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October 3rd 2010 11:25 am

How important is the 'Google experience' to Android nowadays?

The biggest complaint I've heard from people regarding Android is the custom skins that add no compelling features, and the biggest argument for Android is it's integration with the Google cloud, however large parts of the cloud are actually inaccessible from Android in it's current state without the aid of third party apps form the Marketplace.

HTC's latest version of sense is proof enough that the custom skins the handset manufacturers place on their Android phones aren't just crapware, but that they actually have the potential to enhance the experience, taking it to a level not yet attainable using stock Android, and without a good number of third party apps.

The Gmail app is a great piece of kit, but it's not been decoupled from the OS and placed in the marketplace for (theoretically) any Android handset to get a hold of, and I'm fairly sure we're going to see this happen with other apps, such as Navigator.

My thinking right now is that perhaps handset vendors should be the ones adding the advanced features like the ones found in the new Sense, and Google should perhaps just work on a rock solid foundation while providing apps through the Marketplace, i.e. Google make the services, and let the vendors make Android into a product.

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My first android phone was the Samsung Moment, which is a "pure" Google phone with no customizations other than a handful of pre-installed apps. Mine came with 1.6, then I upgraded to 2.1 when that became available. I loved that phone in every way except for the fact that the radios in it apparently do not like my local towers and I was getting 3G lockups requiring frequent reboots.

So, I got an EVO, which has none of those wireless problems. However, I HATE what HTC has done to android. Their replacements for the music, calendar, and contact apps are terrible, and I couldn't stand the annoying full screen mode adjustment they made to the browser (requiring me to finally switch to Dolphin HD). Someone here at gdgt directed me to Music Mod, which solved my complaints with the HTC music app, but I am still stuck with their annoying contact and calendar apps. Since Google put Gmail in the store, I am hoping they will do the same for contacts and calendars. That still won't make the annoying launcher at the bottom of the screen go away, though.

I would just get another phone, but there aren't any other "pure" Google phones on the market other than the Moment are there? I keep hearing conflicting info about that regarding the G2, but all the others have modded android. I would try a custom ROM, but after the annoyance I lived through with the cellular bugginess on the Moment, I don't want to risk creating a similar situation by using unsupported software. The whole situation is pretty irritating.

There are those of us who think like Google engineers, and we prefer "pure" android. Unfortunately, no one will sell it to us. So, I wish Google would either stick with selling at least a few hardware models themselves, or put their foot down to the manufacturers and demand that people will have the option of using the default android if they want access to the Market on their devices. Meanwhile, I'll keep putting up with my daily annoyances on the EVO and wait for Google to possibly put all their default apps in the Market. :(
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"The Gmail app is a great piece of kit, but it's not been decoupled from the OS and placed in the marketplace for (theoretically) any Android handset to get a hold of, and I'm fairly sure we're going to see this happen with other apps, such as Navigator." - Actually Gmail was released as a separate Market download a couple weeks(?) back.
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Sorry, that was supposed to say "now been decoupled from the OS".
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I'm not sure the fact that they don't really add anything is the biggest complaint with the custom skins. My main problem with them is that they often add several months to the Android update process whenever Google releases a new version. Perhaps the new Sense does add some useful features, but is it really necessary for HTC to make those a mandatory portion of the OS, that you can't turn off without rooting it? And does HTC really need to rebuild Sense every time Google updates the core Android? I think the answer to both those questions is pretty clearly no. I didn't need a new version of Launcher Pro when I upgraded from 2.1 to 2.2, why does HTC need a new version of their skin?

Also, I don't think your suggestion of the vendors being the ones to add new features would really be beneficial to the platform, as eventually it seems like something that would lead to incompatible OS environments (ie App X requires feature Y to work, but feature Y is only available on phones with HTC Sense).
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I didn't get too much into Android, I stuck to one handset for as long as possible, and I'm only on my SECOND Android power device. I had a G1 that I loved to hell. Now I have an HTC Evo which came with 2.2 out the box. The jump from 1.6 to 2.2 was AMAZING, but I did have a lot of complaints. Many of the functionalities that I came to love from stock where no longer there with Sense, and many of Sense "tweaks" are really, really annoying.

I ended up rooting and flashing CM6 with LauncherPro, never looked back, you should give it a try, it's seriously the smoothest, sexiest build I have EVER ran on this phone. Sense is great, but stock should ALWAYS be an option. If Evo came stock out the box, it would of been an even BIGGER hit.

I just wish i can has the 4GS and the WiFi's, but it's not like I ever used them before anyways.
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