Samsung Android: Better than Google's Android

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, Android, Samsung

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  • Touchwiz is buggy

    Samsung hasn't good engineers and UX-specialists. Touchwiz on Galaxy Note II is laggy, works slow, looks awful (Korean sh*t), so I prefer stock Holo UI from AOSP or Moto BLUR on RAZR HD.
    • I haven't played with TouchWiz in a year

      But that version was buggy and IMHE HTC's Sense UI is/was far superior. These seem like really killer features that Samsung has baked into TouchWiz - not enough to bring me back to Android and Samsung though.
  • Features wise, very true..

    Yes, Samsung's version of Android now is amazing when you look at the features they've added, both gimmicky and useful ones, specially things like multi-view. Other manufacturers aren't adding any such useful features yet are also taking more time releasing updates for their flagship, which is funny considering they have lesser things to port over to a new Android version. They also add little things that Google doesn't have on stock Android, and even major ones like an FM radio or even a self-timer option in the camera (which all manufacturers are doing, really). While I love and will use only stock Android and Nexus devices, I totally understand that stock Android isn't the best when it comes to value added features.

    However, TouchWiz has to be the ugliest UI overlay out there. Stock Android isn't perfect, but it's miles ahead of the cartoon fest that is TouchWiz. Also, all that bloat and added features also result in the SGS3 or Note 2 not being as smooth as my GNex, though I hear that's more because of Samsung's messed up implementation of project butter than the bloat.

    But good points in the article, for majority of the customers I'd never recommend a Nexus device thanks to its barebones nature and lack of some basic features. I myself will stick to Nexus for the fast updates and the ability to install custom ROMs for unsupported Android versions without any issues.

    Samsung is doing great in my books - adding great features, pushing out fast software updates (at least for flagship devices), and having awesome pricing as well here in India.
    • TouchWiz runs smoothly

      I've used it on the S3 Mini and it runs very smoothly. I imagine it runs even better on a Quad Core chip.

      TouchWiz used to look ugly on the S2 but S3 Mini again it looks almost as good as HTC Sense. Which is still the best looking Android UI (better than stock).

      HTC too add features end users want but it's got lazy over the past 2 years and innovation has slowed down greatly.
      • It does run well..

        .. but you still feel Android is smoother on a Nexus device. I've used both the S3 and Note 2 along with my GNex and my Gnex simply feels better to use.

        TouchWiz is still ugly IMO, the icons are cartoon-ish, apps like the messaging app also look very bad. I find Sony's skin to be the least ugly, then HTC, then Samsung's.
        • I agree

          I agree with you addicted2088; even tho Samsung add a couple of features to make their device better (some of their ideas was out there already) I still like Vanilla/AOSP Roms, with these feature added in.
          Marty K
    • Bloat

      I have a Samsung GT-P6800 International Tablet/Phone with 4.0.4 that was NOT customized by a phone company and there is no "bloat". No AOL. No ESPN. No Facebook. No Stock tracker. No proprietary weather app. No twitter. No Zunyga. No Lynklin. No anything that I can't either uninstall or freeze so it doesn't burn unecessary data or slow the performance.
      I also have almost all the neat things the author writes about.
      The chances are EXCELENT that any bloat that is loaded onto any Samsung phone is required by the carrier, not Samsung.
  • Clearly?

    "Google is frequently blasted", mainly by the enemies.
    Say it often enough and mud sticks though.

    Surely any Fragmentation is better than the imposed Limitation on IOS devices?
  • Got to agree with the author

    While I still like the simplicity of the stock android (N7), the additional features that samsung provide, make for a more rounded experience. For the tablet I have no problem with stock android but on the S3 the additions really do make me think it was a better choice than the HTC. The extras that they have provided for the camera alone really make you appreciate the work they have put in. In fact, I have changed the launcher on the N7 but left the S3 alone.
    All this and I don't notice any slowing of the UI. Put my S3 next to the N7 and they both fly.
    As for ugly, well, that's personal choice. I know exactly what the message icon means but don't spend any time squinting at it so I can critique it later. The rest of touchwiz UI is more than acceptable.
    The other thing to remember is that most of the additions aren't on by default. So the phones arrive with a very simple UI that can be customised as you find your way through the phone.
    Little Old Man
    • Multi view on tablet

      Your comment that the phone is OK with options such as multi view but the tablet is just fine with the stock UI, is puzzling to me. It seems that multi view is ideal for the large screen of a tablet which is just where I would use it the most.
  • Just gimmicks, Samsung will move away from google

    People are not that excited about smart phones anymore, they have become commodity devices.
    I don't want multi-view in my phone.

