Stock Android is Overrated

There, I said it. Stock Android is overrated. Let the Android purists huff and puff, but that’s the truth. I am an Android user myself, and I would never buy an iPhone. So don’t think that I am one of those Apple fanboys. What I am trying to say is that Android, with its custom skins, like HTC’s Sense, or Samsung’s Touchwiz is a lot better than the pure Android found in the Nexus devices amongst other phones such as the Moto and OnePlus phones. The complaint that a skin might slow down the phone is not 100% true in 2016. Sense is one of the most light, smooth and beautiful launcher out there and Samsung has streamlined Touchwiz a lot and it is only going to get better. Let me explain.

I have been using an HTC phone for the past 3.5 years and for the first time I bought a stock Android phone — the OnePlus 3. True, it’s not exactly pure Android and OnePlus calls its skin “Oxygen OS”. But this Oxygen OS is just stock Android with a few modifications and so I classify OnePlus, and also Moto phones, as stock Android phones. I have observed that stock Android simply does not have the many options that I found so useful in my four-year-old HTC One X. A month ago, I was reading the reviews of HTC 10 and I read about how HTC, in its attempt to make Sense even lighter, has shipped the phone without some of its Sense applications as they did not want duplicate applications on the phone in addition to the stock Google apps. Why, HTC, why? This is simply stupid because people are anyway going to hunt the Play store and install apps to replace the stock Google apps anyway! The stock Google apps are too simple and lack the features that companies like HTC and Samsung provide. So there will be duplicate applications on all stock Android phones! The default Google phone dialer doesn’t even have the option to block calls! This is something that the HTC One X has and I don’t have to remind you again that this phone came out four years ago! So far, I have replaced the phone dialer, the default browser, Google Chrome, the messaging app, the stupid Play Music app, the joke that is Google Photos (at least OnePlus provides a proper gallery app), and the featureless camera app. I have a duplicate app for every single Google app except for the Play store, Gmail, YouTube, and Google maps. So HTC, please tell me, again, why did you replace some of your applications? The so-called Android purists are going to install duplicate apps anyway. One of the reasons why I dislike iOS is because it is such a boring OS and now stock Android is almost boring to me. Why can’t Google learn from HTC and Samsung? I see that they are borrowing ideas from Samsung and other Android OEMs, but they are still slow. Even the calendar app is so primitive to what I had in the HTC One X (and that came out four years ago). The number one app that frustrates me is the phone dialer (which also includes the contacts), and the number two app is the messenger. Pathetic. Why is Google doing this? Is it because Android will become too slow if they add more features? But HTC phones are not slow. Is it because they follow a stupid policy of minimalism? I am not a fan of this “material design” and I also hate Microsft’s Modern UI. Why do we have to put up with this kind of crap in the name of minimalism? Windows 7 still looks good and Microsoft should have gone in that direction. If Android purists really love pure Android, then there should not be any app on their phones that duplicates a Google app. But clearly, that is not the case. Hypocrites. These people have no right to criticize HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s Touchwiz. How many reviews have I read that make fun of the fact that there are two email apps, two browsers, two messaging apps on Samsung phones. Whose fault is that? It is Google’s fault for making such stupid apps that lack so many features. And it has been widely accepted that Samsung makes one of the best browsers and it is lighter and better optimized than Chrome. So who makes these “bloatware?” “Stock Android is clean, lean and is buttery smooth” — that’s because it doesn’t have the features that a 2011 HTC phone had.

It took about five or six years for a company like Google, with all its technical expertise, with all its financial might, and its great engineers to stabilize Android. It makes me wonder a lot. What could be the reason behind this? Of course, Android always has attempted to be better and proper OS compared to iOS and this could be a reason. But I think the main culprit is Java. And with all the trouble that Google is having with Oracle right now, I hope that Google ditches this language and moves on to something else. But would it Go?

Advertisements

OnePlus 3 Review

After more than 3.5 years of using my HTC One X, I finally bought a new phone — the OnePlus 3!

Why did I choose this phone?

I’ve been looking to buy a phone for more than a year and all the phones that I came across had one issue or the other. I wanted a phablet with the latest Android OS that didn’t cost a ton of money. This criteria of mine eliminated most of the phones in the market and last year’s OnePlus 2 came out with the dreaded Snapdragon 810 processor which suffered from heating issues. In fact, Snapdragon 615, 617, 808, 810 — all these processors suffered from overheating issues and so I had a hard time choosing a phone without any of these processors. So when I saw this phone being announced on June 14th in India, I knew that this was the one and ordered it the very next day. Amazon delivered this beauty as early as 17th.

Key Specifications:

Display: 5.5-inch Samsung-made 1080p AMOLED display with a PPI of 401

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (details given at the end of the review)

Primary memory: 6 GB!

