stock-like experience to the table, and all for free, too. Heck, I even use Nova on my Nexus 7. It just offers even more flexibility than the already highly customizable stock Android.

    So, let that say what you will about stock Android! ;)

    Back to discussion...
     
  11. thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #11
    The notification area is probably one of my biggest concerns. I like keeping it as clean and minimalistic as possible. On my Nexus 4, all I have is power toggles. I have two rows, but using a two finger swipe can hide/show the second row. Other than that, it is completely clean. Looking at the G2, I would HATE to have all that crap in my notification area at all times. If I were to get a non-Nexus smartphone and I couldn't delete everything from the notification area, I would probably return it.

    As for the lock screen, I can easily install WidgetLocker to get a stock feel. And Nova for a stock homescreen feel. But the notifications is an area that would only be touched by the ROM.
     
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2006
    #12
    +1. That's the worst part for me about skins. Most things I can get rid of, but the notification area, can't change that in most skins. LG and Samsung are the worst. So much crap there you can't even see the notifications that you want.
     
  13. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    #13
    I guess TouchWiz has a lot of features they feel you need to know is on or off.

    Doesn't stuff get added to the status bar of stock Android if you turn it on, too? Say WiFi and Bluetooth, etc? I guess TW just has more stuff to turn on/off?

    Not a TW user so I don't really know.
     
  14. thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #14
    I'm talking mainly about the notification area, not the status bar. In terms of wifi and bluetooth, ya that shows up on the status bar, but I don't constantly have a notification that I can't clear off. On TW and LG's skin, you have multiple things in the notification area you can't clear off, and from the sound of it you can't disable those things either.
     
  15. macrumors 601

    gotluck

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    #15
    Updates are the real reason stock is best. Generally better performance is nice although I suppose that can be subjective.
    I view the moto x essentially as stock, but reliable updates have yet to be seen, though the first update is a good sign.
    I think I'm going to remain happy with my gs4 Google edition for a time to come. Looking forward to kitkat.
     
  16. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2008
    #16
    I didn't take time to read other comments so I'm probably repeating others but the advantages of Nexus devices go beyond stock android.

    Reasons I prefer the whole "Nexus" experience (strictly from a software perspective)

    - you have no carrier interference - this means free tethering with the stock tethering app which works great.
    - this also means there are no carrier specific surprises (No you can't remove that AT&T logo, on this phone on this carrier these toggles aren't available etc.)
    - getting prompt updates while sometimes a little too bleeding edge for me does give me confidence that if major security issues hit android (has happened in the past) I will be covered and likely won't be targeted because it is more likely for hackers to target android devices that can't get security updates quickly.
    -No Carrier IQ (google it)
    -Even though Nexus devices don't sell in large numbers app developers will almost always target your phone because it is the reference device. I suspect the proportion of developers who own a nexus is much higher than the general population and this means you get great support.
    -You know with 100% certainty that your device won't be forgotten 6 months later which used to be a major concern. Not as much of an issue now but the security is still nice.

    As for stock android per se? I appreciate how clean the notification area is. I hate for example how few notifications you can view in touchwiz or the new LG skin. There are some great 3rd party toggles that work (and look) exactly like they were built in (I use Extended settings) which I much prefer to any implementation that OEMs have come up with.

    I also like the software keys. They provide the flexibility to support legacy apps that still use the menu button while preserving the much better system in newer apps of only showing the overflow button when there are actually more options. Since a 4.3 inch screen is all I really require for usability on a phone I couldn't care less how much screen real estate they take up.

    I do wish Google worked harder at improving built in android apps that aren't tied to their google services. Gmail, Youtube, Maps etc are all wonderful. But calendar? the calculator, the camera? Crappy apps that are both too simple and also try to be too creative instead of being functional and user friendly.
     
  17. onthecouchagain, Sep 30, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 30, 2013

    macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    #17
    You know what I'd consider another knock on stock Android and Nexus devices in general?

    You're really the beta testers of each new release. There are guaranteed bugs with any major software release. As a Nexus user, you're the first in line.

    Pluses and minuses, I guess.
     
  18. gotluck, Sep 30, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 30, 2013

    macrumors 601

    gotluck

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    #18
    Kinda like .0 iOS releases :p
     
  19. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    #19
    Yeah. On the Android side, in some ways, at least a lot of users are "protected" against buggy first software pushes. Heh. ;)

    For what it's worth, the recent HTC 4.3 update to the One is, as far as I know, completely bug-free! Kudos to them.
     
  20. macrumors 601

    gotluck

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    #20
    Hey now let's not legitimize delayed updates here :D

    And yes kudos to HTC.
     
  21. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    #21
    Yeah. Good point!
     
  22. macrumors 604

    onthecouchagain

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    Mar 29, 2011
    #22
    The funny thing is, this thread has got me excited all over again for KitKat. :D

    ----------

    Another interesting thing to consider is that Google updates all their stock apps individually, independent of OS version or OS updates.

    This cannot be understated.

    And recently, they've been on a tear, updating YouTube, Gmail, Chrome and Chrome Beta, Keyboard, Maps, Hangouts, Translate, Wallet, Music, Google+, and even the Play Store a while back during late summer.

    More is to come with Hangouts in particular. Looks like they're going to add statuses and "moods": http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/0...es-including-activities-and-moods-are-coming/

    Anyway, let that factor into your opinions about the validity and/or need of stock Android, too.
     
  23. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2012
    #23
    I love stock Android + customizability of custom ROMs like CM. Stock Android is a bit limiting to me.

    Not a fan of the manufacturer skins though.
     
  24. macrumors 601

    tbayrgs

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Florida, USA
    #24
    Another +1 for this. A launcher allows for a more 'stock' feeling/appearance on your home screens but doesn't touch either the settings or the Notification panel. I'd wager that we probably spend more time looking at the notification panel (at least I do) than anything else. This is the predominant source of my disgust with TouchWiz, and why I'm avoiding LG's skin as well. Yes, it's a pain to wade though configuring all of the extra functionality and bloat in TW but once you've done it, you generally don't deal with it anymore. However I pull done and interact with notifications dozens of times per day and the oversized text and cartoonish appearance of the TW notification panel drove me nuts.
     
  25. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
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    #25
    and price ... the Nexus was darn cheap compared to other unlocked devices.
     

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