Can I please have the option to remove Android skins?
I’ve been an avid Android user ever since I bought my first device, a Sprint Evo 4G, a little over a year ago. I loved that device, and I’ve been an Android fan ever since. The things I like most about Android, which drove me to it and kept me on it, is the customization, the styling, and the usability. Android has completely moved me into the Google ecosystem, as Google would hope. I now use Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Analytics, Voice, Talk, and all of the other amazing Google services. At this point, I couldn’t imagine my daily routine without these great products.
Being that my first device was an Evo 4G, the experience was using HTC Sense, as is true for many other Android users. I thought that this skin and experience was great at first, but I quickly hit the ceiling of customization and usability in a couple months and wanted more. I bought an Android phone to escape the walled garden of the iPhone, why was I being given the same experience with Sense? After researching and trying basic customizations to change the look of Android, I got fed up trying to tack launchers on top of Sense. My realization at this point is that I would have to root my phone (voiding my warranty in the process), and re-flash an entirely new ROM just to get the general features of stock Android (2.2 at the time). This kicked into gear my desire for stock Android on my devices…
In a few weeks, I was deep into the rooting and ROM flashing. I spent a lot of time on XDA developers forums (www.xda-developers.com), which has an amazing community, especially for the Evo which is a flagship for Sprint. I was doing my research, learning how to mod my device, and flashing a new ROM every week or so. This is fun for a while, but the luster wore of quickly for me, especially considering that this was my daily phone. Its like trying to work on a race car every night and driving it to work every day; far from practical.
Finally, after months and months of constant re-flashing of ROMs and modding my device, I pretty much got fed up chasing stock Android. I wouldn’t have to root my phone if I could get truly stock, untouched Android out of the box, with the full functionality that Google has already baked in. In comes the T-Mobile HTC G2. I dumped Sprint, sold my Evo4G, and bought the device, which has about as fresh, stock Android as you’re going to get outside of a phone with the word ‘Nexus’ in the title. No skin, no extra apps, and unblocked tethering. Life is good.
This gets me down to my point: Please phone manufacturers, give us a switch to turn off the skin, and turn on stock Android.
There was a time in the past, I’m looking at you 1.6 Donut, when a third party skin may have actually added to the Android experience. But in the age of 2.3 Gingerbread, this really isn’t true anymore. I realize that the manufacturers (and carriers, for that matter) are very invested, with both time and money, in keeping their skins on the devices and having consistent user experiences. I’m not asking them to give that up, I’m just asking for them to offer the advanced users (I use that term lightly) to get down to the base Android experience and build it like they want it. Put it as deep in the settings as you want to hide from regular users, but there really is no physical limitation to keep this from happening at this point in devices, only manufacturer ego. Device ROM is plenty large enough to hold even the most behemoth software packages, like Sense 3.0, there is no reason why they can’t throw stock 2.3 in there next to it.
The bottom line for me? My next device is going to be a stock stock stock Google Nexus device. I still like to root and mod my phones, but it shouldn’t be a necessary step in order to make a phone your own, make it do what you want, and get the experience Google intended me to get with an Android device. Differentiation is great, but choice on where I get that differentiation is even better.