Should we compare stock versus unreleased software?Evan Selleck - Contributing Editor
After the Galaxy S III by Samsung launched, I wrote about how the device was able to get me back into the Android fold. Soon after, I got my hands on a Galaxy Nexus, and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean made me fall in love with Google's mobile operating system again. About a week later, after playing with Jelly Bean enough, I made a comment on Twitter about how I thought the Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean was better than the Galaxy S III. Obviously, not many agreed with me.
And I can understand why. I can see their position on this. The Galaxy S III is certainly one of the best Android devices out there right now. But, me and the Galaxy S III didn't get along all that well, and the Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean has been buttery smooth (see what I did there?) right from the get go. In my opinion, that makes the Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean a better device.
For me, anyway. That's going to change from person to person, based on their usage patterns and needs.
So in the torrent of tweets that I received after that initial statement, there was one from a colleague of mine that stood out the most. He asked, "But what about a Galaxy S III with Jelly Bean?" I'm not sure if I replied or not (I'm sorry if I didn't!), but it's a good question. What if the Galaxy S III was running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean? How would that compare to the Galaxy Nexus?
The argument basically comes down to the tweaks that Samsung would provide to keep Android 4.1 under the company's TouchWiz user interface. How would skinned Android 4.1 stack up against its stock counterpart?
The problem with this, is the fact that we would only be guessing. We don't know how Android 4.1 Jelly Bean would be on the Galaxy S III, simply because it's not a real scenario right now. Hopefully it is here soon, but right now? It's purely conjecture based on fantasy.
I was reminded of this after my article yesterday, where I casually compared Google Now and Siri. I pointed out that I was using the newest Beta of iOS 6 on an iPhone 4S. For Google Now, I was using the feature with Android 4.1.1, which is the stock version available to the Nexus 7. There's no arguing: I was comparing unreleased software versus what Google has available now.
And I'm not sure I'm okay with that, to be honest. Because I know it happens on a wide scale basis. People who use customized ROMs on their Android phones are always comparing their devices to others, especially those who don't have their handsets rooted and fiddled with.
Is this right? Actually, to be blunt, is this fair? To go back to the Google Now vs Siri article, the whole comparison couldn't even happen if I wasn't using a Beta version of iOS 6. The questions I asked Siri and Google Now? They can't be answered by Siri running iOS 5. In that case, Google Now would "win" in every case, simply due to the fact that Siri lacks the functionality in the version that is readily available now.
My colleague asked me if the Galaxy S III with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean would be better than the Galaxy Nexus with the same software because he was busy putting a customized ROM on his Galaxy S III, with Android 4.1 features in tow. In his personal case, he was asking because he was about to use Android 4.1 features on a device that doesn't have access to the newest version of Android 4.1 without some user interference. We would have been comparing unreleased software versus the opposite.
Again, I'm not sure that this is fair. Or, even worthwhile. It could be fun, sure, just to see how fantastic the Android developers out there creating custom ROMs really are. But, for the end user, for the average customer, comparing unreleased software to a device running stock features isn't really doing anything. It's a fun game, but it can't be used for any decisions on a future purchase. It shouldn't be, anyway.
Not unless you're eager to root a device, and add the custom software yourself.
How do you feel about people comparing unreleased software to the stock version? Is it worthwhile to you? Or is it all just for fun and games? Let me know, Dear Reader.