In a world where everyone is dependent on their phone, imagining a world without Android smartphones is difficult. Android, as we all know is offered by the search giant Google and dominates the market with a whopping 87% of market share. There’s no question about its feature and performance. But still there’s a lot you need to know about your favorite operating system.
Android isn’t as straightforward as Apple’s iPhone but is ubiquitously present all over the world. Different manufacturers offer Android and all look different, but why? Does it ever bother you?
In this article, we will try to answer most common questions that may arise in your mind when looking at all these things.
What is Android?
Android, the most popular mobile operating system is an open source operating system (OS) for mobile phones, tablets. It is AOSP (Android Open Source Project, led by Google but doesn’t belong to it, as Google acquired it.) You read it right! Google didn’t invent it.
Google used this project as a base to create its version of Android which is used by other manufacturers for free. The best part about Android is, it is “open source” i.e. anyone can use it the way they want. Android’s job as an OS is to act as a medium between the user and the gadget for example, when you click a photo, the button you tap to perform the action signals the phone what to do.
The Android software is developed in unification with Google, who releases major updates for it every year.
The best part about Android is that it has Google Play which, works on all phones irrespective of the manufacturer.
What is Android Open-Source Project?
Android as we all know is an open-source system i.e. anyone can use it and make changes to it. A portion of that is offered for free to hardware manufacturers and phone carriers.
Manufacturers are charged by Google as only they provide Google apps for users. Mostly all major devices use Google apps but exceptions like Amazon use Android, without Google portions. It maintains a separate Android app store.
Android is Linux based partly open source operating system that comes in two forms: stock ROM and custom ROM.
Now what is stock ROM and custom ROM? Let’s take a look.
ROM known as Read Only Memory (a memory storage, which can’t be modified or deleted, once written) in context to computers. But this is not true for smartphone and tablets. ROM in mobile devices means firmware, same as operating system on your desktop or laptop.
What is Stock ROM?
Stock ROM refers to the pure, untouched and official version of Android, the way Google envisioned Android, also known as “vanilla.”
It doesn’t include anything other than core Android apps and UI. Users who use stock ROM don’t have root access.
Smartphones when shipped have stock ROM, which is later customized by companies. Stock Android means reliability, up to the mark performance and security.
A software that serves as an application framework and a hardware interface that helps other parts to communicate with each other to keep itself running.
What is Custom ROM?
On the other hand, custom ROM isn’t provided officially, it is modified version of original source code by a community of developers called Cyanogenmod. Developers make alterations to the OS to add features, change home screen, bring tweaks, enhance stability and more.
It isn’t that stock ROM doesn’t work well, it’s just that to add spark and to provide users with some extra features and to keep their interest intact developers use custom ROM.
This is the reason why Android looks different on each phone. For example: Samsung uses Touchwiz UI and Sony uses Timescape UI.
Android Terminology You Need to Know
Before we move ahead to know more about stock Android here is a glossary of Android terms that you should know as an Android user.
Things that Make Stock Android Reliable
Android phones are shipped with stock ROM that is changed by manufacturers to make it look unique. Here is what make stock Android different:
1) Interface Just the Way Google Envisioned
In the beginning, Android was very plain and bland but in 2009 it was HTC which brought changes to it with Sense UI. Since then Google has been working on the same lines and has been changing the design to make it look interesting.
If you are using a stock Android UI phone, you’ll get to enjoy and use an interface the way Google designed it.
2) Get Hands on Experience with Google’s Features
Phone manufacturers not just change the design they also push their applications and features over Google’s. For example, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, Xiaomi’s MIUI use their own features and they choose to skip what is provided by Google. As manufacturers make the changes it is up to them to provide what they want, as opposed to what can be seen at the Google IO every year.
Besides, manufacturers add various apps that are already provided by Google. This means there will be app duplication. For e.g.: Google provides Chrome, but manufacturers still install their specific Internet browser. Apart from this, Gmail is usually installed on phones yet phone manufacturers provide their own email client app. Thus, creating unnecessary clutter and duplication.
When anything is modified some of the original benefits are lost. Same is the case with Android as alterations are made to it, the performance degrades. It is obvious that if you keep filling the software with heavy interface and loads of additional features, it’s going to make the phone slower. All this is experienced on lower end hardware phones.