    In the end what matters is that the phone must be capable of doing the basics, good call quality, battery life, smooth browsing, video , music, safety and security. Unfortunately most android phones fail to tick some of these basic boxes.
    • Still hating on Android as usual

      YOU were one of the biggest cheerleaders of Oracle's failed lawsuit attempt against Google over unproven copyright violations, so you hating Android still under whatever guise is at least consistent.

      Android isn't going away anytime soon. Apple's lawsuits have so far had a minimal effect, other than getting Florian Mueller hyped up since he is paid to hate on Google from his masters at Microsoft and Oracle, not that he's good at predicting anything of course.
      • Android is a stolen product.

        How did Google put together Android??

        - They copied open source projects in the name of 'Open Source', The clown Schmidt stole Apple ideas until he was booted, and Google ripped Java

        Google is a thief and achieved its current status thru stealing others data and copyrighted materials and YouTube piracy.

        Like it or not that is the truth my friend.
        • No it isn't the truth

          It's a half-arsed pile of BS that anyone but you would have long ago got bored of repeating over and over and over again. Don't you get bored?
          Little Old Man
          • Truth hurts...

            Unfortunately, I will have to repeat things. I didn't bring it up, somebody else did.
          • BS is tired

            Sell it as truth but everyone can see thru it people are just getting tired that's all. No pain, just the same annoyance you get from mozzy's on summer evening.
            Little Old Man
        • The clown Schmidt

          Mr. Owlll1net,
          Notice the date, and Notice Schmidt name isn't mention.

          History----Android is a Linux-based operating system designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. Initially developed by Android, Inc., which Google backed financially and later purchased in 2005, Android was unveiled in 2007 along with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance: a consortium of hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.The first Android-powered phone was sold in October 2008.
          Marty K
          • Well....

            I know a lot about smart phones and its history and was using it from the mid nineties...I also know how google created android... it was created using stolen intellectual property.
          • I usually disagree with Owlnet

            But in this case he has a point - the original Android was an OS that was designed to be run on older WM devices (such as the HTC Apache and Mogul) and very closely resembled the dominant smartphone OS of that time the Blackberry OS.

            You with me so far? Okay now there was a huge buildup over Android because quite frakly WM sucked out loud... And it was around this time Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, was on Apple's Board of Directors.

            Still with me? Okay now here's where things get a bit hinky - Apple releases the iPhone 2G and completely rearranges the smartphone market paradigm. All these different things other OEMs were trying to do in a smartphone and appeal to the enterprise user Apple put in one device and marketed it to the mainstream.

            Google purchases Android Inc and a few months later releases Android 1.0 and now it resembles iPhone OS 1. Eric Schmidt then leaves Apple's Board of Directors. Coincidence? Perhaps but there are still issues here. Why make Android resemble iPhone OS rather than keep it as more of a BB clone?
          • Schmidt didn't want to leave

            He was pressured to leave by the board due to what was conceived as Google's piggybacking.

            I'll give credit to Apple in that it did revolutionize the smartphone market, but that's where they have a problem. They seem to mix products or inventions with market creation. You can own or patent a product or innovation, but not the market. Although they have good designs, they still didn't created the basis for the smartphone. They existed before. What they did, however, was to give their competitors a strong motive (survival) to accelerate the advancement of their respective products.

            As for the alleged resemblance, that is still a contentious issue. I wouldn't say Android didn't take a little inspiration from iOS (just to give a benefit of a doubt), but then again there were instances where Android beat iPhone, like multitasking, widgets, drop-down notification bar, etc. Also, things like patenting rounded rectangles and trying to monopolize some icons' images (gear for "settings", musical notation for "music", etc) is ridiculous and a negative for Apple.