The Google Android fork: Google Play services, Android 4.4, and the Nexus Experience
0. phoneArena 14 Oct 2013, 11:01 posted on
Let's get one thing clear right off the bat - Google creates Android, but Android is not Google. The base layer of Android is open source and can be used by anyone for anything. As such, we've seen Android be forked by companies like Amazon, Xiaomi, and Baidu for use on smartphones; and, the platform has been forked by companies like OUYA for use in other market segments like gaming. I'd like to put forward an idea here: the most commonly used version of Android is actually a fork by Google itself...
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1. Gulenkov (Posts: 49; Member since: 15 May 2013)
Nexus devices are the best, no doubt. Great experience, small price
5. Tommy1960i (Posts: 117; Member since: 11 Oct 2013)
Maybe not the best because of lower specs in terms of hardware. And the design is not as good as HTC One's. Samsung has better hardware, the only thing they need is a better premium feel.
10. Shatter (Posts: 2036; Member since: 29 May 2013)
Nexus 4 was top of the line specs when it came out. Nexus 5 will be close specs to a g2.
32. Luuthian (Posts: 234; Member since: 09 Sep 2011)
Depends on what you mean. Maybe the under the hood specs were fantastic, but that LCD screen is horrible in comparison to an iPhone 5, a decent AMOLED, or HTC's Super LCD 3. The battery life is also pretty sub par, and the camera has ALWAYS sucked. Few Androids have yet to achieve the fantastic battery life, screen display, or camera on Samsung or LG's recent devices.
I think the Nexus devices are beautiful in terms of their software execution. Stock Android is certainly my favorite version of the platform. Nexus devices have always had, IMO, large draw backs in their hardware though.
30. imMature (Posts: 87; Member since: 04 Sep 2013)
Helloo.. We're talking about Nexus here.. Lower specs? S4 Pro was a high end chip when it came out. 2GB of RAM, one of the earliest. The design is beautiful but the glass back is not that good.
31. CellularNinja (Posts: 306; Member since: 27 Sep 2011)
Please... I have a Nexus 10 & it's blazing fast & has one of the best 10 inch screens & it was still $100 less than the iPad... & you're gonna argue against it?
35. Luuthian (Posts: 234; Member since: 09 Sep 2011)
... We were talking about the Nexus 4? When did the Nexus 10 ever enter discussion? :/
33. Reluctant_Human (Posts: 878; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)
The Nexus had VERY good specs at release, especially for it's price. Personally, I think Motorola really proved that it's not about the specs. It's all about the design and optimization with the Moto X.
2. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10084; Member since: 14 May 2012)
Great article Michael. I prefer stock Android, but after using the new Touchwiz and Sense 5, I like some of the UI tweaks it brings. I don't see myself switching OSs anytime soon.
24. cezarepc (Posts: 674; Member since: 23 Nov 2012)
I always like Michael's articles, they are researched well and you just know that a lot of thought have been put into it. Unlike some others who just want views and clicks and churns out low quality articles with the ending coming up like "let us know what you think in the comment section" to start a crappy conversation and get some more views and clicks.
Anyway, having the stock experience in non nexus devices would be great. I currently (still!) have the Galaxy Nexus S and 1st-gen Nexus 7. Both are still great and I don't find the experience lacking in anyway (personal usage).
3. Navaid (Posts: 46; Member since: 05 Sep 2013)
Truly informative article, After a long time!
4. good2great (Posts: 1042; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)
I like what Google is doing... in a perfect "no choice for android" world it would be nice to see
-Google(Android) = Nexus
-Apple = iPhone
-Microsoft = Windows Phone
But that'll never happen...lol
19. maxican16 (Posts: 364; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
"In a perfect "no choice for Android" world"???
I don't think you understand what Android is all about. While Nexus devices are great (currently own two), I wouldn't want there to be a lack of choice in the Android world.
36. jroc74 (Posts: 5643; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Yea...that wouldnt be perfect in my world.
Maybe in a one phone per OS only world is a better phrase. One of the things I like about Android is choice.
6. teckem (Posts: 15; Member since: 20 Nov 2012)
Am I the only one who does not care about the looks/design of the Nexus Family ?....What I really want it is to feel the best experience that Google can give me
7. Raihanpatel111 (unregistered)
No..you are not only one .....
12. tyger11 (Posts: 103; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)
Once you stick a case on the phone, it doesn't much matter what it looks like naked. *shrug*
13. Kitkat_4.4 (Posts: 74; Member since: 03 Sep 2013)
No you are not the only one, though google has done it's best till date to give us the best experience any OS can ever give.
