In the Android ecosystem, smartphone manufacturers use Google’s Android as a base to develop their custom UI without compromising the Google Play Services support.
These OEM Android skins are the tweaked version of the original stock Android with added features and customization options that you will not find with the stock Android OS.
In this blog post, we will list out the details of a few custom Android skins that are found on popular smartphones retailing in the Indian market.
If you are a stock Android enthusiast, you could skip this and go check out the best smartphones in India with stock Android UI. Other’s sit tight and read along!
Custom Android skins and their feasibility
The main purpose of an OEM to slap a custom Android skin on top is to distinguish itself from the competitors. Secondarily, an OEM might add exclusive features and visual styles to lure the most potential customers.
With custom skins, an OEM can also get more data from the user by installing such data miners as system apps. Custom skins such as MIUI and ColorOS do the same and MIUI often blatantly pushes the ads straight onto the face of its users at times.
There are also chances that if a customer likes a particular feature on a custom skin very much and uses it a lot in his daily life, the company might get a potential lifelong customer. He/She might switch to another smartphone from the same company because of the exclusive features he/she enjoys.
Popular Android skins
Let’s have a look at the list of popular Android skins used by popular smartphone brands:
- Oxygen OS (OnePlus)
- One UI (Samsung)
- Realme UI (Realme)
- Stock Android (Motorola, Micromax, Lava)
- MIUI (Xiaomi)
- Funtouch OS (IQOO, Vivo)
- Color OS (Oppo)
Every brand has its customized UI with added features to provide the user with a better experience and to differentiate its identity from its competitors.
1. Oxygen OS
Oxygen OS is the custom skin exclusively available with OnePlus phones. Oxygen OS was known for its near to stock Android feel, but with a few useful features without compromising on the performance.
But off late, OnePlus has been trying to bloat the UI a lot and now it seems that the Oxygen OS is being developed in conjunction with ColorOS, both brands being the subsidiaries of the same company BBK Electronics.
OneUI is Samsung’s version of custom skin that they use with their current generation of smartphones. Samsung started off slapping their custom skins with TouchWiz interface in the past, then on to Experience UX and finally came to the
OneUI interface was released back in 2018.
The current version of the OneUI 3.1 was released this year on January 29 to compatible devices.
OneUI focuses on one-hand usage, no matter how big the display size. Users praised Samsung for this initiative and this particular UI is fairly popular among the Samsung smartphone users.
Realme is the affordable smartphone subsidiary that was spun off from Oppo to rival Redmi devices from Xiaomi.
Earlier Realme smartphones came with the same ColorOS skin from Oppo smartphones but the RealmeUI was launched as a standalone custom skin for Realme devices.
RealmeUI almost looks identical to the ColorOS but is more streamlined and looks minimal to the eyes.
4. Stock Android
Stock Android devices bring the pure flavour of Android without too many modifications to the looks and features.
There can be certain brand-specific additions to the Android OS in such devices. eg, gesture controls in Motorola but it is as close as a device can look like a Pixel smartphone from Google.
Motorola and Nokia are two device manufacturers who lead the pack using stock Android without any custom skins on their devices. Small brands such as Micromax and LAVA follow the same with some of their devices as well.
Stock Android devices usually perform very fluidly and fast as they don’t have a resource-intensive layer on top of pure Android to run.
MIUI is one of the notorious custom Android skins that runs on Redmi and Xiaomi phones. MIUI is often blasted for showing advertisements inside system apps and settings menu.
Ironically MIUI is also one of the most feature-rich custom Android skins available out there.
It comes with a truckload of bloatware apps as well which can’t be removed or uninstalled by the end user by normal means.
6. FunTouch OS
FunTouch OS was Vivo’s staple custom Android skin for its Vivo and IQOO branded smartphones.
This skin almost looked like an iOS clone from the past with the bottom control center.
Vivo has recently announced the successor to the FunTouch OS – OriginOS which is very minimal and easier on the eyes than its predecessor.
ColorOS is the custom Android skin found on Oppo devices. Over time, Oppo has tried to streamline the ColorOS interface a lot and as of today, it is indeed one of the best, lightweight and fast custom Android skins out there in the market.
Which OEM Android skin is the best?
To be fair, such a question is very subjective. Different users might like different UI styles, feature sets and much more.
Some might find skins such as MIUI and RealmeOS as cartoony and ugly while somebody else might find them aesthetically pleasing and better than stock Android.
Even if you have purchased a smartphone and don’t like its look very much, at least you can install a custom launcher and make it look different.
Most brands are now trying to cut down the bloat on their skins – including the excessive visual modifications and pre-installed apps to improve the aesthetic appeal and increase the performance.
Advantages of custom Android skins
- Enhanced visual styles and animations
- Exclusive OEM features such as game mode, gesture controls etc.
- Always on display customizations ( Only on smartphones with OLED displays )
- Customizable dark modes
- Frequent UI updates and feature additions
Disadvantages of custom Android skins
- Might impact the performance and RAM usage
- UI might not be to the taste of everyone
- Pre-installed, non-removable bloatware apps
Should you choose a stock Android phone over the other?
Again, it depends on personal preference.
Stock Android smartphones are lighter in terms of resource usage and the UI is as clean as you can get. You won’t face any nagging advertisements or non-removable bloatware that serves no purpose other than eating up memory space on a stock Android smartphone.
On the other hand, if you want a gorgeous looking UI with smooth animations and a handful of features that normally you won’t find on a smartphone with stock Android, choosing a device with custom skin is worth the effort.
Custom Android skins are here to stay for sure. Brands are already fighting hard neck and neck to gain market share and adding features that competitors lack is only possible if they are implementing it on their own without relying totally on the stock Android UI.
The biggest fear about the custom skins is that most budget phones will be left out after a while in the update cycle and will remain there forever because adapting a newer Android base for the custom skin is a time and cash consuming process that most of the brands won’t be willing to take for budget smartphones they sell.