04
Oct
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Nothing quite stirs me up like people heaping praise on Samsung for "innovating" with TouchWiz’s software features. And every time I try to dismantle this notion, I get called a Luddite. I’m not forward-thinking. I don’t appreciate new technology that’s in its infancy. I’m not curious.

Which is interesting, considering how fascinated I am by it, and how generally up to date I like to keep with technology at large. I make no qualms of the fact that I am a cautious adopter of cutting-edge gadgets, though. I don’t look at a new phone or feature on one and suddenly become enamored with the possibilities it portends gazing 10 years into the future. I am certainly not what you would call a technological optimist, either. Most ideas fail. That’s just how things work.

I’ve been using computers for the better part of 20 years now, and the smartphone is easily the coolest thing to happen to personal computing that I can remember. It’s so amazing that something many times more powerful than the desktop PC I grew up with as a young child now fits in my pocket. That’s serious progress, right? Cellular telephony is amazing, and even more so, mobile internet connectivity. Every day, more people are experiencing the web through smartphones, all around the world – and they’re doing it in place of a PC. The PC is slowly becoming a specialized, rather than a generalist, tool.

And so, smartphones have become something of an obsession, as has the software they use. Even in the 3 years since Android was first released on a smartphone, we’ve seen massive advances in mobile computing.

Android has gone from an ugly, slow, and rather unintuitive state to a form that you might even call user-friendly. It has gotten there, mostly, with the help of some insanely smart people working at Google, as well as the rest of the mobile industry at large (you can’t get far without inspiration). Android has reached a point of maturity where handset and tablet manufacturers no longer have to focus on making basic, simple stuff work. They already do. And companies like HTC and Samsung have become intimately familiar with the OS, particularly in adding to and changing it.

Samsung has taken this as an opportunity to start making Android its own, with various proprietary additions. Things like S-Voice, Pop-Up Video, and gestures.

I used a Galaxy S III for the last month. I lived with TouchWiz. And hey, I don’t hate it like some people do. It’s kind of ugly, sure, but it’s fast, relatively bug-free, and did I mention it’s fast? It’s fast. Oh, and those notification bar power controls really are great.

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I even used Pop Up Play once on the GS3 - as a test. I tried S-Voice a couple of times. I don’t actually remember what I tested, but I didn't notice anything groundbreaking. I think I did a web search with it at some point. But really, the most familiar I got with it was when went into its settings to disable it coming on through a double press of the home button, which causes a big delay in the home button's responsiveness when it's enabled. Anyway, here’s the thing: when I read about all these features (and trust me, I did), none of them actually struck me as "must-haves." Nothing jumped out at me and said “this is going to change the way you use your smartphone.” After using the phone for a month, I felt the same way. If you gave me the choice, I'd still choose stock Android every time.

Samsung's Obsession With Sharing, Gestures, And Other Gimmicks

And that’s because of one of two reasons, depending on the trademark Samsung feature we're talking about. Either A.) it simply isn’t ready yet, or is superseded by a superior, widely-used product. Lump S-Voice in here, not only is it not ready, Google’s own voice search product is just better. Or B.) it isn’t actually useful. Here’s where I’d put Smart Stay, S-Beam, and Motion Gestures.

"Option A" items I really don’t have a huge problem with. If Samsung wants to develop a competitor to Google’s own voice assistant platform, have at it. Just don’t take Google’s off the phone (they can’t anyway). And don’t make them interfere with the UX in an annoying way. Which, S-Voice does with that long-press issue I mentioned above.

"Option B" items fall more in "gimmick for the sake of the gimmick" category. Real-world examples would be things like pop-up headlights, automatic seatbelts, or electric can openers. They solve problems that, generally, do not really exist in the first place.

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Take Smart Stay, for example. Never once in my life have I heard a person complain “I wish my phone’s screen would stay on longer” that also was aware the awake time could be adjusted. To me, Smart Stay is like the old NASA designed-a-million-dollar-space-pen and the Russians just brought a pencil joke (yes, I know it's not strictly true, the pen was privately developed). It’s ludicrous overengineering, and even then, the idea doesn’t really work, because it won’t function when it’s dark. I tried it during the day in my less than fantastically lit room and it was spotty at best. There is no way to fix the night issue knowing the way Smart Stay currently works (using the front camera), not without installing some kind of night vision system. Which, hey, I’m totally all for. Night vision camera on my phone? Awesome.

