Dear tech geeks, stop putting stock Android on a pedestal because most people don’t care

stock android shot

Recently, I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do for the longest time – switch from iOS to Android for a couple of weeks at least, if not for good. Finally, the opportunity was ripe when Google sent us a unit of its Pixel 2 smartphone recently. I know a ton of great reviews of the phone are already out there and you must’ve read ‘em all, but a personal account of a predominately iOS user switching over to the Android camp could help four kind of folks:

  1. Lifelong iOS users flirting with the idea of switching to Android. 
  2. Android fanboys with a blind faith in the operating system.
  3. Folks who want to know what is all the fuss about the Pixel smartphones.
  4. Fans of popcorn and a good argument.

    stock android meme

Now, while that long piece is still a work in progress and I am as excited are you are to figure out the outcome, there is something very interesting I noticed over the course of using the Pixel 2. I finally understand why most people don’t care about stock Android. Most regular users are fairly happy using MiUI, TouchWiz, Color OS, EMUI…you get the drift. Why, you ask?

The fundamental reason for this is something very basic: time and effort.

Allow me to dig into my past to explain. Around three years ago, I was the proud owner of a Nexus 4. Oh yes, I wasn’t always an iOS fanboy. At the time, my friend Benjamin introduced me to MyColorScreen and my life changed for good;  shirking work and other responsibilities, I spent hours on customising my home screen. I was addicted. I was passionate. Umm…I was actually a fool for wasting time.

The stock Android illusion

Obviously, I wanted to try MyColorScreen once again with the Pixel 2. Unfortunately, those videos don’t exist anymore.  They’ve been replaced by two apps – Themer and Zooper widgets. Both these apps are supremely overwhelming and not very easy-to-use. Obviously, I decided not to even bother and stuck to using stock Android Oreo. But something was always lacking, and as one reviewer on the Play Store writes “…the Pixel launcher is very, very, very, very basic.”

Everyone doesn’t want a basic experience and some additions are always appreciated. For example, if you ask me, I am a big fan of running dual apps on MiUI and Oxygen OS. Samsung has an in-built dictionary just like iOS does. It is the little things that matter. 

Also, here’s some food for thought – you can always switch to stock Android with Google/Pixel launcher but you can’t switch to a more feature-rich experience like MiUI or Samsung’s Touchwiz unless you spend “time and effort” tweaking and tinkering with the system. 

Then there’s that argument – with stock Android you are assured updates of the latest software. While I agree that is a solid point, I have a counter to that. Note that brands spend “time and effort” and money on software R&D to add cool, handy features, sometimes after consulting the community. Case in point, Xiaomi and OnePlus. What this means is that the company is treating its homegrown UI as a standalone operating system. Therefore, while MiUI 9 is a wrapper over Android, its version – whether it is 7.0 or 8.0 – really doesn’t matter. As an MiUI user you will get the latest features no matter what. Provided your phone is in the update cycle…and that is a topic for another day. 

Logical realignment of entrenched notions

Now that I have realigned my thoughts, I’ve got a word of advice for budding tech experts. Get off your high horse; stock Android is not the right mobile OS for every user by default. Therefore, the next time a user comes to you for a recommendation stop suggesting phones with stock Android as the default option for everyone. Ask for their use case, and if they really care about a stripped down software experience.

All said and done, this doesn’t change the fact that I still prefer stock Android over skinned UI. But, I am definitely not a part of any majority here; the mass, if you must. I am pretty damn certain the mass doesn’t give a rat’s posterior whether their phone has stock Android or if it is running the latest Android Oreo 8.1.0 beta. The mass wants more features. If I had to draw an analogy – what’s better – a base model of the new Maruti car or the one that’s fully kitted out? You tell me.

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Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?