There have been a lot of debates about Stock Android Vs Android Skins and out of them which is better; a pure stock android experience or an android experience with some customised skin on top. First of all what it means?
Stock Android is basically an unmodified Android experience directly from Google. It’s how Google wants you to experience Android. The Android experience you find on Nexus lines are Stock Android. Whereas, when you buy an android smartphone from Samsung or HTC, you would notice that it’s considerably different from what we see in a Nexus. That’s what we call an Android Skin. Android is an open source operating system, i.e. A manufacturer like Samsung or HTC doesn’t need to pay for any license in order to use and they are free to customise it in their own way. Samsung call this customised skin as TouchWiz and HTC calls it Sense and LG call it Optimus UI.
Some users, preferably developers, like the Stock Android while others like to use their phone with a customised skin.
Why is Stock Android Better than Android Skins?
Smooth and Clean: When we talk about stock android, it’s all about how smooth and snappy your phone can be. When you use a nexus, the first thing you notice is that its fast and smooth throughout the whole interface, be it as usual multi-tasking, camera interface, unlocking the phone etc. That’s not the case with phones which comes with Android Skins on top. For instance, Samsung has been greatly criticised for its laggy user interface especially while operating the gallery or the dialler.
No pre-installed apps: One reason a phone with stock android being smooth is that it has no bloatware (pre-installed apps) except some Google services. Moreover, it also provides you a bit more internal storage. Let us take an example, how many of you use Samsung’s ‘S Health’ or ‘Chat On’? Very few i guess! Apart from these manufacture specified apps, various other apps that can be easily installed from Playstore are often pre-installed in such phones. Furthermore, these apps cannot be uninstalled when not needed which eventually makes the user experience slow and laggy.
Quick Updates: Soon after Nexus 5 was launched, all the other compatible nexus phones received the Kitkat update while Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One (M7) took as long as 4 months to get the update. This is because; it is very difficult for the manufacturers to validate the latest android version against the skin they have installed on their devices. In other words, manufacturers like Samsung or HTC have to first make compatible with their skin. That is why these smartphones take ages to get updated or don’t get an update at all in some cases.
Why is Android Skin better than Stock Android?
Extra features: A lot of us may get use to the features that a customised skin provides over an android experience. For instance, if you are use to reading news on Blinkfeed on HTC Sense UI or Samsung’s Customisable notification toggle, then it can be troublesome when you opt for a stock android experience. Also most of these skins come with pre-installed power saving features which is not present on stock android. HTC Zoe and Samsung’s S Voice are some other examples which try to enhance the user experience.
Customisable: Android is known for its ability to be customised and android skins lets you customise even more. From lockscreen shortcuts to customised app arrangement in the app drawer, it’s just easier to customise a user interface running on an android skin. Besides, it makes the experience more user friendly than the stock android.
Custom Roms: Still if you don’t like the skin on your smartphone, there is always an option to install various custom roms to give you more stock like experience. One example is Cyanogenmod; a custom rom based on the official releases of Android by Google. It not only gives you the stock like experience but also is more customisable than the stock version found on nexus devices. One must note that installing custom rom on your device voids your manufacture warranty which is not desirable.
Last year we also saw the introduction of Google Play Editions of OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One M7 which runs on stock android version similar to nexus. The problem being there was most of the features from original Samsung S4 like Air Gestures, Smart Play/Pause and the features like Zoe and Blinkfeed from original HTC One were gone. Though in M8, HTC has made these features available as separate apps on Playstore only for the GPE version of HTC One M8. Also don’t expect to be an absolute Nexus like experience as these phones are not made for stock android. That is why often people complaint about poor camera performance on Google Play Edition of these phones when compared to the original ones.
At the end, it all comes to personal preference. If you want more clean and smooth user experience with no additional features than Stock Android is what you should go for. On the other hand, if you can bear some occasional lag or stutter for some extra features than you should probably opt for a smartphone running on a customised android skin.