Robert Triggs / Android Authority
The general consensus is that Samsung’s smartphone software is in pretty good shape these days. One UI 3.0 is feature-rich, but not too bloated, with one of the best update promises in the business. But Samsung’s software hasn’t always been rated as positively, especially by those who have been around long enough to remember TouchWiz.
While TouchWiz is synonymous with Android, Samsung’s smartphone software skin actually began in the pre-smartphone era. TouchWiz 1.0 shipped with Samsung Solstice in 2009, followed by version 2.0 for Solstice 2 in 2010.
TouchWiz was already in its third generation when it was married to Google’s Android operating system. TouchWiz 3.0 was introduced on the original Samsung Galaxy S in 2010. Right from the start, Samsung took a completely different approach than stock Android, built heavily on Google’s range of functions and offered its skin a unique look. For example, early TouchWiz supported rearranging home screens, custom shortcuts, and a selection of custom widgets that were not found on other handsets. Widgets were really the name of the game back then.
Samsung Galaxy S series: A story of the biggest name in Android
Samsung has further refined TouchWiz with version 4.0 for its breakout smartphone Galaxy S2, based on Android 2.3 Gingerbread, followed by the equally impressive Galaxy S3 Android 4.0. The most modern functions were added again and again, including gallery and browser gesture control, the S Voice assistant, picture-in-picture and split-screen app view.
Samsung has also changed its naming scheme and the look of its skin with TouchWiz on the Galaxy S3. The GUI was given a slimmer, greener look with the newly named “TouchWiz Nature UX” interface. One of the notable UI introductions was an interactive wave water effect on the lock screen. That probably sounds stupid now, but it was pretty new back then.
While these two smartphones were very well received and fueled Samsung’s smartphone rise, the tell-tale signs of a feature creep began to appear. In addition to Google software, Samsung has shipped its flagship phones with a growing selection of in-house apps like ChatOn, Social Hub, Music Hub, and others.
TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0: The feature creep begins
With the move to TouchWiz Nature UX, Samsung began making a wider range of UI tweaks in time for UX 2.0 and the Galaxy S4. The company introduced some interesting innovations, such as: B. Eye tracking on websites with automatic scrolling. But Samsung’s fondness for features began to rub against the reviewers, who criticized the phone for a number of gimmicks and bloated features like air gestures, Smart Pause, and S Translator – not to mention an increasingly difficult settings menu to navigate.
In addition to being a heavy Android skin, TouchWiz Nature UX was also a lot of extra features.
Samsung has continued to incorporate a mix of features into subsequent software revisions. Samsung Knox Security has made its full appearance with Nature UX 2.5, as well as a one-hand mode for the Galaxy Note 3. Nature UX 3.0 has shortened the user interface and tidied up the settings menu in time for the Galaxy S5. But Samsung couldn’t resist adding the floating Toolbox app menu and My Magazine news aggregator to its skin.
Samsung returned to its traditional naming scheme with TouchWiz 5.0 for the Galaxy S6. And with a new hardware design came a refreshed approach to software. Samsung has given up its loud UI sounds, simplified various settings and tidied up its icons for Multiwindow and Toolbox. Samsung has also removed some of its less necessary apps and took direct inspiration from Android Lollipop, although the bold colored UI elements from TouchWiz have been retained.
TouchWiz has rightly earned a reputation as a feature creep, but Samsung eventually got it. Samsung continued to clean up its software with TouchWiz 6.0 and TouchWiz Grace UX, leaving the Galaxy S6 and S7 in a better place as Samsung finally moved on to its next UI project.
Since TouchWiz was no longer recognizable from its early iterations, the software developed for the Galaxy S8 became known as the Samsung Experience. Samsung Experience ran on Android 7.0 Nougat and 8.0 Oreo and found its way to a wide range of Samsung smartphones in various price ranges.
The redesigned GUI revamped Samsung’s color palette and icons, resulting in a much more current and sophisticated look and feel that more than ever matched Google’s vision. However, Samsung has kept a ton of customizations, including Edge UX elements from the days of the Galaxy S6, always-on display functionality, its game launcher, and other existing elements. Even the back button has been swapped to the right and not to the left according to Google’s standard operating system.
Samsung Experience first introduced the Bixby virtual assistant as a core part of the Samsung ecosystem. The software also made its debut at Samsung Dex, turning the Galaxy S8 into a portable PC work environment – although none of those features were really successful. Subsequent updates to Android Oreo made small changes and improved several features like Bixby 2.0 and Secure Folders, but the experience was largely the same as the original version.
Samsung Experience has introduced the controversial virtual assistant Bixby.
Samsung learned its lessons with TouchWiz. Users had much more choice in the features they actually wanted to see and use with Samsung Experience. While it’s still busier than “Stock Android,” which experts seemed to love, Samsung’s heavier user interface continued to help define its Galaxy smartphone lineup.
One user interface and the modern day
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
With Android 9.0 Pie, Samsung changed its UX naming scheme again. The Samsung Experience 10.0 beta became One UI when it debuted with the flagship Galaxy S10. Samsung has re-tweaked its user interface to make it cleaner and easier to use than previous iterations. In fact, ease of use for larger displays is one of the main reasons for One UI. Samsung has optimized its menus and apps and moved important elements of the user interface within reach of the thumb.
A user interface has greatly improved Samsung’s balance between custom functionality and ease of use.
A user interface retained most of the functionality available in Samsung Experience. Dex was further improved, a system-wide dark mode was introduced and the key navigation could be exchanged for gestures. With a single press of the Bixby button, one can clearly listen to the user feedback and also assign new functions.
A UI 2.0 switched up to Android 10, adding a Samsung skin version of Digital Wellbeing, Wireless Dex in 2.5, some minor UI tweaks, a dynamic lock screen, and a few other little things. But the look and feel of the Samsung UI remained practically unchanged, and the skin has gotten pretty good at finding all of those features.
From worst to best: The Samsung Galaxy S series in the ranking
At the time of writing, One UI 3.1 is the latest version of Samsung’s skin – with some modest changes from the original version. The notification panel is now translucent, there’s a new volume control on the right, and Samsung has smoothed out animations across the user interface. But overall, Samsung and its customers seem reasonably happy with the state of One UI over the past three years.
From TouchWiz to Samsung Experience to One UI, Samsung’s version of Android was always up to date with the latest features. In the past, TouchWiz has been ridiculed for its bloated approach to software. But the truth is, Samsung hasn’t really taken back its love of new features and options. Rather, the company has gotten much better at refining the core UI experience so that adventurous consumers can explore all of Samsung’s bells and whistles for themselves.
What do you think of Samsung’s UI journey? Do you have a favorite era skin from a classic Galaxy phone? Let us know in the comments below.