4) Quick Updates
Stock Android users get quick updates to the newer version as compared to custom Android users. As manufacturers are slow at rolling out new versions, many customer use same version of Android despite of new available in the market. The reason behind this is that since changes aren’t made to original code, less work is required therefore original Android gets faster updates.
Stock Android devices receive updates as soon as they are released by Google. This means their device is more secure as all the flaws have been patched by Google.
With stock Android a certain level of consistency can be expected as opposed to Android phones from different phone makers. As they arrange the buttons and change the interface. For e.g. if you have been a Samsung user and have now changed to Xiaomi you will have to get your accustomed from one physical home button & two touch buttons to all touch screen buttons at the bottom of the screen. Whereas with stock Android, the position of on screen buttons is same. This means you’ll not have to change the way you use phone when using stock Android.
One of the biggest criticism faced by Android devices is security especially iOS lovers look down at Android devices as they consider it vulnerable to threats.
Google is quick at developing patches to fix security flaws, but manufacturers who make changes to the stock ROM need to make alterations to these updates to make sure it’s compatible with their O S. Thus, increasing the security risks because more the delay more are chances of being attacked. Stock Android is developed by Google thus there is no room for security loopholes.
The best part of stock ROM is it doesn’t void the warranty.
8) Reclaimed Storage Space
Stock Android gets rid of carrier-installed apps from your device, making you reclaim valuable storage space.
9) Greater Control Over your Device
Removal of bloatware means you have control over your device like what should be on your device and how it should perform.
What Lies Ahead for Stock Android?
Stock Android might not be in spotlight due to manufacturers making changes to the operating system to meet customers need. However, we will see it making its comeback soon.
Recently, we have seen Nokia phones coming with stock Android as HMD Global is seeing it as the future. Also, Lenovo has announced that their future smartphones will have stock Android installed. Looks like manufacturers have finally started noticing the benefits of stock Android.
Custom ROM is the altered version of a stock Android. It is developed and managed by Cyanogenmod a community of developers.
1. Root Access
Custom ROM offers root access to its users, a powerful option that provides users with complete control of their phone. Like admin login on Windows, root access is the admin access for Android device.
Custom ROM is flexible and can be customized by the manufactures to any level. Custom ROM gives users the facility to delete unwanted apps that come with stock ROM and further customize their devices.
3. Better Performance
As custom ROMs can be modified users can install and delete apps as per their preference. They can even restrict background apps, and make changes to enhance the performance. Also, as no preinstalled applications come with custom ROMs they are less heavy than stock ROMs and user has full control to optimize apps, control usage, and change permission at any time. Thus, helping Android devices to perform better and have better battery life.
There has been a long discussion on which is better. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The ROM that meets user’s requirements is definitely better. However, if security of the device is of utmost importance then stock ROM wins, however if you are amongst those who would like to make changes as they want then custom ROM is the perfect choice for you.
Google’s Idea of Android
Some say that stock Android is how Google wanted Android to be, which is a bit witty. With time things change and so does the vision, but it seems for Google’s Android things won’t change soon.
Google doesn’t seem to be much fond of external SD card. This is clearly visible as no Google phone (Nexus and Google Pixel), has a microSD card slot reader. If we would have been following Google’s vision there wouldn’t be external storage provided. For Google this type of storage is a liability but manufacturers using custom ROM saw it other way round and adopted external storage.
Besides, absence of certain features is also Google’s grand vision. Over time, company has made changes but not to customer satisfaction. It won’t be a hyperbole to say, if pure Android were to be used then we would have been using a different version of Android altogether.
With all this in line there is one more version of Android that most of us use, but don’t know about it. This is called Fork Android.
What is Fork Android
Fork Android is different from original one. It is an independently developed piece of software that uses Android as its base, but doesn’t need to be connected back to the Google ecosystem.
Amazon’s Fire tablet OS is one such example it uses Android platform without Google’s apps or services built into it.
The Bottom Line
Android undoubtedly is an exciting platform, it is preferred by all from consumers to developers. It is opposite of iPhone where iPhone offers best user experience by restricting hardware and software standards, Android gives freedom to both users and developers to make changes to the operating system as they want.
This is both good and bad. Modified version of Android may provide users with various options but risk is also involved in using it. Customized version is easy to use but from security point of view it isn’t intact as updates aren’t released for custom version soon as compared to stock version. However, it depends on the user which version of Android he wants to use.
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