There is a recent trend emerging in the smartphone world that sees leading handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One being re-launched without their distinctive user interfaces.
Instead of the carefully crafted software with which these handsets were first released they are being repackaged with the stock version of Android, devoid of any manufacturer alterations.
Where has this trend come from and why are some firms now seemingly so keen to ditch their characteristic UIs? It is certainly something that few people appear to have predicted and it has come as a surprise to many.
After all, Samsung’s flagship was only announced in March and while the Korean firm has a history of creating several versions of its leading devices it is surprising to see one emerge so soon, potentially taking some of the limelight away from the original Galaxy S4.
The HTC One was unveiled a little earlier but is a device which can count its user interface amongst its key selling points. The Taiwanese manufacturer was also very quick to deny that it would be releasing a stock Android version of its flagship after the launch of the new version of the Galaxy S4, before doing a complete U-turn on this matter.
Could this trend have something to do with the rumours that Google has distanced itself from the X Phone project that it has been working on with Motorola? Since the search giant purchased the US manufacturer last year there have been many stories about the two companies collaborating on a leading Android device, one which would likely feature a bare version of the software.
The rumoured handset may well have been lined up to replace the existing range of Nexus phones, a project which has seen Google working alongside several manufacturers such as Samsung and LG to provide a vehicle for the stock Android software. The fact that Google is now teaming up with two other firms to launch stock Android smartphones does not bode well for Motorola.
How wide an appeal these new handset versions will have remains to be seen, but it is possible that they could take off and become widely adopted. The Nexus range has proved popular with the line’s most recent iteration, the LG Nexus 4, experiencing supply problems due to demand after its launch at the end of 2012.
However, much of this demand has come from more tech-savvy smartphone users and the Nexus name has not entered the public consciousness in the same way that Samsung’s Galaxy range has.
So the collaborations between Google, Samsung and HTC could well see the stock version of Android becoming more mainstream and reaching a wider audience. After all, while both the Galaxy S4 and HTC One featured heavily altered user interfaces they have been, to varying degrees, criticised for these adaptations.
HTC faired better in this respect, with many reviewers praising the HTC Zoe camera functions seen on the HTC One and only some complaining that the BlinkFeed homescreen feature is intrusive.
Samsung came under heavier fire, with many people complaining that the Galaxy S4’s gesture-based control system is ‘gimmicky’ and that it distracts from what is otherwise an excellent smartphone.
With this in mind, some people may see a stock Android version of either of these devices as a better option. After all, you will still be able to use third party apps such as Facebook and Instagram, but without any unwanted features getting in the way.
We must admit that we are excited about these new iterations, if only for the fact that removing any software adaptations may give us a clearer impression of just how good Samsung and HTC’s hardware is.
There is no word yet as to what sort of mobile phone deals will be available on these handsets, or if they will definitely make it to UK shores, but stock Android versions of leading devices could well appeal amongst technically-minded smartphone users and the wider public as whole.
This article was written by Chris Helsby of Dialaphone, the home of all the latest mobile phone deals.