Smartphones today have become a necessity. From education to entertainment, smartphones have becomes a window to every aspect of human life. Much of this popularity could be credited to android, the OS that made the smartphone a household tool. Sure there are many OSs that came before android or are better than it but the effect that it has had on smartphones is undeniably the greatest. It is the reason why everyone in even developing countries now has a smartphone.
Android was introduced as this highly customisable Operating system for the masses. More importantly, it was free for phone manufacturers, a reason why it was used by every smartphone manufacturer bar Nokia and Apple. Google wanted devices to run their operating system and Google on them and hence it made Android OS free to use.
Initially, smartphone manufacturers started using Android OS onto their smartphones in the default wherein they looked as Google intended but soon things changed.
Need to look different
Since every company like LG, Sony, Samsung, HTC and others used the same Android OS it was difficult to tell them apart. This was a time when phones moved from keypads to touchscreens meaning every phone was just a slab of glass at the front with a camera at the back. Companies needed their phones to stand out and look different from their counterparts. This is when they started to put skins or themes on top of stock android. Every phone manufactures came up with their own UI skin on top of stock android. Some looked decent and some looked downright ugly. The biggest drawback to these skins was a hit on the performance of the phone as these skins were not optimised as well as the stock android.
Initially, smartphones with skins struggled to operate as well as their stock android counterparts but eventually, they were polished and now work quite well. Soon however another issue crept in. The smartphone OEMs now started to push their services, apps and ads through their UI. Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo and Oppo were the worst offenders of this. These companies started to push their ads and apps in the notification area, app drawers and also in settings.
Google giving up on Android One
Google, aware of this dilution of their stock android, was often mocked by Apple users for their phones lagging and crashing due to skins. Google wanted to make cheap phons that would not crash and provide users with experience as it intended. This is when Google came up with the Andoird One programme. It was a programme through which it helped OEMs make budget phones with stock android. Android One phones were a great success as people realised the performance improvement and overall clean user experience of these phones.
These phones however were not of any benefit to the OEMs and hence this program was silently let die. Today, no company makes Android One devices. Every smartphone manufacturer is pushing their skins and themes down people’s throats despite not being as smooth as stock android and riddled with bugs.
No hope for stock Android lovers?
Today if you want to get a stock android phone in India below Rs 20K, Motorola is your only choice. Between Rs 20K and 40K, you’d only get One Plus which is not technically stock android but is very similar to it. The newer Pixel phones would cost you in excess of Rs 60K which is just absurd for any phone.
Asus and Nokia also make phones with stock android but they are slow in updating and are buggy as well. I have an Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 and it still runs Android 9! Your best option if you want a stock android phone under Rs 20000 is to buy the latest hardware from Xiaomi or Realme and flash a stock android ROM on it. Sure you’d lose the warranty but that is the price to pay for someone who wants a stock android phone in India on a budget.