For anyone who has been watching the evolution of Android over the years, it’s honestly impressive to see how far the platform has come, and how much has changed since its inception, right? The same can be said for iOS, sure, but I think Apple’s own efforts are a lot more minimal in comparison. (Not including the dropping of skeuomorphism, though. Whoo, can’t believe we lived with that for so long.)
When Android first landed on the scene, there was just as much conversation going on about the software as there was the hardware. But not necessarily for the same reasons that we hear today. After all, that first handset, the T-Mobile G1, was a pretty wild device. That slide out screen that revealed a physical keyboard. The face buttons in general.
Android had a lot going on, and it didn’t necessarily feel like it was ready for prime time.
Even looking at images of the T-Mobile G1 now, especially the software running on it, makes me feel old. Everything about Android has evolved and grown up in all the right ways. There’s no denying the fact that the place Google’s mobile operating system holds in the smartphone market is well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned.
The biggest changes come from the manufacturers, though. We’ve seen some pretty wild custom skins and experiences over the years. If you’re an Android user I’m sure you have your favorite(s). I know I do. The original Sense UI will always be one of my favorites, just because I can still remember using those widgets that let me interact directly with the content. That’s a pretty easy thing these days, but that’s one of the features that made me love Android and HTC’s Sense UI.
And then stock Android really showed its prowess, because we kept seeing custom UIs fail to withstand the test of time. Whether they got slower and less responsive, or they just couldn’t be updated in any meaningful measure of time, the stock experience really stood on its own and became coveted and sought after.
But that was then. While I believe stock Android is still the best option in general terms, I can’t argue that the proprietary user interface experience is much better overall. Samsung has a built-in feature for its phones that lets you choose audio sources, similar to how iOS lets you — and this is one feature that I genuinely love. That’s just one example. This is one thing I want stock Android to eventually feature as well.
It’s not just Samsung that has seen its software get better over the years, following a long stretch where it just wasn’t that great. LG, HTC, Motorola, and basically all the other Android manufacturers have fallen into slumps at one point or another. Some have made a comeback while others are still trying to dig their way out of the holes they made.
And we can’t forget the “near-stock” experiences from manufacturers like Motorola. The companies that try to provide its customer base with the stock Android version, but offers just enough new tweaks and features in there to count it as its own. Motorola probably has the best vision for this.
In some of those cases I can see why stock Android would be far ahead of the pack, but I think where custom software stands out, the lead isn’t that great. If there is one at all. So, I’m curious. Are you still a fan of stock Android, so much so that you prefer that version of the mobile OS over any other? What is it about stock Android that you like more than the other options? Or have you adopted a custom UI from a manufacturer as your favorite? If so, which one? Let me know!