With very few exceptions, like Nexus or Pixel or Essential, almost all Android smartphones come with some pre-loaded apps made by the OEM itself. It’s bad enough that these are baked into the firmware, making them impossible to uninstall and can only be disabled. What’s worse is that they can also slow down the development and rollout of updates. Joining the also few OEMs bucking that trend, OnePlus is extracting some of its custom apps for faster updates, both for the apps as well as OxygenOS itself.
The problem with baked apps is that you can’t easily update them without rolling out a firmware update. And a firmware update has to go through the entire process of testing that it won’t break user’s devices in a very bad. That seems like a ridiculous amount of work to put in just to display a gallery app.
That is why OnePlus is divorcing its built-in apps from the ROM and putting them up on Google Play Store. These include the OnePlus Launcher, Community, Weather, and Gallery apps. This means that OnePlus can push updates to those four as fast as they can and users can update them without upgrading the whole system.
It also hopefully means that OxygenOS rollouts should also be faster, now that they don’t have to include non-essential software in the firmware. This change affects only the OnePlus 3, 3T, and 5 and the apps, like most OEM custom apps, won’t be compatible with anything else.
OnePlus is also giving its users a teaser of what’s coming in OnePlus Launcher version 2.1.5, its first separate release. That includes a folder icon that shows the first four apps inside it and double finger touch gestures to send an app to another page in the home screen.