We have been hearing about TouchWiz UX since CTIA and the software update has finally landed. TouchWiz has a very bad reputation in the mobile world because it has been notoriously laggy and looked nearly identical to iOS in many aspects. So has the latest version of TouchWiz earned back its good name?
The update included a bunch of what Samsung calls Live Panels, but basically they are just widgets. Samsung really blew people’s minds when they showed off the ability to resize the Live Panels. This was months before Google announced the native ability to do this is Honeycomb version 3.1. You can resize most of the widgets to the size that you desire. My problem is that some of the widgets are too big, even at their smallest setting. For example the Program Monitor widget takes up 3x 2 on the homescreen, but in TouchWiz 3.0 on the original Galaxy Tab it only took up 2 x 1. Obviously your opinion of this will vary based on your personal preference, but it is too large for me.
All of the widgets included in the update are AccuWeather.com (weather widget), Agenda, AP Mobile (news), Bookmark, Digital Clock, Dual Clock, Email, Gallery, Program Monitor (task manager), Social Hub (Twitter and Facebook feed), and Yahoo! Finance (stocks). There are many quality widgets in this selection. If you do not care for them however, then just do not use them.
Mini Apps Tray
Without a doubt, the Mini Apps Tray is the most innovative and original idea in TouchWiz UX. It brings even better multitasking to the Android operating system. Before multitasking just meant that the app would continue to run in the background, but now you can actually have two things open at once (not two different apps though). There are six tools that can be used on top of the current application. They are Task Manager, Calendar, World Clock, Pen Memo, Calculator, and Music Player.
The implementation of this feature is flawless in my opinion. Just swipe up from the bottom to bring up the six apps from anywhere and tap on the one you need. You can move the mini app anywhere on the screen and continue using the main application. The mini app will fade slightly when you are actively using the main application and come back fully when you tap on it again.
Even though the idea and implementation are pure genius in my opinion, I cannot help but feel let down by this feature. The selection of mini apps currently available is pretty pathetic. I cannot imagine using most of them ever. Hopefully Samsung will develop more or perhaps give the API out to developers to create their own! That is wishful thinking though. If you have a use for the mini apps, then great go ahead and use them. If not, then you can just not use them.
Samsung included apps that are already available on the Android Market for free in this update – Amazon Music Cloud Player, Amazon Kindle, and Words with Friends. It is slightly annoying that these are included and cannot be uninstalled, but at least they are not very large apps.
There are also several unique apps developed by Samsung in this update. They are eBook, Email, Memo, Music Hub, Music Player, My Files, Pen Memo, Photo Editor, Social Hub, Video and World Clock. None of these apps have any unique features, but they are not half bad either. They all work as you would expect and they look beautiful while doing it. You will have a hard time getting that with similar apps from the Android Market.
Look and Feel
The look and feel of the update is not something that you can ignore or choose not to use. That is why it is one of the more important factors in deciding whether or not to update. The first thing you will notice about the new skin is the navigation bar at the bottom. Instead of being black, it is a dark grey color. I think that it looks fantastic most of the time, but is more intrusive in some applications than the black bar was before. So it does kind of balance out. The rest of the operating system’s skin follows suite with different shades of grey coupled with bright, friendly colors. It is a refreshing change from stock Honeycomb’s black and blue color scheme. Overall, the tablet feels much more inviting because of the brighter color scheme.
No noticeable changes one way or the other. Early YouTube videos had me convinced that this ROM would be faster, but that has not been the case for me. Perhaps your experience will be different.
There are a few other features that did not quite fit in the other categories. The first of those features is the native ability to take a screenshot. The icon to take a screenshot is always present at the bottom left of the screen as the fourth icon on the navigation bar. I have found one instance where it does not worth though. When you have the notifications up, tapping the screenshot button just pulls the notifications back down.
Another miscellaneous feature is motion-control-zooming. I would not go as far as to say that it is better than pinch-to-zoom, but it is definitely a few steps up from using buttons to control zooming. Pinch-to-zoom is still present, but I keep finding myself using motion-control-zooming because it is new and fun. It can be use in both the browser and photo gallery by places two fingers on the screen and tilting the device.
There are plenty more features that I did not cover including the Indicator Quick Panel and Enterprise features.
This update packs in a solid amount of new features without adding too much bloat. One of the best things about the update is that you are not forced to use many of the features in it like the new widgets and mini apps. The new skin is gorgeous and does not drag the system down. So would I recommend this update? Yes. I would even recommend it even if you do not think that you will use any of the features because it is the only way to get updates in the future.