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Benefits and drawbacks of Galaxy Nexus having "No OEM Customization"

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Benefits and drawbacks of Galaxy Nexus having
A new comparison chart from Verizon shows the Galaxy Nexus listed as having "No OEM Customization", the question still remains: will Verizon employees explain why that's a good thing? Verizon employees receive extensive training, so they undoubtedly understand the differences between stock and customized Android, but it is a very different thing to actually explain those differences to potential customers.  Many of the features of the Galaxy Nexus are fairly easy to explain, including NFC and Android Beam, the 720p screen or the lack of capacitive buttons. OEM customization is a much more convoluted idea that many people don't fully understand, and many potential consumers may not care to understand. We're hoping that Verizon employees will explain the benefits and drawbacks (yes, there are drawbacks) of stock Android properly, because all consumers should be able to make informed decisions. 


The benefits side is relatively easy to explain though it could become a lengthy discussion about faster updates, all features being open and available, performance boosts over customized phones, and easy root/unlock options. Faster OS updates not only mean getting the newest major version of the OS when it is released, but also in getting all bug fixes and minor feature updates as fast as Google can push them. Although, there is a chance that those updates will see a delay for Verizon testing now, they will still be released far faster for Nexus owners than anyone else. 

Having all features of Android open and available for use has traditionally been by far one of the best reasons to go with a Nexus device, but we're not sure that it fits here. In strict terms, we would assume that a device with "no OEM customization" means that no features have been turned off. The trouble is that we're not sure if the main target here - free tethering/WiFi hotspot - is still a part of stock Android. As we've mentioned before, Google did remove free tethering/hotspot from Nexus S devices with one of the incremental updates, so there is a fair chance that it isn't part of stock Android any more. Still, knowing that no other features will be removed is a benefit to stock. 

Custom UIs take up system resources, some far more than others (HTC Sense). With the power of today's smartphones, this may not translate to a big difference in performance, but there will be a difference. Especially moving forward, because the resource requirements for custom UIs tends to grow faster than the resource requirements for stock Android. 

The last benefit may not be one that many customers will care about, and if they do care, it's likely they wouldn't need the explanation of benefits/drawbacks to stock Android, but easy root access and device unlocking can be quite useful. As nice as stock Android may be, a lot of people prefer custom ROMs, which can add features to stock Android without sacrificing performance. Verizon Nexus owners may not have much reason to unlock because it's not as if they could swap in a new SIM card for a different carrier, but root access can be nice. Still, this is definitely not something Verizon employees would bother explaining anyway, because rooting/unlocking breaks your warranty.


The drawbacks mostly fall under one major heading: do it yourself. With many OEM UIs, a lot of the things you may want are already there on screen, and you don't even need to drill into app folders or widgets lists too much to put what you want on your homescreens. For those who love the customization options of Android, this is a benefit of stock; it is a clean palette to work with. However, many people are lazy and don't want to do that. And, beyond having some customization done for you, some UIs, like HTC Sense, offer a number of extra features, like flipping the phone onto its screen to turn off the ringer, that users would only be able to get by installing 3rd party apps. Again, maybe you don't want these features built-in, but many customers won't go digging into the Android Market to replicate these features even if they want to have them. 

Another drawback of having stock Android is one that most don't consider: having the newest version of Android isn't always a good thing. Let's face it, developers can be lazy, and some may not update their apps in a timely manner to support the new version of Android. We have seen it with every Android update, and we already know that it will be happening with Ice Cream Sandwich. When Gingerbread first launched, we had to switch to a new default keyboard, because one of our favorites, FlexT9, took months to update for Gingerbread support. Now, we already know that the Adobe Flash player has not yet been updated for ICS. Adobe has promised the update before the end of the year, but it still illustrates the issue. It may be a somewhat minor annoyance, because there are often alternatives for any app that hasn't been updated for compatibility, but it is still an annoyance and something that will be a factor both in purchasing the Galaxy Nexus right now, and as a Nexus owner a year from now when Android Jelly Bean is released. 

Lastly, there is the general issue with being an early adopter: it can be a relatively lonely place. Granted, the Galaxy Nexus should sell far better than any previous Nexus device, but users still won't have too much practical use for things like Android Beam or even video chat through Google Talk because the requisite hardware (NFC and front-facing cameras) and software (Android 4.0 and Android 2.3.4 respectively) haven't been pushed out to all devices yet. If you do video chat with friends who are on PCs, that works fine, but unless your friends all have a Galaxy Nexus or Nexus S, Android Beam isn't too useful right now. And, with projections putting NFC adoption at just 50% of handsets within 2-3 years, you may not see much use in it all that soon. 