Another one I’ve seen talked about is Direct Call. If you’re texting someone in the stock SMS app, just put the phone to your head and it calls them. Magic! Except, I can’t recall a single point in my life where I’ve actually called someone directly from a text message. Usually it’s like 10 minutes after, when someone's late and I’m getting impatient. Why would I bring the texting app back up when I can just T9 them in the dialer, or voice dial? It’s kind of silly. If calling people from your SMS convo immediately is some serious problem a lot of people have, this is the first I’m hearing of it. I tried it, it works, but again, I had to create an artificial use case. I would never use something like this on my own. Heck, I doubt most people who own Galaxy S III's are even aware this feature exists, let alone have any desire to use it.

Or how about one of Samsung’s hyper-limited sharing functions, like S-Beam? Cool, you can transfer videos or other large files over WiFi direct using a quick NFC bump-pair. If the other person has a Galaxy S III. And if you can get S-Beam to work right - I've heard many times it can take multiple attempts to initiate a connection. But again, this brings me back to the "why?" When am I going to need to immediately do a direct share of a large video file or even some pictures stored on my phone to another person’s phone, assuming they have a GS3? It’s such an absurdly limited use case scenario. Does it do something useful? Potentially, but the way Samsung has implemented it is extremely limited. In the real world, people use services like Dropbox, or even just plain old email.

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The rest of these sharing features, mostly oriented around photos, are similarly limited. And again, who would use such things? If it requires any sort of setup (and Wi-Fi Direct pairing most certainly does), most people are just going to ignore it. If it functioned without any setup, even if it was on any phone, most people are just going to do what they already do: upload photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to share them with their friends. The cloud and social networks have simply changed the way we share. Local files are messy.

Pop Up Play has been hyped in Samsung’s ads, and if you’re the sort of person who watches a ton of [locally stored] videos on your phone, might actually see use once in a while. But it only works with the local video player (read: not YouTube, not Netflix, not Hulu), which destroys the usefulness of it for most normal human beings. Even if it was compatible with these other services, the value itself remains questionable – how hard am I willing to squint looking at that tiny 2″ box with video while I do something else? And let's not forget an app that does this same thing already exists, and it has significantly more functionality.

The palm-swipe-to-screenshot feature? It’s 50/50 on getting it to work. And when it does, oftentimes the screen has registered a touch action in the process, moving the content I wanted to take a screenshot of. It’s maddening. I’d be all for a 3-finger swipe for screenshots, though. Do that. That’s a good idea.

Then you get ideas that are just so outlandish, you have to wonder who at Samsung actually decides which ideas go into the software, and which ones don't. For example, the Galaxy S III has three keyboards, one of which you draw on to type. On a phone.

The Real Problems

The fact is, most of the stuff (note I didn’t say all) Samsung is adding into TouchWiz is there for TV commercials and fancy announcements with orchestras. If you’re a "power user," that's cool, but by definition, you’re in a niche. Most people don’t use their smartphones for much else but browsing, texting, music, social networking, and playing an occasional round of Angry Birds. And not even those basic functions are perfect. In fact, they’re quite often far from it. To me, these little value added "perks" of Samsung’s are a delightful way of distracting consumers from the fact that all smartphones still have some unresolved, very real flaws.

  • Browsing the web on a smartphone is basically frustrating 95% of the time. It’s slow, and it’s difficult. I realize a big part of this is the web itself, but a lot of it is the device, too. I shouldn’t have scroll lag anymore, but I do, and it suuuuuuuucks.
  • Call quality is terrible. I have yet to use a smartphone with an earpiece that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve suffered long-term hearing damage. The networks are to blame, too, (VoLTE please!) but there’s still massive room for improvement on the hardware side.
  • Android has kind of a messy UI. Skins like TouchWiz make it even messier. Simplicity, intuitiveness – these are the things you should strive for. Not a menu with a bajillion options in every app. Setting up or adjusting my phone should not be a game of Where’s Waldo.
  • Battery life is still god-awful. The day I can get 48 hours out of a phone that doesn’t then take 5 or 6 hours to charge, I will be a happy man.
  • Even the best displays are little better in sunlight now than they were nearly 3 years ago. Which is to say, not very good.
  • Speaking of displays, they still break and scratch pretty easily.
  • Another Android specific: virtual buttons please.
  • Antennas are a crap shoot, especially on Samsung hardware. Oh, and Samsung GPS continues to be pretty bad, too.
  • Plastic (especially of the shiny variety) is not a good material for a phone. Where are the carbon fiber phones? Moto’s onto something with Kevlar.
  • Low light camera performance still leaves much to be desired on any smartphone.

