Custom Android Skins suck

Time for some hate directed towards custom skins that manufacturers apply to Android.

What is a custom skin?image
My definition of a custom skin is that it is the UI and behaviour customisations that manufacturers apply to Android handsets. HTC has Sense, Samsung has TouchWiz and Motorola has MOTOBLUR.

Why do they do this?
Manufacturers do this to differentiate themselves from each other – apart from ‘better’ hardware, if a user likes the look and feel of one phone over another it may be due to a manufacturer skin. Historically it’s fair to say that Android was a bit ugly and not polished – in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience manufacturers introduced their own skins to dress it up a bit. With the release of Ice Cream Sandwich I just don’t see this as a valid argument any more.

So why do you think they suck?
My main beefs with these custom skins are that they

  • introduce delays in getting new versions of Android onto phones
  • consume extra resources (less of an issue with newer hardware)
  • it’s usually baked in and not easily turned off
  • are no longer necessary
  • there’s a special place in hell for people who try to make Android phones look like an iPhone

The delays in updates for phones, and the fact that you usually cannot turn it off are my biggest complaints. Yes you can install a new launcher and remove most of the functionality (I’ve done this in the past with TouchWiz). But the remains are still there in other areas like the notification bar. In the end most of the functionality that they offer can easily be reproduced by third party apps, often with better results.

I *get *that manufacturers want to make their phones look different, but why not do us all a favour and allow consumers to reset their phone to stock Android if they want to. When a new version of Android comes out, release a ROM for your phones without the skins and then when the updated skin is ready release that. If you think your customisations are so awesome then release them as apps and sell them for a buck.

Let the consumer choose.