I just loved this deep dive into Chinese phone makers’ custom Android-based OSes by Sam Byford:
Many experienced Android users in the West who try out Chinese
phones, including reviewers here at The Verge, often find
themselves unable to get over an immediate stumbling block: the
software. For the unfamiliar, Chinese phone software can be
garish, heavy-handed, and quite unlike anything installed on
phones that are popular outside of Asia. If there’s anything
that’s going to turn you off the brand-new Huawei Mate 20
Pro, for example — unsubstantiated Cold War-esque paranoia
aside — it’s likely to be the software.
But for the last year-plus, I’ve used almost every major Chinese
phone extensively, traveled to the country several times, and met
with dozens of people at its biggest phone manufacturers. This
experience hasn’t altogether stopped me from feeling that most
Chinese phone companies have a long way to go in many areas of
software development. No one has a great answer for why everyone
copies the iPhone camera app so embarrassingly. But I have learned
a lot about the design principles behind many of these phones, and
— as you ought to expect — there does tend to be a method behind
what some may assume to be madness.
Byford makes a compelling case that these Android derivatives — Xiaomi’s MIUI, Vivo’s Funtouch OS (real name, I swear), Oppo’s ColorOS, and Huawei’s EMUI, just to name some of them — are best thought of as Android-based OSes, not mere “skins” atop Google’s canonical Android. There really is no canonical Android anymore, because the OS Google ships on its Pixels isn’t available to other handset makers.
And these Chinese companies all rip off iOS with absolutely no shame:
As for the camera apps, it’s really incredible how similar the
vast majority are — both to each other and to Apple. Judging by
the accuracy and specificity of the rip-offs, the camera app from
iOS 7 has a serious claim to being one of the most influential
software designs of the past decade. Just look at the picture
above. Xiaomi wins an extremely low number of points for putting
the modes in a lowercase blue font. But otherwise, only Huawei has
succeeded in creating a genuinely new camera app design, which
happens to be very good. I consider it penance for the company’s
egregious and barely functional rip-off of the iOS share sheet.
★ Monday, 22 October 2018