There are also endless usability quirks that plague modern smartphones (lag switching between WiFi and mobile data, for example, or less than perfect auto brightness systems) that could simply be made better. All of these things (well, most of them) are incredibly, mind-bendingly, unbelievably difficult problems to solve. Many of them require actual hard science. And hard science is, well, hard. But you know what? We will see these problems tackled in our time. And those are the innovations I really look forward to - many of them will advance technology as a whole along the way.

And I’m all for advancement, but don’t tell me using a proximity sensor to initiate an action from inside an app is "innovative." Any developer could come up with it (hell, you could probably make a Tasker for it), and it could be used any countless number of ways. If it’s so innovative, why isn’t everyone else doing it? If you have an idea that’s actually good, you’ll know, because competitors will steal it from you. Especially if it’s something that’s easy to copy.

And I don’t think the next HTC phone, the next iPhone, or the next Windows Phone will have Smart Stay or Pop Up Play.

Iteration Is Not Always Innovation

Samsung’s “throw everything and see what sticks” strategy is exactly the sort of business model I can't stand in technology. I don’t want to be somebody’s guinea pig. That’s not to say I’m going to swear off trying anything new and different before it’s "proven," but I’m also not going to pretend that the reason I buy a smartphone is because it has a dozen features I’ll use once for the sake of novelty, if that, and then never again.

You know what innovations are? Google voice search and actions. The expanded Android notification bar. 3D imagery in Google Maps. Google Now. The recent apps menu. Samsung’s notification bar power controls (they really are super convenient). On the hardware side, Samsung has really changed the game in smartphones - its AMOLED panels are used by all sorts of companies, and they have real advantages compared to IPS LCDs. Its Exynos chips have typically been ahead of the curve, and contain some of the best mobile components on the market today. The Galaxy Note has single-handedly spawned a new smartphone sub-market. Samsung is not short of accomplishments. I just don't think gimmicks like S-Beam or Smart Stay deserve to be put on pedestals next to SAMOLED HD, or the entire concept of the Note.

In my mind, the best innovations seamlessly integrate into the experience of using my smartphone or tablet every day, or naturally encourage me to use it in a way I hadn’t thought to before. They just work. Tapping two phones together and navigating through a klutzy interface to share a file, if you have the same phone as the other person, and if you can get them to link up, is not "just working." I can understand what Samsung is trying to do here (make Android "theirs"), but as someone sitting closer to the "ordinary consumer" side of the fence than, say, Artem - a decided power user - very little of it actually intrigues me.

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Some of it does, though. For example, one feature I am interested in is Samsung's multitasking on the Note II. From what we've seen so far, it looks pretty great, and it works with any app (as opposed to the Note 10.1, where it only worked with Samsung apps). So, I'm not saying Samsung is devoid of good ideas - clearly they aren't. But there are so many tweaks and oddities and extras to wade through in TouchWiz that it feels like Samsung isn't actually sure what people will find useful - they just put in everything. Simply having dual-pane multitasking alone isn't worth the extra baggage for me - I'd gladly give it up for a vanilla Android experience in a heartbeat. Samsung really needs to learn that less is more sometimes.

It's sad, but you want to know what my most desired "feature" in TouchWiz is? A button that turns it off.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Keep an open mind and stay civil here, folks. No need for excessive fanboyism.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      Artem, most of the people here are giving their reasons why they disagree with the article. That isn't fanboyism.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I posted the first comment of the article, before anyone else chimed in.

    • ari_free

      Some people have an agenda to only want stock android so anything else that's added just 'has' to be bad.

