Whether you own an Android device or have simply picked one up from the store just to mess around with, odds are that the Android phone you used was not stock Android but a skinned, modified Android. Today I want to talk about the problem with these third party Android software’s.
Non-stock versions of Android are known to be a lot more feature packed than pure, vanilla Android. As much as this is true it is also false. How, you ask? Well, I’m going to talk about the notification shade (including the quick settings) in stock Android and then compare it to Samsung’s Touchwiz skin.
Stock Android utilises the two step notification shade introduced in Lollipop. One swipe down shows you your notifications, a second swipe down shows the quick settings. This is very useful and tidy. Want to just look at your notifications without being disturbed by buttons? One swipe down and its just you and your notifications. One more and you get the all powerful quick settings. On the contrary Samsung’s Touhwiz still uses the old one step notification shade. Swipe down and you’re greeted with your notifications and the scrolling quick settings. There are a few problems this. If you want to just view your notifications and not be disturbed by anything else then you cannot do that. Although that is not that big of a problem it still is something of the past and should be changed. A much bigger difference can be seen when talking about the quick settings which I will get onto now.
The quick settings is where you can see a much bigger difference in power and polish. Let me talk about stock Android’s quick settings than we will compare it to Touchwiz’s quick settings. On your second swipe from the notification shade you will be greeted with the quick settings. From here you can do the simple things such as turn on or turn off a setting or you can hit the little arrow next to some of the settings, such as wi-fi to bring up other options besides turning the setting on or off without leaving the quick settings. For example, when you hit the arrow next to the wi-fi quick setting it shows you your nearby available connections so you can connect to a different network without ever leaving the quick settings. This feature can be seen on other quick settings also. For example when you tap on the ‘cellular data’ quick setting it shows you how much data you have used and other relevant information. Besides the actual quick settings having more features other than turning their relative settings on or off the actual shade has features hidden everywhere. You can tap on the time displayed and be taken to the clock app, you can hit the cog to be taken to the settings app, hit the avatar and change accounts for your phone and etc.
On the other hand, Touhwiz does not do any of these things. The quick settings actually only do one thing and one thing alone: turn their relative setting on or off. If you want to go to the relative settings advanced options you need to long press on the quick setting and be taken out of whatever you were doing and be put into the settings app. Besides this, there are no features in the shade itself, no click to be taken to the clock app, no click to change accou – oh wait, that feature isn’t even implemented into Touchwiz yet. Oh well.
That’s the tip of the spear when it comes to differences in polish and power in some of the features present in stock Android. Of course this is not always the case, sometimes stock android doesn’t even compare to skinned Android when it comes to features, but with every update, that gets harder and harder to see.
Android has never been known for being a great looker. However, that all changed back with Android 5.0 Lollipop and the introduction of Material Design. However, even though Google has almost implemented Material Design in every nook and cranny of Android 6.0, third parties such as Samsung, HTC and others have yet to implement Material Design into their most core apps and experience. This is something that is constantly improving so I don’t see this part as a heavy weight on skinned Android, but still heavy enough to mention.
Performance and optimization
By far the worst part of some skinned Android is the fact that they have very little performance tailoring or even some good optimizations. For example, the S6, a very powerful phone indeed yet, there is stuttering when opening apps, multitasking, and doing basic functions. These stutters are rare in the Nexus 6P; a pure Android phone. This is because when some third parties come in and add their stuff into Android they do not optimize them enough so there are no such stutters. Of course some third parties come in, add their features and then optimize them so well that you feel like the features are part of stock Android. An example of one of these companies is Sony. On the contrary to Sony, some companies do such a terrible job of optimizing that even with no apps running in the background you are still encountering stutters and seeing that you’re using 75% of your RAM *ahem* Samsung *ahem*.
As with everything, there are people who do it good and people who do it bad, and Android is no exception to this. Some companies do Android good and some do it bad.
These were my personal opinions on the problem with Android skins today (not all of them). If you have found some problems that I have missed out feel free to leave a comment telling me what it is that I have missed out.