Samsung gutting Touchwiz: what should go?

14 January 2015

Samsung is rumoured to be launching its next big thing in March, with the Galaxy S6 tipped to debut at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Along with new hardware, Samsung is expected to reveal a significantly paired back Touchwiz UI, aiming to make it easier to use and less draining on system resources.

Allow me to join the internet chorus when I say, it’s about time. Touchwiz has been bogging down otherwise excellent Samsung smartphones since before the original Galaxy S, but has gotten much worse in the past 3 or 4 years. But, what exactly should go?

Before I start rattling off my laundry list of useless Samsung software features, let me first admit that I’m a bit of a smartphone minimalist. I have the Google Launcher installed on all of my everyday devices and think a phone looks best when it is as uncluttered as possible. Therefore, my take might be a tad extreme. Let me know in the comments if and where you disagree.

What needs to go

Anything to do with eye-tracking: I’ll admit that I thought the idea was pretty cool when it was first announced back, I’m a fan of any method for controlling a phone without touching the screen — but with one caveat: it has to work.

Samsung’s eye-tracking has two core functions; one is to keep the screen on when you are looking at it, and the other is to control apps, like scrolling down webpages when your eyes read along the bottom of the screen. Neither works very well, and if you haven’t switched off these functions in the system settings then I believe you are wasting important battery life.

My Magazine: Creating a new aggregation app wasn’t a terrible idea for Samsung (even if there is a dozen good, free alternatives on the Google Play store already) but taking up a valuable position in the home screen layout is.

Air View: Another neat, but ultimately useless idea. Air view allows you to preview content by hovering a finger a couple of millimetres over the touchscreen, i.e.: you can see details of a Calendar entry by hovering over the day of the week. It turns out it is just as fast, and it requires far less dexterity, to just select the item and use the back button when you’re finished.

Easy Mode: Not that I think Easy Mode is poorly designed, but if you need to include it in your phone, then there is something seriously wrong with the way you designed the ‘Hard Mode’, otherwise known as the TouchWiz UI,

Samsung Allcast: Maybe I’m wearing my affection for Google on my sleeve when I say this, but Samsung, it is time to stop trying to push a proprietary streaming protocol and to get on board with Chromecast. The sooner you do, the sooner 3rd party manufacturers will start making awesome Chromecast home entertainment devices.

S-Everything: as in the point above, is it time to stop competing with our favourite apps with S versions? S Health, S Planner, S Translator, S Voice, enough. Instead, could the resources dedicated to these services be better spent building on existing apps and services?

What should stay

Notifications Panel: It could definitely do with a redesign, but Samsung’s Notifications Panel Quick Settings are among the best in the business. The quantity of shortcuts may be overwhelming for some users, but the ability to customise which shortcuts are included, as well as the ability to long-press on an option to jump into its settings, makes it a must-have expansion on stock Android.

TV remote: I love having an IR blaster in my smartphones, and I like the way Samsung lock screen widget for its TV remote app so that you didn’t need to fiddle about with your phone too much just to switch channels or adjust the volume.

Fingerprint scanner: This is a feature which Samsung is yet to fully realise, but I’d like to see them keep trying. As it stands, I find unlocking my phone with the fingerprint scanner to be slower and more cumbersome than not using it. However, this isn’t the case with the Huawei Mate 7, where you place your finger on the scanner on the back of the phone and it turns the phone on and unlocks it in the same action. If Samsung boffins put their minds to it, I’m sure they could come up with something even cooler.

What do you think? What would you change about the software on your Samsung phone?



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