  • http://twitter.com/deMes2Boules deMes2Boules

    lol @ It's sad, but you want to know what my most desired "feature" in TouchWiz is? A button that turns it off.
    So true

    • oneillperson

      All hail Android 4.2.

    • http://papped.webatu.com papped

      Depends on the hardware too. Touchwiz runs terribly on the US Galaxy Note w S3...

  • http://www.facebook.com/omacranger Logan Graham

    I really don't understand the hate of modern day TouchWiz. In the past TouchWiz was a huge piece of junk, but with modern day software, it's becoming something that people can learn to enjoy. Hell, I even rolled back to a custom ICS-TouchWiz ROM for my Galaxy Note due to the crazy amount of features that I was missing before. While I can agree with you on some of the points, I have to disagree with the Direct Call and Smart Stay. Both of those I would love to have on my Note (I know there are applications in the market for it). I frequently call from the messaging applications because people just send me a text saying "Call when you get the chance" etc. The smart stay, I always end up adjusting the screen-on time depending on the application (also, Perapp helps a bit). Some applications I don't end up touching the screen for a while when I am reading so the screen tends to time out (Play Magazines, damn you Google). While I do think that some things are Gimmicks, S-Voice is a prime example, I think that TouchWiz really closes the gap between people needing to download loads of applications to acquire things that should already come stock in Android - stopwatch, built in toggles, the works. While it's not the best, it's certainly better than having bone-stock for people who are not used to Android like we are.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I don't think David is arguing specifically about whether Smart Stay or Direct Call are good features, but rather that their implementations are wonky. I like both of them in theory, and I think Direct Call is implemented well enough, but Smart Stay doesn't work half the time.

      Do we really need them or are they there for the sake of jam packing the phone full of features? I'd say Direct Call is awesome and useful (I'd use it quite a bit if I had a TouchWiz phone currently), but Smart Stay is more of a gimmick in its current implementation. Still, though, Direct Call being there doesn't hurt anything and doesn't kill the battery too much since it's just a proximity sensor being on for a short time, so I welcome the feature.

      The article has a deeper meaning, however, and I appreciate David's ideas on the whole thing.

      • Levi Wilcox

        The point is that these are innovative features, even if they weren't implemented perfectly on the first attempt.

      • http://www.facebook.com/omacranger Logan Graham

        I can't say I've personally had experience with Smart Stay over time. I love the idea and wish it were better implemented throughout though, I can understand it being a bit buggy.

        While we don't necessarily need them, they are nice things to have. Direct Call, for example, imagine if there wasn't a call button built into the messaging application and every time you had to manually go to the phone app, then call the person you just got done texting. I'm not saying it's necessary, they are things that I personally think adds to the phone. Although I wouldn't use a floating video thing on a phone, I do use Stick It! quite a bit on my tablet and think it's a great idea. Definitely not a gimmick.

        Don't get me wrong, I wasn't bashing the article. I love your guys' work.

      • BrandoHD

        If this article had a deeper meaning, he didn't communicate it well at all, I just read it over and it seems like, if the feature is either not well implemented or he doesn't use it, it's not an "innovation".

        His arguments are too far reaching, take for example, auto-brightness, I doubt that it was perfectly implemented by the first manufacturer that implemented it, some manufacturers have issues with it up to this day, and it may have been seen as a gimmick when it first came out, but look at now.

        The article is off base because what he calls gimmicky today, I can look 5 to 6 years into the feature and see it as being standard on all devices, and I don't mean only smartphones.

        A television that is able to tell if the person who is watching has fell asleep - SmartStay

        An individual sends you a text message that says "call me" and you just raise the device to your ear - Direct Call

        I mean, who knew that we would be living in a time where a person would be dissatisfied with a device that had a 2.8 inch screen, a 3 megapixel camera and no data connection

        These are the beginnings of the technologies, lets hope they are improved

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      I don't get screen timeout at all. I hit the power button and turn the screen off when I am done using my device. Why would I waste battery by letting the screen time out?

      Hit Power -> Do stuff -> Hit Power again. My screen timeout is something like 5 minutes. My screen is on when I want it on, and off when I want it off.

