The other day I had a Twitter exchange with Dan Seifert of the Verge about my dislike of stock Android. The divergence of opinion on the matter of toggles and notification areas reminded me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago at a Sony event. The electronics arm of the company invited women bloggers to have a conversation about marketing to women. At one point Helena Stone of ChipChick and I hit on what it is about Android that so many people we know find annoying about it: lack of efficiency. The number of taps it takes to do something simple is just silly. And hunting for apps in the Google Play store, who has time for that? I’ve known this is a problem for a while, what I didn’t realize is that whether or not you do seems to depend on whether you’re a man or a woman.
Many of the tech bloggers and reviewers I know have this (to me ridiculous) loathing of Android skins. The user interface modifications employed by HTC, Samsung, Sony, and almost every other manufacturer are a great scourge upon the land, according to certain technorati. How dare they mess with the purity of Android? Another thing many of these writers have in common is that they are male.
Like Seifert, many would rather add these features on their own by downloading a widget or app from the Google Play store. I agree that this freedom of customization is one of the awesome things about Android, and if you have the desire and patience to engage in this, then have fun. Not everyone does. As I said on Twitter, finding apps in Google Play is time consuming and frustrating. You can’t trust reviews, it’s not always apparent whether the app will do that thing you want even with a detailed description, and that is assuming the search results throw up the right apps instead of the hodgepodge of nonsense that sometimes happens if you don’t use the exact right keywords.
I don’t have time for that. A lot of women don’t, apparently.
If nothing else, good skins eliminate the need for all that up front effort and make it so users can be speedy and efficient every time they go to use their phone. Yes, there are a few other there are are overstuffed. Samsung’s TouchWiz is edging closer to that. The answer is more customization – let owners turn whole sections of the notification screen off if they don’t want to use them. I don’t need that section of suggested apps every time I plug in my headphones, for instance. But do not take away my toggles!
Outside of the world of tech writing, I’m interested in finding out if this hypothesis holds. So let’s do an informal survey in the comments. Do you love or hate Android skins? Why? And, if you’re comfortable sharing, what is your gender identification?