Stock Android is Android how Google wants it to be, sans any third party skins or those funny looking icons or over-bearing animations. Its Android in its absolutely bare bone state and for a lot of you that is something extremely desirable. Not to forget that having near stock Android experience ensures that OEMs can ship out updates to the latest Android version faster as it requires less tweaking. Yet, what stock Android takes away is the whole personal feel that most OEMs crave for and that is why you have the likes of HTC Sense, TouchWiz, MIUI, EUI and plenty more.
So, what if your Android phone comes with a ton of skin and customization on top, and you want a neat Google experience? Here is how you go about it:
Google Now Launcher is available on Google Play store and you can download and get it running on practically every smartphone out there. If your phone has a weird launcher without an app drawer, or you want quick access to Google Now, then you simply need to move to Google Now launcher right away. The launcher comes by default on nexus smartphones and Google is clever enough to also replace most of the application icons with the stock Android ones too. Oh, and your Google Now is just a right swipe away.
Several OEMs have a partnership where they want you to use a keyboard from a manufacturer who has paid them to bundle it out of the box, it could also be simply a keyboard that the OEM built, the way Samsung does it. Yet, having used pretty much every keyboard out there, I can vouch that there is nothing really that works like Google’s keyboard. It has just the right size in terms of the keys and the travel is very decent while still giving you customization options thanks to its skins.
Just like keyboards, OEMs do install third party browsers on your phone and set them to be the default browsers. More often than not these are poorly optimized browsers and take away one element or the other. Not to forget the non-stop ads they throw and the uncontrollable push notifications that come your way. Chrome may be a battery hogger but it is clean, faster and more often than not renders the page how the developer wants you to see it. If you want a good browsing experience, get Chrome.
The default Messaging app by Google is also available in Play Store. You should definitely try it out if you are looking for a light weight messaging client without any funny colours and icons. There are no hidden abilities to hide your messages here, nor is there any spam protection, but overall the interface is much cleaner and the app is faster than your usual set of poorly optimised messaging apps. Oh, and you do have read receipts here.
Other than Nexus phones, pretty much every OEM out there bundles a gallery app with your phone. These come with features like the ability to hide photos, to set a passcode and few others. But what if beyond that you just want an app that would back your photos up, give you interesting collages, and create short GIFs out of the images that you have taken with an absolutely minimum effort from your side? That is when you know you need Google Photos. Google Photos may not have the features of your regular Photo Gallery app, but it gives you a lot more than what you thought you needed. Trust me, the assistant on Google Photos is excellent.
We do recommend downloading the Google Camera and replacing your old Camera app, but recently there have been reports of Google mincing whether to keep Google Camera for devices with different OEMs and Android version, due to which it keeps coming and going from the Play Store .If you can get it, please go ahead and install it on your phone.
That’s a fairly simple guide from us on how you can make your phone as close to a Nexus phone, without buying one. We hope it helps you.