Skin Collage

AH Primetime: Proprietary Software to Stock Android Without Rooting?

December 26, 2013 - Written By Cory McNutt

I have to be honest with from the beginning – I am not a rooter of smartphones. I am perfectly content with the Samsung TouchWiz on my Galaxy Note 3…I can feel the rotten tomatoes being thrown at me now! I have never seen a reason to root or jailbreak my device and void the warranty. As a matter of fact, I have always enjoyed the more “polished” look of the manufacturers’ skins or proprietary User Interface (UI) software – plain Android always seemed a little too “plain vanilla” to me, with fewer options and a cruder interface. Much of that has changed with Android 4.4 KitKat and I believe it will be even further refined when Android 5.0 (maybe called Key Lime Pie or maybe Snickers) arrives on the scene. Google seems to be concerned with competing – read that as beating the Heck out of – iOS and Google’s latest rendition shows that they are on their way to fulfilling that goal.

With Android 4.4 KitKat, Google really worked with details, like transparent bars, but also added more security measures, optimized it for less battery consumption, the ability to run with only 512K of memory, and much, much, more. Google is serious about Android being a well polished and smooth operating system able to stack up against even the “formidable,” iOS. Because of this, and the fact that Google now owns Motorola’s mobile division, the new Motorola’s coming out are also running almost complete stock Android, and people are loving the devices and interface. LG has also opted to have their Optimus UI looking more and more like stock Android – in a time that once though that “more is better,” it seems as though the more stock Android adds features, the less the manufacturers are trying to cover up that experience…except Samsung’s TouchWiz, that is. In fairness to the overlays, the manufacturers are trying to differentiate themselves from one another with cool features and colorful screens, and their skins are one way of doing this.

As customers become more educated, they are demanding that the upgrades that Google makes to Android be given to their older phones as soon as possible – some of which comes from the pressure from Apple – there is only one manufacturer and one choice of software and it makes it easy for Apple to upgrade everybody all at once. There are no HTC Sense, LG Optimus UI, or Samsung TouchWiz overlays to worry about in iOS, but the Android public is demanding faster upgrades and by lessening the overlay, or proprietary software, it allows the manufacturer to upgrade faster.

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There are many customers that resort to rooting their devices for a number of reasons – some want to add a customized package that meets their specific needs or to add the ability to use specialty third applications. You have to understand that when iOS or Android first came out, there were a shortage of applications – image your phone now with no third-party applications (all of a sudden TouchWiz is looking pretty good) – but all of that has changed now with the ability to download an app to do just about anything you desire. So is it still a necessity to root your device, and why do most people still jailbreak and what is causing fewer people to do it?

Some people do not want to void their warranty – flagship devices are becoming more expensive, commanding $300 on a contract or $800 to buy outright, and many users do not want to take a chance on voiding their warranty should something happen to their device.

If you are using your device for business use, you almost certainly do not want to root your device – no matter what other features you may gain, if the internal security is broken, you run the risk of an app potentially gaining full access to the kernel.

Many people root their phone simply to lay claim that it is rooted, as if that makes them some kind of a tech guru, and will, somehow, gain your respect. However, more and more people who always used to root are telling us not to do it unless there is a real necessity, or if you are no longer receiving regular updates.

Some users truly believe there are real benefits to rooting, especially removing the bloatware that comes on so many devices. They feel that rooting makes it even a better phone and opens up many possibilities not available on their original device.

What if we had the option to use either the proprietary software that comes on the device or turn it completely off? Would that make you more likely to keep your device as stock, or would you root the device regardless, because it is an innate process that you simply must perform? What I would like to be able to do is “shop” for the features that I want on my phone – start off with basic Android, but add a little TouchWiz in here and there – like the S-Pen software package. It would be wonderful to get a stock Android Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and go to Samsung’s website or a section in the Play Store, where I could pick and choose the Samsung software packages that I want to use.

Am I living in a dream world – you know it, but it would certainly save a lot of warranties and frustrated rooters. Let us know on our Google+ Page if you are a rooter, were a rooter (and why you stopped), or never rooted any device in your life, and tell us why. Would your habits as a rooter change if you were given the option to turn the UI on or off?