The 'clean' version Android: fact or fiction?
Xiaomi and OnePlus recently conducted a survey among users on whether they choose 'clean' Android or customized versions (MIUI, Oxygen OS). The community had a lot of fun following the humiliating defeat of the modified OS versions from the aforementioned manufacturers, but this incident could make the adherents think Android. Do users really want a 'stock' version Android? Do hundreds of fans Xiaomi know what a 'clean' OS Android is compared to MIUI the company's devices are still running on? Do users know what is actually a 'clean' / 'stock' version? Probably not, considering the transformation of the term 'stock version Android' into a slogan.
'Clean' / 'Stock' Android – what is it?
What do these terms mean? The answer will vary slightly depending on who the question is addressed to. Many would agree that, by and large, this is 'no imposed software' or 'no customization of the interface', but this does not describe what constitutes the very basis Android. Technically speaking, the 'purest' form Android can be found in the Android Open Source Project, or AOSP. This is the link between all incarnations Android, be it the OEM version or custom firmware. Everyone starts with AOSP, adding what is needed inside (device drivers) and enhancing the wrapper (UI add-ons).
The point is that AOSP is completely cleaned out and devoid of even the most basic functions and applications that users expect from smartphones. Launcher3 only has wallpaper and widget settings, nothing more. AOSP does not really have any applications (for example, for playing music), and the available ones cannot be called usable (for example, a browser). So, naturally, those who put a tick for 'clean' Android voted not for this.
Google and vision Android
Someone equates 'clean' Android with Google's version, which is funny, to say the least. The vision and goals have changed over the years, but Google's ideal version Android hasn't always matched what users want from their phone. Case in point: Google has had a long, difficult relationship with memory cards. None of the Nexus / Pixel devices today have a Micro SD slot. If Google's vision for Android had been followed, then Android would have no support for external storage at all. Google considered these types of storage a burden and a headache, but eventually made a compromise and announced the Adoptable Storage feature.
Google's 'great vision' can be traced to the lack of certain features in Android. Over time, the company softened or changed its attitude and included them in its version of the OS, although users were not always satisfied. Suffice it to say that if the 'clean' OS Android were true to Google's vision of the platform, then we would have a very different system from Android the 2018 sample.
Nexus / Pixel – not 'stock'
Other users will say that the 'cleanest' user experience in Android can be achieved through the use of Google Nexus and Pixel devices. This option is closer to the truth and better than AOSP, but is it true? Needless to say, Nexus devices never came with just AOSP. With them came Google Play services, which AOSP lacks due to their proprietary nature, as well as Google apps that replaced built-in apps such as calendar, messages and browser. Over time, a launcher began to be delivered as part of the Nexus software, which was not available for other Android devices.
With the release of the Pixel, the situation has become even more curious. Google has essentially become an OEM, even for its own firmware. A Pixel-exclusive launcher was added to the Google Play services in the software (which, however, after some time was separated into a separate application and extended to other devices), a Pixel-exclusive camera application, and even exclusive 'chips', for example , the same camera. Of course, these changes are not comparable to what Samsung or OnePlus is doing, but it can hardly be called 'clean' Android. In the absence of a suitable term, it can be called Android from Google or Pixel Android.
'Stock' Android is of little interest
Be that as it may, let's leave the semantics: the 'clean' / 'stock' user experience Android, which many owners of Android devices are striving for, may actually turn out to be a little primitive. AOSP lacks many settings and applications. And while the Nexus and Pixel offer more, their software is basic if you go beyond apps on Google Play. Until recently, they 'did not know how' to split the screen. And at a certain stage it was not even possible to reconfigure the location of the 'tiles' in the quick settings panel.
There is another aspect in the lack of advanced features. Most of those who need a 'stock' are mostly familiar with how Android works. They either started their acquaintance with the OS from Nexus devices, or moved away from the host of OEM versions crowded with “fuflosoft”. They know exactly what they want and how to get it from the Play Store or third-party sources.
New users Android are not so lucky. While iOS has accumulated redundant software over the years, it still offers a comparatively more beginner-friendly user experience. You can, of course, argue that for a start there is somehow too much of everything, and this is true. It is important to strike this delicate balance.
By JC Torres
The material clearly shows that that coveted 'clean' user experience often means not quite what the 'stock' version actually represents Android. Users want one thing, in fact they get another, they get upset or, on the contrary, rush to flash the next assembly of third-party firmware in search of that same golden ratio. In one of the previous issues, and then in the material of Maxim Lyubin, we discussed the need to obtain root access and its expediency in the context of the modern paradigm on the smartphone market.
The second part of the article will discuss what users are actually looking for in Android. In the meantime, a question for readers: do you think 'stock' is ideal? And what is the 'clean' version Android for you?