It is very nice to finally have clean stock Android as a choice on Verizon, but there is just as much to consider when choosing stock Android as there is when choosing a device with a custom manufacturer UI. As always, it comes down to choice. Some want to have full control over every aspect of their device, and want to be able to start fresh and choose everything that is put on that device. Stock Android offers this. 

However, many people don't want to have a clean slate when buying a new phone, and may want some of the customization and extra features added for them. Of course, there are drawbacks to this option in overall device performance and speed of OS updates, custom UIs take care of some of this work for you. Just because Android offers options for full customization doesn't mean that all consumers want to exercise those options, and that's where OEM customization can be a good thing for some users. 

Of course, the perfect option would be if all manufacturer UIs were made optional, and could be removed from devices. As far as we know, that may be the biggest unconfirmed benefit of Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new feature allowing users to remove any app could extend to manufacturer UIs, but we still need to see about that. Until that happens though, custom UIs fall under the realm of manufacturer differentiation, and consumer choice, and that includes the option for stock Android. 

  • Options

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:26 14

1. LewsTherin006 (Posts: 140; Member since: 18 Nov 2011)

Customers really wont care about the no OEM Customizations. All they care about is how the big the screen is and if they can use the same apps their friends do. As far as the tech crowd goes we already know what we want, so this is a plus for us.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:45

22. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

I am starting to think that no OEM customizations might not be a bad idea. I have been having some \'issues\' with certain customizations on my RAZR. The biggest \'issue\' has been with the integration of the Messaging app on my RAZR that combines text messaging with e-mails for a universal inbox experience. Messaging seems to be having problems integrating with my gmail.com account. If I remove the gmail.com integration (pseudo account?) from the Messaging app, I can send and receive e-mails from the standard Gmail client app. But trying to use the gmail.com integration in the Messaging app to send e-mails is a non-starter. I am also starting to have problems receiving e-mails with the Messaging app too.

Net-net, no OEM customizations could result in fewer hassles....

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:47 2

23. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

PA - what is with these f*cking slashes before the apostrophe (I spelled it out to avoid the damn slash effect; here it is with the effect: \' )?!

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:29 3

2. Martine (Posts: 102; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)

I actually love Touchwiz UX on the Tab because it's very light and even makes the ugly Honeycomb more functional!!

Something like that will be much appreciated on ICS

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:35 6

3. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)

another failed effort to downgrade galaxy nexus. and can you please explain why are you guys are still comparing it with oudated iphone4s. stop it PA.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:40 10

4. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Who is downgrading the Nexus? And where is there comparison to the iPhone in this piece?

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:57

10. Owlet (Posts: 450; Member since: 21 Feb 2011)

Michael, it's warranty not warrantee.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:16

12. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I knew that looked odd, but for some reason spell check told me it was okay. Thanks!

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:22

14. Owlet (Posts: 450; Member since: 21 Feb 2011)

No problem.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:12 1

16. narley (Posts: 357; Member since: 14 May 2009)

As a Verizon employee I take offense to you asking if well know the difference of a pure google experience vs VZW or OEM bloat.

I'm sure you really wanted to say stick with any phone that starts with a lowercase I since that's all your sites articles ever end saying. And despite your guys efforts to hide that bias its blatantly obvious.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:41

21. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I never said anything about whether or not Verizon employees know the difference, just whether or not employees will explain those differences in full to potential customers.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 15:10 2

24. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Sorry about that, I see where your issue came from, and I edited the article for clearer wording.

posted on 05 Dec 2011, 09:13

53. narley (Posts: 357; Member since: 14 May 2009)


posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:48 3

5. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)

not in this piece but there are couple of comparisons you guys did with ip4s which i think is simply not fair. and i know you are probably the only guy here on PA who is not biased towards android or nokia. so its a general feedback for most of the articles here on PA. i am sorry if i was a bit over the line. i appreciate you for responding but again you are the only person here who does it which is very nice of you. thanx.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:53 9

7. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I understand that comparisons with the iPhone may annoy you, but like it or not the iPhone 4S is the best Apple has to offer, and because the Nexus is a Google device, it is seen as the Android flagship. The comparisons will happen. Best option to not be annoyed is to avoid those articles. We've got comparisons between the Nexus and RAZR too, if that helps.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 19:53 3

36. cheetah2k (Posts: 1746; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)

The iPhone 4S might be Apple's best phone on offer, but its not the "best phone"..

