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Opinion 51 Shares 14 comments

Would stock Android make you more likely to buy a Chinese smartphone?

I was recently with some of the makers of the Nexus 6P and some other tech journalists and we got a little excited with our commentary on Chinese interfaces. We felt Huawei could sell plenty of phones in the US if only it would ditch what we deemed the "awful" EMUI interface. If Huawei and other Chinese OEMs were to grant our wish, would you buy a Chinese smartphone?

It's an interesting thought, and one that Huawei was happy to admit it had given due consideration. While it is understandable that the company would be reluctant to abandon its custom interface in favor of stock Android, we were informed that Huawei would be paying close attention to the sales figures of the Nexus 6P (which runs stock Android) and reconvene to consider it as one of a few possible options.

androidpit Nexus 6P 2
The Nexus 6P is a thing of beauty: stock Android on great Huawei hardware. / © ANDROIDPIT

Huawei, like any manufacturer that puts time and effort into a software layer of unique features and enhancements, believes wholeheartedly in the value its interface adds to the core Android experience. As Android nerds, we naturally tend to gravitate toward a stock experience that we can customize ourselves, but we are also aware that we are hardly representative of 'average' smartphone consumers.

The good parts of a stock experience are that it makes a phone faster, more stable and open to rapid updates. These are definitely things to be envied, and they have worked out quite well for Motorola, which has become the default manufacturer (after Google's Nexus devices) for anyone who demands the fastest Android updates possible. But of course, all devices with stock Android are the same.

huawei vs xiaomi
Sure, there's value to be found in manufacturer skins, but how much? / © ANDROIDPIT

Would we be missing out on anything valuable if Chinese phones from Lenovo, Xiaomi and Huawei were to suddenly switch to stock Android? On a visual level, the answer is no. All it takes is a theme engine or launcher to change the look and behavior of a software layer. The real problem lies with those baked-in software features that can't be downloaded as apps.

This is where it comes down to the individual: just how much importance do you put on hard-wired software features? Do you prefer a more speedy device with faster updates over gimmicky features? Or do you think those add-ons are the critical feature that differentiates your phone from everyone else's? There's no one right answer. I don't think I've ever bought a phone specifically for a software feature, but I have bought a Nexus for the other reasons.

Do you tend to buy a phone for its hardware, software, or a mixture of both? / © ANDROIDPIT

So I'd like to ask you for your thoughts: how important are software features to you when buying a new phone? Do you buy purely for the hardware? How important is update speed to you? Do you look more at the price/performance ratio or does your buying decision always come down to the combination of software features and hardware? Have you ever bought a phone just for a must-have software feature?  

Would stock Android make you more likely to by a Chinese smartphone?
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  • Think back to the 90's and the skins Packard Bell & others would put on top of windows 3.1 ARGH

  • Dave Price 10 months ago Link to comment

    There is no good reason for custom Android builds to exist outside of hacker communities. Google should be incorporating the hooks/APIs needed by hardware manufacturers to deliver a unique experience through apps/skins that can be disabled/replaced by users if they so choose.

  • Al JR 10 months ago Link to comment

    Android is like Lego...companies shouldn't super-glue their bits to the phone just because They think it's best.....They are in a 5.5G broadband bubble and blinkered Fanbois at best... The day somebody allows rooted Transformer like change-ability to their device is the day somebody makes a $gazillion..

  • Gr3aC 10 months ago Link to comment

    I want phones with only clean/stock Android....I don't like the "themes" and the other stuff that they add on phones that make them look "nice"...I got my Nexus 5 with stock Android and I'm deciding to buy a Nexus 6p or at least a Nexus 5x next month 1# Because of the hardware 2# Because of what you get for that money 3# Because it has Stock/Clean Android 4# Because of the feel in your hand and the build quality

  • Mark 10 months ago Link to comment

    Why Are you guy's so hung up on Chinese phones? This is your 4th or5th article on them in just a couple of days. There are a lot of countries putting out nice phones. The Philippines has three local brands. Cherry Mobile the best I have used. Just got their Flare 3. It has an Octa core at 1.4 ghz, 4000mah battery, 5 inch led HD display, 13MP rear 5MP front, runs Kit Kat 4.4, Micro SD slot. only 8GB on board, 1 GB ram. All that for $82.50. Just wanted a spare phone, what I thought would be a through away to put new number for online ads. I never use my primary number for that. It turned out to be a great phone. It even comes with an app that lets you block all the other apps from accessing your data. Makes me rethink the need for a " flag ship " phone.

    • Hey Mark, we're just working on a bit of a theme so if you're interested in the topic you don't have to wait ages for the next instalment.

  • Bob visser 10 months ago Link to comment

    Nope stock android is just to boring. I had a Nexus 5 which was a great phone but stock android is just to simple and boring. My current phone comes with cm out of the box which is pretty cool I can finally make my phone look the way I want without root or custom rom

  • nexus 7, moto g, moto x, nexus 6,
    I think my past and present device choice is based on software that's clean, stable, secure and regularly updated...from a reputable(?) company, I'm definitely interested to see if Huawei do stock android.

  • I always upgrade my phone each Black Friday. My choices this year were the Nexus 6P and LG G4. I agonized over both but ultimately chose the 6P because of stock Android. Using stock Android I see the value in skins now. Stock is so simple its esoteric: lack of labels for things, settings disorganized, and very large icons smooshed too close together. I certainly don't regret my purchase, in fact I'm loving the 6P. I just now realize skins have value.

    • I know right?
      Skins have a hell load of value to me.

      In my first android phone back in 2011, I used both touchwiz and stock android and although stock felt a lot faster, I missed the vividness and colors touchwiz had.

      Everywhere on the Internet I see people mocking touchwiz because it's ugly and laggy. It most certainly is not ugly and If you feel it lags, just change your launcher to something like smartlauncher or nova launcher. I never had lag issues with them.

      Also skins like HTC (and Sony "now") are very similar to stock android and hence feel ugly. But to each their own I guess

    • This is the reason we can't have nice things and Android is so fragmented. If you want to change how your stock Android phone is organized and the way it looks, use a launcher like Nova. If Nova is to confusing and you don't want to mess with such things then by all means the manufacturers should install their own "skinned launcher" as a package download, one that is separate and doesn't interfere with the inner workings of Android OS.
      A valid argument is one the article mentions but doesn't espouse on is the software added specifically for the unique hardware of the devices like S-Pen support, though I don't know why this cannot also be a separate download.
      All phones should be stock Android and anything the manufacturers want to do with it should be added as apps they are responsible for. That would stop the slow OS updates path and still allow manufacturers freedom to express themselves without fragmenting the core of Android.

    • Exactly the same decision I labored over. I also chose the 6P. I do miss the G4 camera but stock is too good to live without.

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