Let me turn proprietary software off and on when I want, without root

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: December 23, 2013

Back when I was using Android almost exclusively, I was also going out of my way to put custom software on it, too. More often than not I’d pick a phone to start using based on its developer support, through communities and overall software support. I’d check out a device, like HTC’s original Incredible or Motorola’s original DROID, and see how the development community was coming along with custom ROMs and other bonus features.

I did this for a lot of different reasons, but sadly it was mostly out of necessity. Back in those days, Android would fail on me more often than not while it was running the software it came with out of the box. The original DROID, with its vanilla version of Android, was usually okay, but when it came to other devices from companies that made their stake and claim on proprietary software, the experience usually fell of a sharp ravine a few weeks after purchase.

That’s changed quite a bit, thankfully.

Back then I wasn’t a fan of proprietary software at all. TouchWiz, Sense, MotoBLUR, and whatever else was out there just ruined the experience for me more often than not. Back then, I wanted stock Android or nothing, and so I’d go out of my way to root my device, and add custom software as I saw fit. It usually meant dropping the majority of features that companies included with their devices, but I didn’t care back then. I just wanted the phone to work like a champ out of the box and for awhile after that. I was convinced, based on usage, that rooting an Android phone and putting a custom ROM on it was essentially the only way to make sure that happened.

To be perfectly honest, when I stopped rooting my phones, I stopped using Android as much. I wasn’t a fan of TouchWiz, and Sense was just too heavy given enough usage. It slowed everything down. That changed this year, though. With HTC’s One and their new version of Sense, which was toned down significantly, I stopped having issues. And while I may not be the biggest fan of TouchWiz’s color schemes and what not, I’m growing to understand its appeal.

I wrote earlier this year that I’m beginning to understand the appeal of proprietary software, and that’s certainly still the case. However, I still think I want options. I still want manufacturers to make some real use for that built-in customization within Android, more so for the consumer after they buy the phone. It’s great that these companies can customize Android to their liking, to make it different from the competition, because that’s obviously essential. However, I want them to extend that a bit towards the consumer.

I’m expecting a lot of things from 2014, and I’m excited to see what comes of it. There are a lot of things I want to happen, and I’ll get to that in another article later this week. However, one thing that I want to touch on is Home replacements on Android, and that I want more companies to use them. Or, at least, give us the option to use them.

The Facebook phone, or the HTC first, gives us Facebook Home and all of those integrated features thanks to it being a Home replacement for the platform. You can easily turn it off, or turn it back on, with just a few switched options in settings. If you do turn off Facebook Home, you’re greeted with the stock version of Android — something that some people like quite a bit. And, if you get tired of staring at vanilla icons, you can always turn Facebook home back on, and reap the benefits that HTC and Facebook included therein.

I want that for the majority of phones running Android in 2014. Maybe even all of them. I’d like Samsung, HTC and LG (Motorola gets a pass here, considering they’ve got an experience practically vanilla anyway) to give me an option to turn off their proprietary software altogether, and just use stock Android. While I can understand the appeal of the features, I’d just like the option to turn off the custom user experience built upon them sometimes.

There’s a catch, though: I don’t want all the features turned off. I know the idea is to turn off the proprietary software completely, and to get that stock experience, but there are certainly some aspects to that company built user experience that really do help the standard content. I’d like engineers and developers to figure out a way to keep, just for example, some TouchWiz-based features on a device that I could turn off TouchWiz, as a whole. I could ditch the user experience at face value, but still access the camera interface, for instance.

I know that’s a pipe dream, and it probably won’t ever happen, but I’d still like to see some kind of effort in that direction as we move into 2014. I think it would be pretty great if Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S 5, and part of the improvements to the software was the ability, the option to turn off TouchWiz and bring up a stock experience.

I think that would be pretty nice, but what do you think? Would you buy a new phone in 2014 if it offered you the ability to turn off the proprietary software and use the stock software? Let me know!