Stock Android: Pros and Cons

Nexus-Phone

The Nexus 4 comes with stock Android, but now more phones are getting in on the act. Once the exclusive preserve of Nexus-branded devices (and rooters), the stock version of Android is set to appear on the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z in the coming months (initially in the USA with a wider roll-out expected eventually). But what is stock Android, exactly? And why should you consider getting a phone with it installed?

Stock-Android

What is stock Android?

Simply speaking, stock Android is the plain, vanilla edition of the operating system, straight from the Google conveyor belt. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC tend to add their own bells and whistles to Android, most notably when it comes to flashy camera functions and social network widgets. In the same way that computer retailers such as Dell and HP load extra utilities and shortcuts on top of Windows, the phone manufacturers do the same with Android, often providing easy links to their own services and stores. Stock Android is the purest form of Android without any of these extras added on top. Whether or not it’s the best Android for you depends on how attached you are to these manufacturer customisations and skins.

Quicker updates

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using stock Android is that you get new versions of the operating system as quickly as possible. Whenever Google releases a new update, it hits Nexus devices almost immediately. Owners of other phones and tablets must wait until Sony, HTC, Samsung or another company have had a play around with it, added their own layer on top, and shipped it back out to customers with all bugs fixed and scenarios tested.

This trend for customising Android has exacerbated the software’s fragmentation problem. Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3-2.3.7) remains the most common version of the OS in use today, with the most recent Jelly Bean release accounting for 28.4% of the Android phone and tablet market. By using stock Android, you’re less likely to be left behind.

More apps

Google has been steadily spinning apps out of the main Android OS for some time now — most recently the stock keyboard appeared on Google Play — but one of the benefits of using the pure version of the operating system is that it ensures compatibility with the latest apps.

Twitter’s Vine, for example, recently launched on Android and requires version 4.0 or above. If you want to use the lock screen widget built into Google Now, you’ll need Android 4.1 or higher. The more recent your version of Android, the more apps and features you have access to.

Fewer apps

Of course, at the same time you get fewer apps because you’re living without the customised add-ons and widgets produced by the phone manufacturers. In the case of the HTC One, you won’t get the social networking stream widget BlinkFeed; in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, you’ll miss out on the Smart Pause utility that pauses videos whenever you look away from the screen. Whether these omissions will be of interest to you depends on whether you view them as useful add-ons or needless gimmicks.

Optimisations

These stock Android versions of existing phones have another disadvantage when compared with pure Nexus devices — the hardware and software haven’t been developed in unison, so you might not experience a fully optimised experience. Stock Android will certainly work without any major problems on the latest smartphones, but you might notice one or two inconsistencies (the HTC One doesn’t have a multi-tasking button, for starters).

Stock Android has much going for it, but the trend of slapping the vanilla OS on any smartphone isn’t without its problems. You’re also more likely to pay a premium for devices sporting stock Android, though LG’s competitive pricing on the Nexus 4 is an exception to that rule. Whichever version of Android you find yourself leaning towards, having the choice can only be good for buyers.

Samsung’s second wave of smartphones – but will it exceed the first?

Samsung looks set to send a ripple in the tide of the smartphone market when it releases three new Bada OS mobiles next month. At least that is what the South Korean electronic manufacturing giants will have you believe. But is Samsung’s ‘new wave’ of smartphones really any different from the ‘old wave’?

Like the original Samsung Wave – which was the first phone to use Bada OS and has subsequently become its flagship phone – the Wave 252, Wave 275 and Wave 533, will also be run by the company’s own Bada operating system. Like the Samsung Wave these three new editions to the wave family will pack in Samsung’s Bada Apps store that operates on both Bada and Android smartphones.

Samsung-Bada-Wave

Apart from some mild ‘tweaking’, nothing has been drastically improved or advanced since Samsung’s flagship Bada smartphone hit the shops earlier this year. The Samsung Wave quickly became known as Samsung’s ‘most powerful phone yet’ and did amount to some remarkable popularity.

Will its predecessors be met with a similar revere and recognition? The new Waves’ main ‘tweak’ is that all three of the ‘new wave’ screens have been changed from Super AMOLED to a 3.7 inch Super Clear LCD, which, may we add, is allegedly anti-smudge, anti-scratch and anti-reflective – a irrefutable plus point of mobile phone technology. They also all have 100MB of storage available.

Are there any deviations between the three? A couple. The Wave 533 will encompass a slide-out keyboard, whilst the Wave 575 will incorporate brand new Bluetooth 3.0.

Camera features are not only consistent throughout all three of the new models but also remain unaltered since the original Samsung Wave, which is 5MP and has 720p recording capabilities.

The apps are not confined to the Bada Apps store, as there is a Dolfin Browser 2.0 available, as well as A-GPS, Social Mapping and 3D maps. The Social Hub feature enables users to view their emails, Instant Messenger, phonebook and social networks at the same time in an integrated one-page layout.

A larger screen that claims to be scratch-proof has to be a discerning feature of any phone, regardless of whether it is smart or not. Whether this will elevate the Wave 252, 275 and 533 into similar popularity stakes of their predecessor remains to be seen.