Opinion

Why I think stock Android is overrated

Stock Android is the young virgin of the Android world. Everybody yearns for it, few get it. But once you start living with stock Android, you realize, just like with actual virgins*, it is not really worth the hype. 

I’ve been living with a Nexus S for well over a year now so I have pretty solid experience of what it is like to be using stock Android on a daily basis. Also, I must mention that the Android on my phone is as close to default as it can be. Other than installing a few applications, I rarely do any customizations to my phone. I don’t root it, I don’t install custom ROMs on it, in other words, I don’t do anything that would ruin it. That’s because I like to keep it simple, which is what attracted me to stock Android in the first place. 

And it is because I live so close to the stock Android experience as Google wants you to have I am intimately familiar with all its shortcomings. 

Here are just a few things that I find are missing from stock Android found on Nexus devices. 

  • The lockscreen is a waste of space. Other than being able to quickly launch the camera and Google Now there is not much you can do with it. If not add more options, Google could have at least provided users with the option to change existing options to something else. 
  • Notification screen could have been put to better use. Google provides a power widget for the homescreen that includes toggle buttons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, sync and display brightness but it would have made more sense to have this integrated into the notification screen for quick access. 
  • The default widgets suck. Period. 
  • The default apps suck. Most of them, anyway. The clock app only lets you set alarms. There are no stopwatch, countdown timer or world clock. The weather app only shows the weather of one location at a time. The Downloads app is the most horrible piece of garbage found on any device in the history of smartphones and is completely useless due to its incompetence. There is no proper video player. Videos are placed in the Gallery app with the images and it does a piss poor job of playing them. There is no note taking application, no simple reminder application, no file manager, no built-in social networking features, no smart dialling in the Phone application. 
  • The keypad still sucks. In fact, I think it has become worse in Jelly Bean than it was in ICS. Either way, it was never as good as the keypad on iOS. 
  • The Android on Nexus devices isn’t really stock Android. It comes with Google’s proprietary applications (that are not part of the OS) built-in, such as GMail, Maps, YouTube, etc. Some of these, such as the ones mentioned just now, are good. Stuff like Google+ and Google Currents isn’t. But they are still there. 
  • There is no way to force the phone in 3G mode. This seems like a minor thing but if you don’t get very strong 3G network at your place the phone switches to 2G. I’d rather use 3G with two bars than deal with the atrocity that is EDGE. 
  • No reboot option in the power menu. Pretty much every OEM provides this. And you need it often enough on Android for it to be part of the OS. 
  • There is no way to set a song in your library as your ringtone. Not through the settings, not even through the default music player. This is ridiculous. 
  • There is no radio application. Pretty sure my Nexus S has a built-in FM radio hardware as it based on the Galaxy S. The Nexus One definitely had the hardware. But there is no radio application in stock Android to use it. There has never been. 
  • There is no voice recorder app. For fuck’s sake. 

That’s all I could think of right now. Pretty sure I missed a few things. The points mentioned above are things missing in stock Android, compared to say what you find on Samsung or HTC’s phones. This is by no means a list of issues with Android as an OS, which would be much longer. 

Anyway, these are the reasons why I think stock Android is overrated. The general lack of features is quite shocking and makes even iOS feel more complete in comparison. This is especially weird for an OS known for having lots of features.

I like what some of the OEMs are doing with their software and most of them do a good job of filling in the gaps. Unfortunately, they don’t know when to stop and end up going way overboard, packing the OS with stuff that’s just plain unnecessary. 

I know you can get all the features through third party apps but that defeats the purpose. I also understand the concept of minimalism but it shouldn’t be minimal to the point where it feels barren. You shouldn’t have to hunt for a notes app or a stopwatch app as soon as you buy the phone; these are basic things that should be part of the device. Heck, my old Nokia 3315 had a stopwatch function built-in. 

And what’s worse is that while Google clearly skimps out on essential apps it has no issues stuffing the phone with its own services such as Google+ and Google Currents. I wouldn’t give a fuck about either of them even if I had one lying around but they still exist on my phone. 

This is why I don’t get the allure of stock Android anymore. If you’re going to get it and then download apps to plug all the holes then might as well get a phone that comes with those features built-in. 

PS – I have left out the part about the software update in this. Some of you may say that it more than makes up for all the issues mentioned above. Honestly, after living with a Nexus for over a year, I’m not quite so sure about that. 

* Or so I’ve been told

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