      • http://www.facebook.com/omacranger Logan Graham

        There are times when I just text and then lay the phone down, which makes me want to have a low screen timeout to keep the screen from staying on. I guess I'm also a bit paranoid considering my original Galaxy S developed a broken power button over time. I'd rather have half the usage of the power button (I have the International one, so the home button also wakes it) to help make it last longer.

        • Andrew Ridgway

          I found this great application called screen off and lock it's a software button that locks your screen... I use it for exactly this reason as I am more like the guy at the top and prefer to tell my machine when to sleep not it tell me

          • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

            I used this for quite awhile but it has issues with Android 4.0.1 on my Note LTE, so I can't use it til that's fixed.

      • Fifth313ment

        I do the same thing and I usually get two to three days battery life on my EVO LTE!

      • ssj4Gogeta

        What if you forget to press it? What if your phone lights up because of something else in your pocket? Like that phone call you couldn't receive in a crowded bus?

        • PhilNelwyn

          Yeah, if you do without screen timeout as Ron suggests, you'd better not forget to hit the power button...
          When you miss a call, on the other hand, the phone remains in locked state, and the lock screen has an independent timeout setting.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

            Like I said, I have a 5 minute timeout, not "No timeout." If my screen turns on and I don't turn it off, it's not the end of the world, the point is it never turns off when I don't want it to.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Oh, ok.
            I completely misunderstood your comment.
            I think that the opening sentence is pretty confusing.

            Still wouldn't it be nice not to have to even think about the screen state?
            I always hit the power button too, and I'd like to have the screen automatically turned off as soon as I put my phone away.

      • PhilNelwyn

        I do it too, but what would you say of a phone that wouldn't have a screen timeout setting? I doubt it'd be in the "pros" section of your review... ;)

        And wouldn't it be nice if it was done automatically?
        Hit power (?) -> Do stuff.

  • http://papped.webatu.com papped

    I don't think Touchwiz really brings much of anything to the table... Samsung is doing well because of the amount of handsets, release speeds, screens, advertising, not touchwiz...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      Yep. They would be just as successful with stock Android (or really any other skin). I would rather they can the software team and spend the R&D money on better materials.

      • Fifth313ment

        I agree 100% and that's why I'm excited for the new Nexus program! It really takes it to Apple and the fragmentation issue.

      • http://twitter.com/sam1am John Samuel αΩ

        What if they released a version with Cyanogenmod? Would you make the same arguments against Cyanogenmod or MIUI or any other overlayed flavor of Android? After all, pretty much everything Cyanogenmod does was already done elsewhere.

    • MicroNix

      Yes, but their advertising highlights all the features that this article basically says are useless. Yet they're flying off the shelves. Let's be happy that at least one Android handset maker is killing it and almost becoming their own cult.

      • http://papped.webatu.com papped

        Doesn't mean causation though. Advertising penetration isn't the same thing as advertising content or relevance.

        Touchwiz is more of a negative than a positive.

        • MicroNix

          I have to disagree. I'd rather take a picture with TW on a GS3 than on a Nexus with vanilla.

          • http://papped.webatu.com papped

            I'd rather take a picture on Sense than TW (along with the rest of the world). Also there's a ton of apps out there to change the picture taking experience over stock.

          • MicroNix

            @papped:disqus: Believe me, I've tried all of those camera apps out there after owning a Droid 3 with the worst camera software on the market and none of them gives as good of an experience as the Samsung software does. Maybe HTC is better (to be honest, the last HTC phone I owned was a Touch Pro 2 so I've never played with an Android one) but saying TW is more of a negative than a positive isn't really correct. And I've had both vanilla and moto skinned Android. TW, IMHO, is way more useful than Blur ever was and has added nice features over vanilla. But opinions are opinions, aren't they?

          • http://papped.webatu.com papped

            Yes opinions are opinions, that's the point. Motoblur never really was "good" overall though, even if they managed to add "something" useful. Just like Sense was crap in various revisions in the past. But Sense 4.1 kernel gives a lot of other kernels a run for their money, same goes for the camera...

          • ari_free

            OEM's don't want their customers to have to look through thousands of apps to get the best out of the box experience. If the phone has a camera then it needs a camera app that does everything.

