After dropping my phone into a pool like a chump, I gave in and bought a new Galaxy S4. It was an easy choice. After reviewing the Galaxy S4 for TechNorms, I liked it a lot. Samsung did a great job with the hardware and specs. Even the software was OK. TouchWiz has come a long way in a short time.
In the time since buying the phone, I haven’t done anything to it. The S4 remains as virginal as the day I took it out of the box, plus a new launcher and keyboard. It still runs TouchWiz on the stock ROM. I’ve swapped out only a few other stock apps. It’s not even rooted yet.
The truth is, I’m done with modding. After years of tinkering, I don’t feel like my new S4 even needs to be rooted. And this is coming from a guy who has rooted or jailbroken everything back from the first-generation iPod Touch. For the first time in Android, I don’t need root.
Android Stock ROMs Are Finally Acceptable
Look, I was there back in 2010. I used Sense 3 on an Evo 4G. I’ve seen the depths to which phone manufacturers sink with skins. I remember what using the old TouchWiz was like.
Things have changed. Manufacturers toned down the garish colors and started adding features. Custom skins don’t slow phones down to a crawl like they used to.
When I use TouchWiz, it’s… decent. Holo-themed design in stock Android is still the best experience, but TouchWiz is an acceptable substitute.
Samsung added genuinely useful stuff like S Pen, multi-window, and contact-specific text tones. That’s not even touching TouchWiz’s robust camera software which is miles ahead of the stock camera app.
In the past, I always flashed a custom ROM in order to get better performance without a skin, to get to a newer version of Android, and to get more features. Why should I flash a custom ROM if those problems are solved?
Custom ROM developers create amazing stuff. The CyanogenMod guys, the AOKP team, ParanoidAndroid, all of them are doing god’s work. Having options (and not being locked into stock) is a tremendous gift.
However, I’ve grown less fond of using custom ROMs over time. This varies between devices, but I’ve often found ROMs to be glitchy and consume more battery life than stock.
It’s understandable. ROM developers are doing this in their spare time and don’t have access to equal resources as HTC or Samsung. And yet the difference is still there.
Using custom ROMs often means using incomplete software with little to no documentation maintained by one of the unfriendliest communities on the internet. At least when I have a problem with the stock ROM and take it into the store, the clerk doesn’t call me a noob and tell me to search the thread.
Just Work, Dammit
The last factor is the one with the most pull for me. Tinkering with my phone is fun. I like tweaking it to get that little bit of extra performance. Flashing newer version of Android than the stock ROM is rewarding.
However, a phone is a tool. You use it to communicate with other people. If it can’t do that, then it’s failed. I can’t have my phone down for a day or two while I troubleshoot exactly why my nandroid backups aren’t working anymore.
I’ve missed important calls and texts before when my phone was under maintenance. Explaining to friends why I didn’t call them back or get their funny picture gets old.
That’s why I’ve kept my phone on stock. Messing with ROMs and recoveries gets less enjoyable over time. You just want your phone to work at a certain point, even if it means using skinned Android.
This article is not intended to devalue custom ROMs or imply that installing one is somehow a bad idea. Far from it. I’ve flashed too many versions of CyanogenMod to ever make the argument against customization with a straight face. Remember, we’re the site that did a whole series on cool third-party apps you can use instead of the stock ones.
The argument is that Android is in much better shape now, and you can get by on the stock just fine. One by one, the problems that pushed me to custom ROMs are vanishing, and that is great news for everyone.