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Stock Android is no longer the best version of Android – TNW

Android fanboys hold two truths to be self-evident: Android is better than iOS, and the closer to stock (or AOSP), the better.

To the tech-saavy user, an Android skin is, at best, an unnecessary inconvenience. More often, it’s a deleterious faux pas by manufacturers out of touch with user demands.

I’ve been regurgitating that wisdom to friends, family, and the internet ever since the first Android skin appeared in the form of HTC Sense way back in 2009. But 8 years later, I’m not so sure.

Faster hardware and diminishing returns

The traditional arguments against skins and manufacturer tweaks are plenty. To list a few:

  • Skins are uglier than Stock Android
  • They add unnecessary bloatware or duplicate apps
  • They slow down your phone
  • They are inconsistent with Material Design in apps
  • They get updated more slowly
  • They make Android more confusing
  • They drain battery

Until the last year or two, I would agree with pretty much all these points. But as devices become more powerful and manufacturers get better at optimization, it’s started to feel like my assumptions were more techno-prejudice than informed opinion.

Stock Android devices are generally guaranteed to be zippy, but ever-more-powerful hardware means the differences become less noticeable with every generation.

Three or four years ago, it was pretty much impossible to find an Android phone that performed as smoothly as a Nexus device. But when I reviewed the Huawei Mate 9, which is about as far from stock Android as it gets, I was surprised to find performance as buttery as any device I’ve used – and moreover, that it’s held up over the months.