SamDroid (my words – this term is not in official use yet) is a custom User Interface skin and a range of operating system (OS) tweaks that is helping make the S4 ‘series’ of smartphones (S4 ‘Life Companion or Classic’, S4 ‘Mini’, S4 ‘Active’ and S4 ‘Zoom’) even more fully featured.
But these customisations come at a cost – more storage required (S4 OS takes approx. 7GB space) and when Google rolls out an update to Android like 4.2.2 that fixes minor bugs or adds more security it cannot be rolled out to Android users directly – it needs to come via the original maker adding sometimes substantial time delays and additional costs.
Google has asked politely in the past that all Android phones have the ability to revert to the ‘Android Experience’ and that all customisation be moved from the OS to separate apps that can be overlaid on generic Android. Note that this is vital to the ultimate success of Android and to avoid manufacturers heading off in disparate directions (as they are doing now).
In order to achieve this Google is pushing for a range of smartphones to be provided with bare, naked Android to be marketed under the ‘Experience’ moniker.
Starting on 26 June (iTWire cannot confirm if this will occur in Australia yet) the three top selling Android Smartphones - Samsung S4, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z will join Google’s own Nexus range and will be available as pure Android Jellybean. I expect more manufacturers to follow suit soon.
I don’t have enough experience with Android to be able to say if this is a good thing. Initial reports seem to indicate that that it will be and the direct update from Google will be the compelling feature. It makes me wonder if existing owners of these devices can revert to the ‘Experience’ as well – there should be no reason why not.
As for all the frippery built into SamDroid – well first-hand experience with an S4 is that I think I would actually prefer the Android interface and direct updates even if I lose some of the eye tracking and gesture features – nice to have but not deal breakers.
Google is also trying to make the transition easier by releasing some OS features as apps instead. The native Android keyboard is now in Google Play and I understand that a lot of the advanced camera features of the S4 will become available as a native Android app shortly. By these features becoming apps it means developers can stop worrying if apps will run on all Android devices.