8. ilia1986 (unregistered)
All I care about are hardware specs + device being popular enough and dev-friendly so that it warrants custom rom support for many many reasons to come. Oh, and always rocking the latest and greatest android version. :)
9. md227a (Posts: 137; Member since: 20 Mar 2012)
That used to be Samsung, but with Knox and locked boot loaders it is not a guarantee about custom Roms any more
11. Shatter (Posts: 2036; Member since: 29 May 2013)
Oppo is one of the best for custom roms. Also good specs, good Dev support, good quality and design
15. AliNSiddiqui (Posts: 382; Member since: 19 Sep 2012)
Nexus will always stay the best in this regard no matter how unpopular it is. Most devs simply buy the Nexus just to make ROMs on it.
16. Klamba92 (Posts: 210; Member since: 25 Jun 2012)
Great article, never really thought of Google being a fork on android itself, but like the new approach of getting the updates to everyone on android without updating the core system framework!
17. paul48 (Posts: 17; Member since: 26 Sep 2012)
I think the Nexus line, although so far giving best value, is far from ideal, in that, as others have commented in the past, Google seem to deliberately omit certain useful features that cost little or nothing to provide, which by pure coincidence, not helping advert revenue, eg. FMradio (built into all the RFchipsets, yet unconnected in Nexus phones), TV-out, expandable memory, a main camera to compete with the best. Having observed the disadvantages so far of buying a Nexus, on balance, I think still far more preferable, to the lockins to unwanted skins/apps, and glacial updates of the alternatives. I dont see it on your list, but isn't the FM Radio App part of Google Android ?
18. rob5150 (Posts: 147; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)
Fm radio relies on the hardware chip built in by the manufacturer.
Unless a market really shows it is worth the cost of the hardware, they're not going to put one in.
Over the air radio is almost a Dead industry in most parts.
20. maxican16 (Posts: 364; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
Nice article. However, I recall seeing the Android vs Google Framework picture on Android Police.. no credit was given.
21. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2693; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I had seen it on a few places including Android Police and Ars Technica. I couldn't find where the original came from, so I didn't put credit.
25. maxican16 (Posts: 364; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
Ron Amadeo crafted it. He used to work for AP, then moved to Ars. They're his images as far as I know. Would be best to credit him. Many of the ideas in this article are very similar to his posts as well...
26. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2693; Member since: 26 May 2011)
I do love Ron's work. I've added in the credit. Thanks!
22. Android4Ever (Posts: 86; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)
The future of Google looks very promising...
27. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)
Well said.. I have been saying this for a long time that with google play services and the decoupling of the apps mean fragmentation is not an issue as some people like to say. What google updates via the play store and play services apple has to do with a full os update.
28. jimv1983 (Posts: 27; Member since: 10 Oct 2013)
"stock Android would be the plain system without Google's additions"
That's ridiculous. Google adding stuff to an OS that THEY produce doesn't make it a fork. If anything HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz, etc are forks of Android.
29. konnor (Posts: 30; Member since: 25 Apr 2013)
If you're saying that "Amazon has a fork", and then implying Google is now doing it "just like Amazon", then you're wrong.
Depending on your definition of fork, it can mean anything modified even slightly from AOSP - or only those OS's that don't include the Play Store and Google's apps.
If it's the former - then Google has been making "forks" from the very first Android phone, since it used proprietary Google apps in it. If it's latter, then it's nothing like Amazon, and more like Samsung, HTC, and so on, but with a more close to stock look.
By any definition, Google isn't doing anything "new" here - which means this article is pointless.
34. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3525; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)
The Nexus 10 actually has a 2560x1600 WQXGA resolution as opposed to the 2048x1536 QXGA mentioned in the article.
37. yvolk (Posts: 1; Member since: 15 Feb 2015)
After reading this article I realized the way Google builds its own proprietary ecosystem on a top of an Open Source Android OS.
Some time ago I noticed "decoupling" of Android enhancements from a core Android firmware (in a wider use of "support libraries" than is needed to support outdated Android OS). This article written in 2013, but maybe even more actual today..., opens a wider picture: by decoupling of its own enhancements from Android core, Google "decouples"/frees/takes Android phone users from phone manufacturers.
The only piece, mentioned in the article, which I didn't notice today yet: Google launcher (with its own themes and Android Settings, I guess?!). It would make a Google Experience phone out of _any_ phone that has Google Play Services installed. The Manufacturer's "bloatware" would be hidden and buried
PS: As another article mentioned, 20% of Android phones don't have Google Play Services at all...