Ray S's browser comparison without doing benchmarks (load times) on the G Nexus vs 4S, and not making mention of the different screen resolution sizes is a classic example of bias towards Apple products.. As far as the best "user" experience the G Nexus and large screen size + pace setting resolution has to win hands down, and yet somehow the 4S was said to be the better of the two.. I mean WTF?

Michael, you know its going to take a miracle to shake the "iphone bias" association everyone makes with Phonearena don't you?

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 20:23 2

38. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I haven't been with the site too long, but from what I've heard the days of iPhoneArena were a while back. I think we are objective in our reviews.

I watched Ray's browser comparison and I think it was very fair. Other sites have reported that the Nexus has slightly better benchmarks, but as Ray points out, the practical difference is negligible. Ray's ultimate review was that the two were pretty much on par, maybe slightly smoother on the iPhone, but the Nexus will soon have Flash, which is a huge advantage. You may read that to say the iPhone is better, but I certainly don't.

Remember that was a browser comparison, so it was Ice Cream Sandwich vs iOS, not really specific to the Nexus, so the screen size and resolution aren't a factor. Theoretically the browser will run just as well on a phone like the Incredible 2, which doesn't have the resolution advantage over the iPhone.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 19:34

52. cheetah2k (Posts: 1746; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)

Good response, and to be honest, I think a lot of us who are fans of both iOS and Android, are glad to see new staff at PhoneArena.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 04:09

47. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)

Once again fandroids don't get. Specs don't make a phone better.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 16:29 1

51. EclipseGSX (Posts: 1743; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

so you wouldn't care if the iPhone 5 came out with a 100Ghz Processor, 0.1 MP camera and 1.5 inch screen, you just care that its made by Apple eh? because that's the only thing that makes a good phone...

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:53 2

6. kpfirefighter (Posts: 160; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)

Yet some more specs! BUT STILL NO LAUNCH DATE! I'm thinking verizon gets more kick back from moto and HTC thats why they launch their phones and wait f**king forever to launch samsung! It will be a surprise if the galaxy note even comes to verizon.
This is bulls**t verizon release the phone and get on to your next tease! We are sick of waiting for you to get off your fat asses and do something!

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:55 9

8. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

I think you are in the wrong place. If you have an issue with Verizon, you may want to take your concerns here:http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/contact/index.jsp

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:18 2

18. narley (Posts: 357; Member since: 14 May 2009)

I gotta say your responding to and defending this article against the people you should be thankful even come to this site is tacky and in bad taste.
And to me only supports the fact you guys are so bias you'll openly argue on your own site.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:31 3

19. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

If anyone wants to have a reasonable discussion about what I've written, I want to engage them, because that helps me make my work better.

However, if people come here to complain, start flame wars, or misinterpret what my meaning is, I will defend what I've written. There is a reason why all forums on the web have rules about "off-topic" comments.

Check carefully and you'll see that I rarely argue. I only attempt to clearly state my ideas, and if someone proves me wrong, or shows me a flaw in my logic, I always edit my original article to reflect that.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 22:09

40. roscuthiii (Posts: 2241; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

I find it refreshing that Michael actually interacts with the commentary as opposed to just dropping an egg and seeing what hatches.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 12:57 1

9. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)

lol. thanx a lot. i am sorry for going over the line a bit. but that comment was not for you. but again thank you so much.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:18 3

13. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Understandable, but if the comment doesn't apply to this article, maybe it's best to not put it here, right?

Also, click on the reply button on the comment you're replying to so we get a thread rather than new comments on the article.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:09

11. Chasers (Posts: 21; Member since: 27 Nov 2011)

I have the Nexus S 4G for sprint. I am pretty sure I have gotten all of the most recent updates. I can however still get hotspot tethering for free.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:55

15. christianqwerty (Posts: 467; Member since: 05 May 2011)

Any news of this for At&T?:|

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:15

17. Allie13 (Posts: 1; Member since: 27 Nov 2011)

I am a bit new to this. So I was looking at the HTC Rezound, and there are some things about Sense that I liked such as the Friendster that shows facebook updates on the home screen, as well as the favorites, where you can choose contacts that you want to stay updated with and this also can be shown on the home screen. If I were to get the Galaxy Nexus it would not have this, but are there Apps I can download to get these features?

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