I’ve been using an Android phone since late 2009 and am now on my second phone. I’ve found Android to be easy to use and the over the air updates I’ve experienced from 1.5 to 1.6 and 1.6 to 2.2 have been smooth and effortless. In fact the only times my phone gets connected to a computer is for a charge when I’m travelling 🙂 Yes, my phone really is a phone.
Of course that’s not to say that all is prefect. My second phone is an HTC Desire HD, which works well but arrived with HTC Sense installed. Having been using “stock android” for a long time I find HTC Sense to be intrusive and would rather revert back to the “stock android”. Sadly, HTC have seemingly made every effort to make this harder than it should be. All of the advertising for current HTC phones features “HTC Sense” and they promote it as an “experience” (as opposed to merely a different interface) so I’m guessing that HTC aren’t about to easily relinquish it from their devices. Samsung have their own interface for their phones, but don’t spend quite as much time focussing on it during their adverts. A simple web search shows just how many people want to know how to remove HTC Sense, so I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I feel that all of these proprietary interfaces detract from Android as a whole.
There has been much written about the “fragmentation of android” – a problem that is likely to get worse as time goes on with the expansion in app stores for the platform – but the hardware vendors seem to be oblivious to the concerns as their policy of layering their own software on top of Android shows. It’s common sense that every custom layer requires time, and therefore money, to convert and update for a new version of Android – slowing the update cycle or even stopping it if the conversion is too hard (as was witnessed by some of the earlier phones being stuck on 1.5 or 1.6).
Google are justifiably proud of each release of Android. The collection of statues in Mountain View keeps growing and every release brings more functionality, speed and better integration. Sadly though, the gap between announcing a new release and updates being rolled out to phones has remained stubbornly long for most users – primarily due to the vendors custom interfaces. In an ideal world the vendors would have unlimited resources and enormous teams of engineers who could spend their time updating all their phones, but we live in the real world where money doesn’t grow on trees 🙂
Hardware vendors want to sell phones and so having as many “differentiators” as possible is a good thing for them. Most phones in a given price bracket have virtually identical specification which means that these “differentiators” are becoming crucial as the market becomes more and more crowded. Choice is a good thing for the users and keeps prices down – the ability to make your product stand out is essential for sales and keeping the prices up. The two desires are opposite and at present the balance is a little too far towards the vendors.
I’ve taken the time and have rooted my phone and thus have the ability to flash new ROM’s, but given the complexities of merging the various pieces of software to create a ROM this also takes time and falls to groups of volunteers. The fact these groups can create a ROM quicker than the vendors speaks volumes for me about the complexity they have added.
Please HTC, allow me the option of having a “stock android” instead of your “HTC Sense android”.