It is a question that make us more times than you can imagine, especially as a phone who bought Xiaomi that come with MIUI 8 which is Android but "not at all", so to speak. We will then try to explain the differences between launcher and an interface or a fork of Android. Surely for many this is an outdated topic, but who comes for the first time to buy, especially, a Chinese mobile as Xiaomi, is surprised to receive a terminal in the missing applications Google, insistently receive alerts Chinese news, etc. The reason is that Xiaomi, among other manufacturers, does not use a Android "as the others have" but a fork. Other manufacturers, especially the vast majority with an international vocation, trying to personalize the experience through a launcher or interface.
Classes and types of Android
A fork is not only owner of Android. Den is a common term software development and identifies the creation of a project in a different direction from the main or official taking the existing project source code. Ie, is Android? Yes! but with features and are divided into two classes, open or closed fork.
For example, MIUI Xiaomi is an open fork. By default it comes with Google services uninstalled but we can add and replace, or at least partially block the Xiaomi proposed instead (mail, browser, etc.). They are the famous gapps we can also install Cyanogen and other ROMs that can be installed using the terminal and rooteo essentially as Xiaomi, are forks as they are based on Android but with more or less services. Precisely the example of Cyanogen comes very well because it is the difference between OS and Cyanogen CyanogenMod. The first is an Android with all of the law, certified by Google and the second is an open fork, which you can install the gapps and Capps manually, but is fully backward compatible with Google services and Android applications google Play.
By contrast, other Android forks are closed. The most recent examples are the operating system for tablets and smartphones from Amazon with Fire OS or the now defunct Nokia with Nokia X and Android particular had with Microsoft services. It is Android, but does not support anything but with the apps in the store or Amazon which had Nokia. There is no way they use the software to Android - but always root sphere seeks ways to do it.
Is there something wrong with forks?
Essentially they have no problem. They are stable and guaranteed by companies that are careful to keep them ready for customer software. Of course, if we talk about Chinese mobile, keep in mind that they think only in the laws and customers of their country and little outsiders. It is the case that I have to be careful with offers of Xiaomi or Meizu, because if you buy a "Chinese" and not "international" version of their teams will not come with the Spanish language, for example.
Another problem with these open forks, as the case of Xiaomi, is that while it is possible to add Google services, it is almost impossible to get rid of the bloatware of the brand and, therefore, it is possible that our data are flying to China without reference . For you see an example, a user of our forum has given us this video which is the amount of data that sends a Xiaomi to company servers while running. In this sense, being an Android that is created without the intervention or Google certification, they carry a different pace of development and usually not quickly provide updates to new versions of Android so quickly. At the same time, it may happen that we have to install them manually because they do not have contemplated an update via OTA.
The launcher interface
The interface or launcher is another different thing. EMUI names like Huawei, Samsung TouchWiz Launcher or Nova, perhaps the most renowned independent proposal, simply change the look but do not modify the operating system with smartphones that carry it so deeply. That is, they are simply an aesthetic choice and interaction with the system that can change as often as we want. We repeat, it is not that forks are bad and good interfaces, there are some launchers directly to boycott certain brands and forks absolutely brilliant. They are different but it 's always good to be clear what we are buying to take no surprises when we get that Chinese mobile so cheap that we bought or that brand has recommended our brother and we find these kinds of issues.