You’ve seen people lyricating about “stock” Android online, but you’re not quite sure what that means. The short answer is, it’s “pure” Android straight from Google, but that doesn’t explain why so many die-hard Android fans love it.
Stock defined by Android
It is true that “stock Android” simply means the version of Android released by Google. Good. in fact, it is developed by the Open Handset Alliance. A consortium of 84 companies working to develop open standards for mobile devices.
Most of the big players in the mobile space are members of the OHA, including Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Intel and of course Google. Google is the main commercial sponsor of Android development, but the operating system itself is open source and anyone is free to use it.
So it’s the OHA-approved version of Android, sponsored and run by Google, commonly referred to as stock Android.
Understanding the Android Phone Ecosystem
So why aren’t all Android stocks? Most of the Android phones that you can buy today have a modified version of Android. Basically, it’s the same base operating system, but different phone makers are changing or replacing the user interface, adding more features, and preloading their favorite set of apps.
Android is an open platform and therefore there is fierce competition between different brands of phones and tablets to stand out from each other. There is a vibrant ecosystem of devices with dramatically different shapes, sizes, and functionality.
On paper, it seems like a good thing for every phone maker to tweak, extend, and improve upon the base Android model. For the most part, it is! However, there are some distinct perks that make the stock Android experience so appealing.
What’s so great about Android Stock?
There are plenty of reasons why someone would prefer standard Android over other options, but the first one that most no-frills Android fans usually bring up is that it’s, well, no-frills. Stock Android is relatively small, doesn’t require a powerful device to function well, and has a minimalistic interface.
Perhaps more importantly, stock Android is free of bloatware.: Android phone makers preloaded apps and other content that are often both boring and hard to get rid of.
Along with removing all the bloat and offering a minimalist and fast user interface, stock Android also benefits from fast updates. If your device is running Android, you can update to the latest version of Android as soon as it is released.
If you are using a device with a modified version of Android, you have to wait for the manufacturer to open the hood of the latest version of Android and work its magic before offering it to customers. That has changed to some extent these days, with Android makers rolling out high priority security and bug fixes almost immediately, decoupling them from major Android updates.
Stock Android is also fully open source, which means (in principle) anyone can inspect the code and find out exactly what’s on their device. It is not practical to hide spyware or backdoors in an open source software product. With modified Android phones, pretty much anything that is bolted to the main operating system is proprietary. So, to recap all the great things in stock on Android:
- It comes without bloatware.
- It offers minimal user interface.
- It’s open-source with no proprietary bolts.
There is a lot to love about the simpler life offered by stock Android, but it’s not just pros and not cons!
What’s not so great about Android Stock
The main problem with stock Android is that it is not optimized for any particular device. If you installed it on a random Android phone, you would lose access to all the special hardware features of that phone without adding back the proprietary drivers.
Stock Android is also not as feature rich as the custom versions of the operating system available in the market. For example, a native screen recording feature only became an official feature of original Android in Android 11, but phone makers like Samsung have been offering this feature for years. If you care about the latest cutting edge hardware and software features, stock Android probably isn’t for you.
Likewise, stock Android has some catching up to do when it comes to multitasking and running multiple apps on the screen at the same time. Android 11 does not yet offer an official “desktop mode”, but Samsung phone users can use DeX.
How to get Android stock
So if you want Android stock, how would you go about getting it? The simplest answer is to buy a phone with stock Android or almost Stock Android. “Near-stock” means minimal changes have been made to the operating system and it retains the look, feel and feel of the original Android.
There are a number of handsets you can purchase that provide a bloat-free Android experience out of the box. Google’s Pixel phones are the best example of this. You can also search for “Android One” phones, which are officially approved by Google, and get at least two years of operating system upgrades as they are released.
If you want to load stock Android onto your current phone, it’s much more complicated and involves “rooting” your phone to gain full administrator privileges and uploading a custom modified operating system image, which may include Android stock. This is not something we would advise a new Android user to do, because if things go wrong there is a good chance you will turn your phone into a clipboard. So be sure to thoroughly educate yourself about the process and its risks before you get started.