For about two months I have tried to collect my thoughts on this, each time coming up with something too complex or unfocused. Completely by accident this week I recieved a succinct explanation for at least some of it from the developer of FoxyRing. While the topic was churning around in my mind I contacted LevelUp Studios suggesting that if it was possible for them to update FoxyRing to emulate some of the HTC Sense functions such as louder ring when in a pocket, or face down to activate silent / Speakperphone. The reply was the following:
It’s quite nice but most of things that htc devices can do, third applications can’t. Access to sensors during screen off is one of these.
So unfortunately we will not make an update for FoxyRing.
Vincent – LevelUp Studio”
Now, those of you with deeper understanding will probably want to point out that a rooted phone may skirt these limitations. That however, is also missing the point.
The point (in my opinion) is that the majority of regular people, that is to say the majority of the people buying these phones, are looking for devices that enhance their lives with all those little customisations. I do sometimes miss calls when outside, phone in my pocket. I do want the better camera software of Samsung. And I am sure there are people who enjoy the social functions of Motoblur.
People like us, and those people on the podcasts, are the people who know how to get exactly what we want from basic Android. The onus should be on us, not the general populace. No one else enjoys spending their time finding and configuring custom software that could of just been there out the box. Sure, it can be done better in some cases but there are also people out there who have never even opened the Market! Are they to be expected to buy a Galaxy S II with stock Android 2.3 and then find all the things they want in the absolutely abysmal Android Market? No! And Samsung know that this is the case. This is why TouchWiz and the like exist.
The argument of asking the user at boot if they would prefer to use Sense or Stock is certainly a nice idea, but that would at the very least require each phone has two versions of the OS tested. I think we have to wait long enough for updates as it is. Then again plenty of my colleagues and friends prefer to avoid updates because they like how things are working as it is. Bad trend for security but it is their choice.
And there it is, there is choice. If you want a Galaxy S II or HTC Sensation with basic Gingerbread, buy the device and root it. Install Cyanogenmod 7 and be happy, because you know how to do these things. Then let everyone else have their new phone and be happy with it too.