The coolest answer to Android OEM Fragmentation and Vanilla Android problems
Ok, I think I have a solution. I will try to be clear, sorry for the length. I have an Android phone. I like ALL Mobile phones. They are all fantastic in my mind. Android, iPhone, Windows. We're pretty lucky to have so many great choices. Today I will focus on Android and how to make it better.
I have an Android phone, HTC MyTouch 4G. It's a great phone, except all the bloatware and HTC Sense that was on it when I got it. This is the "fragmentation" problem everyone is aware of with Android.
The main problem this causes is not that things are different, different is ok. Except that having the difference means the quality goes down. How can you handle quality control on 999 different versions of the OS with Skins on top of them? The answer is you can't. Also, there is no single person to blame when the phone has problems, HTC, Google, T-Mobile, etc. This has been my biggest complaint, quality.
The problem for the OEM's is that they want to sell phones and they think they need to differentiate themselves with software, adding to the Android OS with their own skins. They THINK this makes them stand out. Delusions of grandeur. :) They also try it with hardware, which I believe is not nearly as big of a problem and actually can be nice to have some different hardware options. This is arguable, there's something to be said for building software on the exact same hardware every time. Another discussion maybe. For now I'm going to address the software problem.
Stop making skins. Yes, I know, not original, but bear with me one second here. HTC, Samsung, Motorola, etc. Take the software teams that have been building skins and transition them to building APPS. Yes, Apps. Ship the phones with Android, vanilla Android, and bundle your phones with an App pack directly from the OEM that they believe adds value to their phones. Make HTC Sense a Launcher App, Touchwiz a Launcher App. Put these apps in the app stores and sell them to people who would like to use them and don't get them on their phones. Attach a price tag to these app packs so you can market your phones with $50 worth of free Samsung Android apps including Touchwiz, Samsung Camera App, etc.. What better way to add value to your product than to ship free software with it.
Make the software an option so that people who aren't interested can run with vanilla Android. Those who think you're making good software can use it and enjoy the countless hours you've spent designing a different launcher app. As it stands currently none of these OEMs can really market Sense or Touchwiz or any other built in crap as an item with a dollar value. If you separate it completely you can now add a dollar value to it, which makes the consumer feel warm and fuzzy like they get something for free with their purchase, and lets the OEM differentiate itself.
An example: I've heard great things about HTC's new camera software for the One X. ImageSense. What if ImageSense were just an App, but it was bundled for FREE with the new HTC One line, and if you have a phone that can run it, you can purchase it in the App stores for $5. Sure, some phones can't run newer apps. That doesn't change, it's always like that. That's a bonus from getting new phones, but maybe, just maybe some phones that came out 5-6 months ago could run these new apps if they were written as Apps, not as skins. Can you imagine how much happier consumers would be if they could upgrade their apps separately from HTC, or Samsung or Motorola. Also, for those people who really don't want them, they would easily have that choice now, and still be able to get a solid stable phone from the OEM of their choice.
For myself, I'd love to get an HTC One X, without all of their software, Vanilla Android, and then purchase the ImageSense app to use on my phone. I think this would be a fantastic phone. As it currently stands, I will probably not purchase this phone, because I don't want Sense anymore. It's bloatware, I don't like it, and it never gets updated. If it were an App, maybe it would.
This is my solution for the Android OEMs and the users to get better quality phones. What it comes down to is quality. It's very difficult to control quality when you change the OS with every carrier, manufacturer, etc. When one entity controls the OS it's much easier to control that quality, and you get better phones. Sure, apps can affect quality, but they have their own set of quality control, and if the app developer doesn't make a good app, people won't use it. It's a very fair system, and the best apps get purchased the most, and are usually of great quality. This is one reason that Apple iPhones are so highly valued. They have a very large control of quality. They have removed variables that would get in the way of that quality. I think Android can do the same thing while still maintaining the positive things Android has going for it.
As I mentioned, hardware is another variable in this equation, but I think this solution can work on multiple different variations of hardware as well. It's one more variable, but I don't see it changing anytime soon, so for now let's at least fix the software. I think Android is a fantastic operating system. I love Google software and love having it integrated into my phone, but I can't stand all the quality problems. I think this is a good solution. If you agree with me please help spread the word to the right people. :) If you disagree let's hear some other solutions. I'm sure there are down sides to this as well.
p.s. As a side note, I also think this solution could work for Windows Phone, other OS's, possibly even iPhone. Can you imagine different carriers giving you FREE Apps for purchasing the phone from them instead of the other carriers. To me that's actually valuable, maybe not enough to make people change carriers or anything, but valuable.
Thanks. Have a great day!