Internal memory: 64 GB

OS: Android Marshmallow

Camera: 16 MP rear camera and 8 MP front camera (both from the house of Sony)

Battery: 3000 mah

First things first, this phone looks stunning! The full metal body and the build quality is as good as those premium phones made by HTC, Apple, and Samsung. I mean, this phone costs only 28,000 Rupees, but the build quality is that of an iPhone! The 5.5 inch 1080p AMOLED display looks great and I really have to appreciate OnePlus for not falling for the quad HD trap. Frankly, I can see no difference between quad HD and full HD displays. Quad HD screens are more taxing on the processor and it consumes more battery, and so naturally one might think that OnePlus 3 with its full HD display has a great battery life. It’s not great, but just good. This is something that I really don’t understand. Both this phone and the 5.7 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 5 have the same 3000 mah battery, but still, the battery life of the Note 5 is better than the OP3 in spite of having a QHD! What is OnePlus doing wrong? Or should I ask what kind of optimization does Samsung do? Both the Exynos 7420 processor, in the Note 5, and the OP3’s Snapdragon 820 processors are manufactured with 14 nm process, which means, their power consumption should be more or less the same. Even if the power consumption is different, it shouldn’t be a big difference. Maybe, if I root the OP3 and underclock the processor, will I get a better battery life? I’ll think about this when I see better custom ROMS out there. To be more concrete on the battery life, my SOT (screen on time) regularly crosses 4.5 hours (I don’t game) which is good; the phone solidly lasts more than 24 hours.  I am really enjoying the quick charging time of the “Dash charger” that comes bundled with the phone.

Audio: Call quality is crisp, clear and very audible. The volume of the speaker at the bottom is loud and good. To me, obviously, this phone is a fantastic upgrade over the HTC One X in every single way. Except one thing. Just one thing. The HTC One X, which came out four years ago, still beats the OP3 in one single area and that is the audio quality! Hearing music from the headphones is not as good as it is from the One X. I hear that OnePlus is prepping an update to fix this. It’s nothing serious, the audio is good, but I am so used to the superior audio quality of HTC phones. This makes me wonder how great the audio quality of the current generation HTC phones must be.

Known issues:

  1. RAM management: Much has been said about this and I didn’t feel this much on my day-to-day usage. I am not a heavy multitasker and I’ve seen a couple of reloads (mostly Facebook) now and then. But I am starting to suspect that this is a Facebook issue as I have not seen much reloads in the other apps that I’ve used. As I said, I am not a heavy multitasker and so the RAM management issue is not a big issue to me. The five or six apps that I use stays in memory without any problem. If you’re coming from a phone that has 3 or 4 GB of RAM, don’t expect a huge difference in performance. Having said that, the performance of the OP3 is extremely good. Applications open up quickly upon touch and the touch screen is silky smooth. If you’re coming from a phone that was powered by the Snapdragon 810 with 3 or 4 GB or RAM, the difference in performance would be negligible.
  2. The 5.5-inch display has been called “worst” by the people at Anandtech.com. This is exaggeration of the highest order. Not a single reviewer said this prior to Anandtech’s review and now a few reviewers are saying the same after reading about this. Anandtech’s review came out on June 20th. When you google for OP3 reviews look at the difference between the reviews that were published before and after June 20. That tells us a lot, doesn’t it? The display is good, but not as colourful and vibrant as Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels; but then, no other display is as good as Samsung’s. Gsmarena, which published its review on June 24th,  rightly said the following about the display criticism: “you really have to be nitpicking to go so far as to criticise it.”

Anyway, OnePlus’ CEO was fed up of the RAM and display criticisms (after explaining that these two were conscious decisions made by the company as most users will not find any difference) and promised an update to fix these issues. “What is the purpose of  6 GB RAM if the phone doesn’t use it all?” Some angry users have asked and it is a valid question. The answer lies in the upcoming update.

Camera: Both the 8 MP front and the 16 MP back cameras are really good. Of course, the Galaxy S7 is still the king of cameras this year, but the OP3’s camera comes a little closer to the crown. S7 beats OP3 when it comes to low-light photography and macro shots; I noticed that the images lose a little bit of detail in macro shots. But for Rs. 28,000, the camera you get is more than worth the money. A similarly priced Samsung or HTC phone usually comes with a slow, subpar camera module. Having said that, I still haven’t explored the camera completely and will be testing it more. The good news is, the upcoming software update is supposed to improve the camera quality even further!

A note on the processor: The Qualcomm-made quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor has a custom modification — it is actually a dual-dual-core processor! It follows the Big.little architecture that Samsung introduced but employs two dual-core CPUs instead of two quad cores. The most powerful dual cores are clocked at 2.15 GHz and the less powerful cores are clocked at 1.6 GHz. More cores doesn’t mean more power, it is the quality that is important and the 820 performs! No overheating here.

For the price I paid, I am amazed how fast and fluid this phone is. Apps snap open with just a light touch and the whole interface is buttery smooth. The build quality is top-notch and the phone is near-perfect. Thank you OnePlus, for making such a great phone at such a low cost!

OP3, oneplus 3