Samsung Android: Better than Google's Android

Summary:Google is frequently blasted for letting Android become too fragmented, with different versions and OEM customizations. Samsung has customized Android extensively and it's now better than Google's version.

Motion activated features

Most Android devices have an accelerometer that detects movement and Samsung has included a number of features that take advatange of detected motion in everyday use of the phone or tablet. These are each little features and are nothing special but when combined greatly augment the UX.

Tilt to Zoom

This feature quickly becomes a great way to look at photos on the Samsung device. Touch the photo with two thumbs and tilt the screen toward you/away from you to zoom the image in and out. It becomes very natural with a little practice.

Pan to move/browse

With multiple home screens it's common to move icons around to arrange them just like you want them. This feature makes it a breeze: hold the icon you want to move to another home screen and pan the device. The icon moves to the screen in the direction of the pan.

The same function can be used to pan through images in the gallery. You can flip through photos as fast as you wish using the panning action.

Quick glance

Ever have your phone sitting on the table and want to check to see if any messages have come in? The Quick Glance feature is activated by simply reaching for your phone. It senses your hand hovering over the phone and displays a special lock screen that shows any new activity that has occurred while the display was turned off. Remove your hand and the display goes to sleep. This happens without even touching the phone.

Double tap to zoom to top of list

If you've scrolled down a long list and want to quickly get back to the top, simply double tap the top of the phone and it jumps back to the top. This is app independent and eliminates the need to find a small scrolling control. Double tap and back to the top you go.

Don't forget your pen

For devices like the Note 2 phone with a pen, having special functions that become available by removing the pen are not enough for Samsung. Forgetting the S Pen when you get up to leave is a real concern for owners so Samsung alerts you when you leave with the phone without putting the pen back in the storage silo on the device. Samsung has your back with no effort on your part.

Other Handy Features

The special display and motion features covered are just the tip of the iceberg of handy features integrated into Samsung Android. The longer I use the Note 2 I sometimes wish certain things worked a different way. Samsung has put so much effort into the UX that I usually discover there is a way to make things more to my liking. There is so much there it's hard to be familiar with all of the features.

Muting with palm

Palm muting

Ever been in a situation when you need to mute your device's volume quickly for a bit? Samsung makes it easy by simply covering the display with your palm. Instant silence and volume returns when you remove your hand from the display.

Screenshot swipe

I take a lot of screen images and Samsung has made it as easy as can be. Simply swipe from the left of the display to the right with the side of the hand and the image is captured.

Display/Hide multi-view tab

As useful as the multi-view capability is, the little blue tab that sticks out on the left side of the screen is often in my way. Thanks to Twitter friend @geekaren I discovered that's easy to remedy.

Simply long-pressing the soft Back button on the bottom of any screen hides/displays the multi-view tab. It's easy to turn it on when I need to select an app for multi-view and then get it out of the way.

It's all about the user

The features covered in this article are by no means the only ones Samsung has baked into its current form of Android. There are so many I am sure I am missing some of them. I am not implying Samsung invented all of these features, but they are the first to put them all together. When you consider each feature on its own none are major but adding them all together turn the Samsung device into a very useful gadget.

It is obvious that Samsung's intent driving its version of Android is to put the user's needs front and center. Every aspect of this customized version of Android is designed to bring the user the most utility. This is often accomplished by making everyday operation of the phone or tablet intuititve and more useful than is possible with stock Android.

Purists may prefer the "pure" Android from Google. The Samsung customizations (or any OEM's version) may not be everyone's cup of tea. I am not suggesting that everyone will love the Samsung Android as I do. Everyone's needs and preferences are different when it comes to mobile devices and that's the way it should be.

In the early days of Android Samsung was looking to simply make its customizations different. Over time it has changed its focus to make them work better for the user. I think most users do like what Samsung is doing with Android. It is no surprise to me that Samsung is dominating the market with its phones and tablets. When you put the user first, people notice.

If you have a favorite feature or function on your Samsung Android device that I have not mentioned, leave a comment sharing it with everyone. 

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Samsung


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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