I challenge anyone to receive a notification on Samsung s Galaxy S8 and not be charmed by the elegant blue pulse of light that traces the contours of the phone’s gorgeous screen. This sort of subtlety, this sort of organic, emotive, instant appeal is not something I ever expected Samsung would be capable of. But the company once judged to have cynically copied Apple’s iPhone design has exceeded all expectations this year: the 2017 version of Samsung’s TouchWiz brings its software design right up to the high standard of its hardware.
I have always hated TouchWiz. It was ugly, overbearing, complex, and annoying.
Keyword here is was. As per my philosophy to never rot stuck in a single brand or platform, I replaced my Nexus 6P with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a few weeks ago. I was assuming I’d have to root it and install a custom ROM on it within days, so I had the proper files and reading material ready to go the day the phone arrived.
But as I was using the phone for a few days, it dawned on my that TouchWiz on the S7 Edge was… Not that bad. I buy off-contract, so I didn’t get any carrier crapware (as far as I know, Dutch carriers don’t really do crapware to begin with), and even Samsung’s own stuff was remarkably sparse, and you could hide most of Samsung’s stuff anyway. I was pleasantly surprised.
I was even more pleasantly surprised when it dawned on me that several parts of TouchWiz were superior to Google’s stock Android versions. The stock Android alarm/clock application is a UI disaster, but the TouchWiz version is clean, simple, and much easier to use. TouchWiz’ contacts application, too, sports a cleaner look and I find it easier to use than the stock version. Most of all, though, Samsung’s settings application is so much better than the stock Android one in terms of looks, organisation, search capabilities, and so on, that I’m surprised Google hasn’t copied it outright.
Within just a few days, I thought to myself “…okay right so that‘s why Samsung dominates Android and has 80% smartphone market share in The Netherlands”. Samsung has truly cleaned up TouchWiz, and I’m curious to see if I hit that thing everybody is talking about where Samsung phones get slower over time, something that didn’t happen to my Nexus devices.
CGP Grey once said, in one of his videos:
The trick is to keep your identity separate from your opinions. They’re objects in a box you carry with you, and should be easily replaceable if it turns out they’re no good. If you think that the opinions in the box are “who you are”, then you’ll cling to them despite any evidence to the contrary.
Bottom line: if you always want to be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind.
I try to apply this as much as possible, including here on OSNews. Any longterm reader of this site knows I haven’t been kind to TouchWiz over the years. A few weeks with a modern Samsung phone has completely changed my mind.
So I’m not sure how different the S7 Edge is from my Note 4, but the Note 7 ‘Grace UX’ was absolutely divine, and I’m guessing that’s what is also on the S8.
Every time I’ve tried stock Android (through AOSP, or other hacks) I’ve always been disappointed and missed some of the ‘Before Stock Android’ features.
Truly, Touchwiz sucks a lot less than it used to, either that or the hardware has caught up to the OS so we don’t notice as much.
I’ll go retro here in the comparison, it’s like Standard TOS vs MiNT. On the one hand, you have a nice set of usability that is very minimal, versus a fully multitasking operating system. But while TOS will work in a system with 256kb, you should have at least 4mb of ram for MiNT.
Same could be said of Android vs Touchwiz.