One of the major reasons why Android updates are so slow are the skins. Basically how it goes is, Google announces a new version of Android then pushes out their Nexus family of devices. Then the OEMs that have Google Play Edition devices push their updates out, since the only real thing they have to do is get it working on the hardware. Next is everyone else. For example, Samsung has to get Android 4.3 working with their Touchwiz UI before they can send out an update. The other part that keeps updates from launching seamlessly are the carriers. Since we have plenty of different devices in house right now, we thought we'd take a time to do a comparison between Sense 5 (HTC), Emotion UI (Huawei), Touchwiz Nature UX (Samsung), Xperia UI (Sony) and Stock Android.
Disclaimer: For this comparison we are using the HTC One Mini (Android 4.2.2), Huawei Ascend Mate (Android 4.1.2), Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 (Android 4.2.2) Sony Xperia Z (Android 4.1.2) and the Nexus 4 (Android 4.3)
Well you can only change up the lockscreen so much. As shown in the disclaimer above, most of our devices in this comparison are running on Android 4.2 or later, which means they all (except for the Ascend Mate) support lock screen widgets. On the Sense 5 device, you'll notice that you have your time & weather along with 4 app shortcuts. The Touchwiz device has the time along with 4 lockscreen shortcuts, while the Emotion UI and stock Android just have the clock and a way to unlock the device. Then looking at Sony's Xperia Z, you can see that you can swipe up or down to unlock and you've got camera and walkman shortcuts.
As you can see from the image above, each home screen looks different. Even though they basically have all the same apps on the homescreen. You'll notice on the Emotion UI that there is no app drawer. On every Huawei device all your apps are shown on your home screens. It can be rather annoying, especially if you like keeping clean home screens like myself. Then if you look at the Sense 5 homescreen, it looks kind of similar to stock Android and so does Touchwiz. You've got 4 apps in the dock, your app drawer, and then apps and widgets on the homescreen itself.
The notification bar is another area of my device that I like to keep clean. If you've used an LG device on Verizon, you know exactly what I mean. Lately, Verizon has taken to having a persistent Wifi notification on every device of theirs. Even if you are connected to Wifi. Some devices like to throw quick settings and app shortcuts into the notification bar, or notification shade as well. Which with Android 4.2 or higher, we really don't need the quick settings at the top when there's a button to flip over for all the quick settings. Or am I just being too picky? HTC got it right in Sense 5. No quick settings aside from the Quick Settings panel, quite like the Nexus 4. So Good Job HTC. Now Huawei still has quick settings at the top because their device is on Android 4.1.2 so no quick settings panel just yet. Then checking out the Xperia Z, you'll notice there are a few quick settings at the top, since the T-Mobile version (the one we currently have) has not been updated to Android 4.2.2 yet.
Don't even get me started on the app drawer. Compared to the Nexus 4, all these other phones have way to many apps on there. Samsung phones come with around 60 apps pre-installed. Of course, that all depends on the carrier your device is on. AT&T and Verizon seem to have the most bloat on their devices. But what I do like about the Sense 5 devices is that you can create folders in the app drawer, and even out-of-the-box there's a folder for all of your carriers apps that they pre-installed. While Touchwiz and Stock Android don't allow you to do that.
Right now, if I can't have a stock Android device, my favorite skin is either Sense 5 or Sony's skin. I've actually always been a fan of Sense, even back in Sense 3 on the HTC Sensation. A lot of people might think I'm crazy, but back then Sense actually made Android look nice. Who remembers what Stock Android looked like back in the Eclair and Froyo age? Pretty sad looking right? Needless to say, Android has come a long way since then. It looks really nice. Now while everyone may not agree with why I love Sense or why I dislike Touchwiz, that's the beauty of Android. Having choices. What other platform do you have phones ranging from a 4.3-inch display up to a 6.3-inch display? Windows Phone comes close, but I believe the biggest Windows Phone is around 5-inches, maybe 4.7.
What manufacturer skin is your favorite and why?