We need to re-evaluate what we mean by “stock Android” in light of this year’s crop of Samsung phones.On most Android sites, when you read or hear someone referring to “stock” Android, it’s usually with Google’s idea of Android in mind: clean home screen, light color scheme, and the bare minimum of accoutrements. Stock Android is also considered by many in the know to be the Platonic ideal of what Android should be, and it’s the standard bearer for all comparisons to Android skins from third-party manufacturers.
In recent years, whether through an overt campaign by Google itself or just a flattening and maturing of Material Design guidelines, most manufacturers have come to terms with differentiation as a selling point; from Samsung to Huawei, distinctiveness is looking considerably more familiar these days.
That being said, when I and many of my colleagues review a device, such as the upcoming Galaxy Note 8, we often talk about how, while the default launcher is tolerable, it’s easy to change. And if you don’t like the keyboard, here’s an alternative. The default messaging app? It sucks, here’s another one. These tend to be throwaway comments from people who don’t tend to consider the other side of the coin — again, myself included — that the vast majority of Android phone buyers (the vast majority of whom are Samsung phone buyers) don’t change any of these settings.
Given that it’s the waning days of summer, I’ve been attending baseball games, fairs, and plenty of other gatherings where it’s easy to glance at a person’s phone and the way he or she uses it. When I see an Android user, I try to make time to ask what goes into that setup process; Android is, after all, a supremely customizable operating system. Almost all of them say a