I'm beginning to see the appeal of proprietary software

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: July 25, 2013

So, I like stock Android. I've liked it, for the most part, since I got my hands on Android way, way back with the HTC G1. It was new and different, and it was just unique enough to stand out. Plus, the G1's hardware was both great and bad at the same time, which was pretty exciting all by itself. We've come a very long way since then. If you look at Android now, which has now officially been upgraded to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the mobile software looks completely different and comes with a whole host of new features.

It's grown up, in just about every way you'd want it to.

Since Android's release, and with each subsequent device that's launched or new version released, there has been a few conversations that have stuck around. The first, obviously, is fragmentation. How terrible it is, and how it's wrecking the whole Android ecosystem, and how if the world ended it could very well be the result of Android fragmentation. Or something like that.

The other is about manufacturers and their customization of Android. While HTC, Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and plenty of other companies out there in the world may be using the same mobile operating system, technically, you'd find it hard to tell at face value just by looking at some of the devices. The customized, proprietary software that manufacturers create to differentiate their devices is easily the best way to make their handsets stand out in the waves of smartphones that get released every year.

And they all have great names, too, like Sense and TouchWiz. I was a fan of the MotoBlur name for awhile, but just for the name.

Ah, there it is. I just admitted that I liked Motorola's BLUR, or MotoBlur or Ninja Blur, or whatever, but only because of the name. I wasn't a fan of the software way back when, and I think it's a great idea that they've changed it for what it is in their latest devices. More stock-like the better, right?

I'm beginning to wonder if that's the case, at least for some devices.

The HTC One is by far my favorite Android phone of the year (so far), and that's the way it comes out of the box. While I was a big fan of HTC's Sense UI way back in the day, with the original GSM unlocked Hero, there was a long stretch there where the proprietary software just bogged everything down, and ultimately worsened the overall experience. That changed drastically with the latest version of Sense, though, and I can actually say I like the way HTC has implemented the software in their latest flagship device.

I actually missed the customized software in my short time away from it, strangely enough. I switched over to the Google Play Edition One for a bit, but I couldn't stick with it. As much as I love stock Android, and I do, don't get me wrong, I just couldn't get into it with the One.

And it has everything to do with the fact that now when I use stock Android, I think of devices like the Nexus 4, or even the BLU Life Play. I'm not necessarily saying that vanilla Android is only meant for "cheaper" devices or anything, but would I be entirely wrong if that's what I was saying?

It's about the differentiation. I may not be a huge fan of TouchWiz on devices like the Galaxy S III or Galaxy S 4, but I can manage it on the Note III, thanks to the added functionality provided by the S Pen. The Galaxy S 4 should stand out. And it doesn't stand out with stock Android running the show.

It could come down to pricing, too. I cannot, for whatever reason, figure out why I'd pay upwards of $600 or more for a stock version of Android on a Galaxy S 4 when I can pay half, or less than half, and essentially get the same experience. Sure, the S 4 has better hardware, but it's not like the Nexus 4 is a slouch by any means. It works quite well. Though, the bump in camera quality from the Nexus 4 to the Galaxy S 4 may be worth it to some.

Maybe I've just consumed the Kool-Aid or something. Is that the saying? Maybe I've just been beaten into submission by all the proprietary software out there that I just don't know any better anymore. It's to the point that when I get my hands on a stock Android device, I'm just not wowed anymore. Is this what submission feels like?

So if you had to pick your favorite proprietary Android software out there, out of the many that you've surely used over the years, what would it be? Do you still prefer HTC's version over Samsung's? What about Motorola, or LG? Or does another company's do everything you want it to? On the other hand, have you fought the evil proprietary software regime, and stick with stock? Let me know!