I was recently with some of the makers of the Nexus 6P and some other tech journalists and we got a little excited with our commentary on Chinese interfaces. We felt Huawei could sell plenty of phones in the US if only it would ditch what we deemed the "awful" EMUI interface. If Huawei and other Chinese OEMs were to grant our wish, would you buy a Chinese smartphone?
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It's an interesting thought, and one that Huawei was happy to admit it had given due consideration. While it is understandable that the company would be reluctant to abandon its custom interface in favor of stock Android, we were informed that Huawei would be paying close attention to the sales figures of the Nexus 6P (which runs stock Android) and reconvene to consider it as one of a few possible options.
Huawei, like any manufacturer that puts time and effort into a software layer of unique features and enhancements, believes wholeheartedly in the value its interface adds to the core Android experience. As Android nerds, we naturally tend to gravitate toward a stock experience that we can customize ourselves, but we are also aware that we are hardly representative of 'average' smartphone consumers.
The good parts of a stock experience are that it makes a phone faster, more stable and open to rapid updates. These are definitely things to be envied, and they have worked out quite well for Motorola, which has become the default manufacturer (after Google's Nexus devices) for anyone who demands the fastest Android updates possible. But of course, all devices with stock Android are the same.
Would we be missing out on anything valuable if Chinese phones from Lenovo, Xiaomi and Huawei were to suddenly switch to stock Android? On a visual level, the answer is no. All it takes is a theme engine or launcher to change the look and behavior of a software layer. The real problem lies with those baked-in software features that can't be downloaded as apps.
This is where it comes down to the individual: just how much importance do you put on hard-wired software features? Do you prefer a more speedy device with faster updates over gimmicky features? Or do you think those add-ons are the critical feature that differentiates your phone from everyone else's? There's no one right answer. I don't think I've ever bought a phone specifically for a software feature, but I have bought a Nexus for the other reasons.
So I'd like to ask you for your thoughts: how important are software features to you when buying a new phone? Do you buy purely for the hardware? How important is update speed to you? Do you look more at the price/performance ratio or does your buying decision always come down to the combination of software features and hardware? Have you ever bought a phone just for a must-have software feature?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below.