Samsung has now announced a new Android-based user experience which buyers of its smartphones in the future can expect to see shipped with their new phones. One UI, as it’s now officially called, is designed to be a refinement to the current Samsung user experience and comes with a specific focus on making it easier to use phones that are equipped with a larger display – something Samsung has become known for of late with more than just its Galaxy Note line having arrived with displays that have increased beyond the 6-inch marker.
While the finer details on One UI are still pretty light, Samsung has explained the interface comes with an emphasis on the bottom portion of the display. That’s when it comes to the interactive elements of the interface as what Samsung is describing here is a design which utilizes the top portion of the display to show elements, while the bottom portion is primarily where the user interacts to navigate and control what is shown in the upper portion of the display. The company has provided a number of images to highlight this point more succinctly. For example, when using a messaging app, message contents appear at the top of the screen while the message list (and therefore the ability to select which one to read) all appear at the bottom. In another example, when in the alarm settings portion of the stock clock app, the current alarm details are shown in the top portion while the various selectable options are located much further down the screen. Beyond this being a design that's aimed at catering to larger displays, Samsung also argues the new UI makes “it more natural and comfortable for one-handed use” in general. The new interface is due to begin rolling out to compatible devices early next year.
There's also a number of other design changes that seem to be in effect, such as a greater emphasis on rounded elements and a new system-wide dark mode for a better viewing experience in darker environments or late at night, as well as a number of redesigned icons in general. All of which are further designed to increase the usability of the interface on a larger display, while also ensuring the experience is cleaner and more minimalist than it ever has been before on a Samsung device. In other words, the most decluttered Samsung user experience on Android to date.
Background: Samsung has endured a mixed history when it comes to its skinned version of Android with many still viewing the experience as a heavy one compared to that offered by Google on its Pixel phones, and even some third-party options like those from OnePlus that run on the company’s OxygenOS. What’s more, Samsung seems to have in the past been stuck in a state of flux when it comes to deciding on, and sticking with the experience's branding. For example, while most Samsung device owners in the past will be well-versed in the ways of TouchWiz, Samsung reinvented and rebranded its interface as the Samsung Experience UI which first became available in late 2016 in a beta form for owners of devices from the company's Galaxy S7 and S8 lines. Now, it would seem the Samsung Experience UI in the process of being replaced by the all-new One UI.
Whether this latest branding exercise will help to further rid the company’s image of a heavy software experience remains to be seen, although Samsung is convinced the new interface is far more intuitive and future-proof. Which is a point to note as the announcement on UI came during the Samsung Developer Conference 2018 keynote presentation where Samsung also showed off its new Infinity Flex display technology that the company expects to power its upcoming line of flexible devices. A point which is relevant here as during the announcement Samsung confirmed its Infinity Flex and it's One UI solutions are designed to go hand-in-hand to provide users with a mobile experience and the ability “to do things they couldn’t do with an ordinary smartphone.” Samsung expanded on this point by stating the new combination of hardware and software means “users now have the best of both worlds” where a smartphone can expand to offer a larger display surface area, while still making use of a software design that optimizes the interface for one-handed usage, and more similar to that experienced on a much smaller display.
Impact: Of course, this new interface does only matter for consumers who buy and use Samsung devices as One UI will not be found on devices outside of Samsung’s circle. For those users who have stuck with the brand, however, it would seem as though this is a fairly big change in design which will inevitably result in a big change to the way those users interact with their devices – this is in effect the actual purpose of the redesign and as a result, those users will need to get used to the new One UI and soon. As it seems evident Samsung plans to make this the default experience on its devices going forward.
In addition to announcing the new UI as the future direction for the company, it’s also expected Samsung will make the UI available to owners of select existing Samsung devices. Speaking of which, not only did Samsung indicate that a general rollout of the new interface is due to commence via software updates starting in early 2019, but prior to that the company will be opening up a beta program that will let some users test out the new look and feel prior to the main software deployment. On this point, the beta program is due to open up later this month and will initially only be available to owners of the Galaxy Note9 or a Galaxy S9 model. It also should be expected the beta program will initially only be available in select regions, starting with the US, Germany and South Korea – with other countries expected to be added at a later date.