    • http://twitter.com/sam1am John Samuel αΩ

      I disagree. Many similarly-spec'd phones have been released but the SGS3 was majorly hyped. What did they show in their keynote? They spent about 30 seconds on hardware and the bulk of the time talking about features of touchwiz.

      All the articles I read about the sgs3 after that announcement talked mostly about the software features. I know it's the features I saw in their keynote that made ME lust after an sgs3. I think it plays into it more than you give credit for.

      • http://papped.webatu.com papped

        They should release a SGS3 stock-ish and see what happens... too bad they never will.

        Also 99.9% of end consumers aren't looking at keynotes, please...

    • ari_free

      So you really think the Note sold millions because it was just a really big phone?

      • http://papped.webatu.com papped

        Yep. Put it in a 4.5" housing and watch the numbers drop.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

    Dear David,
    YOU ARE AWESOME.
    Love, Ron

  • http://www.facebook.com/dariena Darien Allen

    I'd sure like to know what web browser you use on your phone... Boat Browser is fast and renders well for me...

  • Glenn

    You're definitely right on the 'Samsung needs it for the commercials and announcements with orchestras' point. One thing Samsung probably leads the way in, more than HTC or any other Android manufacturer, is wanting people to say 'I use/have a Samsung'. They don't want you to think it's Android, they want you to think Samsung phones are Samsung.

    For how useless some of the S **** features are, that is the primary reason they're there. Why advertise Google Now when I can advertise my S products?

    • ari_free

      I think Samsung lost a big opportunity by not having one ad about Google Nav. They wanted to talk about their own features but they could've killed Apple Maps if they wanted to.

  • froggyperson

    I personally use s-beam a lot since my gf and a few of my friends have sg3s, I find it extremely useful, though it would be nice if Samsung licensed s-beam to other android OEMs as they already have the technology built in and it also helps the android platform as a whole. Most of the motion gestures are useless to me though, and the same applies to smart stay, a novel idea that isn't well implemented or fully thought through. But I'd much rather have too many different features to decide which ones I'd like to activate or not than too few.

    • Fifth313ment

      I don't agree with licensing S Beam out at all. I think Samsung should release an app for all Android and simply put their name on it. Samsung would get the brand name recognition and they would also make it easier for other Android users to share with their Samsung phones. I'm tired of companies trying to market everything. I think they should have more Android and phone alliances where the companies could share technologies to make phones better. I understand though that most companies are just money hungry. Sigh...

      • iTKe2k

        same here i wish they will release an app so any device could transfer files using wifi in one small step

        • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

          Well Wifi-Direct is an open standard I'm pretty sure. It should be there on the Htc One series phones just as it's on my Note LTE and my cousin's GS3.

          • iTKe2k

            you are right lol, how was i so blind
            i have wifi direct as well on my sgs2
            i just noticed it now O.o
            so one would assume its on all most ics devices?

          • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

            I hope so. I like sharing music with people so I'd like it to get out there more. A lot of my friends are iSheep though so that's a major bummer.

          • k2hsharpe

            it's on my gingerbread S2, so not just ICS?

          • Fifth313ment

            I tried it only once with my EVO LTE (HOX series) and a Samsung GS2 and it didn't work. We could connect but there was no file browser to send or find the files we needed. And when we used a third party app like Explorer it refused to allow the option to send via Direct or Wifi direct, beam, etc. No options and no way to browse. It is very similar to early Bluetooth phones that supported file sharing. Yeah in theory you could share but no phones actually had a file browser to figure out what you wanted to share, lol.

          • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

            Yeah it worked really well for my Note LTE and my cousin's GS3, though those are both Samsung so maybe it's easier for them to be compatible.

  • redsmith

    Exactly my thoughts... Keep it simple, stylish and functional!

  • nwd1911

    I've never owned a Samsung smartphone and this article depicts why. I will say, I'm very intrigued by the Note 2, but wouldn't think of picking one up until the HTC 5" device is announced. Making basic features better is one area I think Apple has found success. Don't get me wrong, I will never own another Apple product again, but you have to give credit where it is due. I had the same thoughts about many of the features Samsung was touting during the unveiling of the GS3...would I actually ever use that?

    • ari_free

      "Making basic features better is one area I think Apple has found success."
      I think those days are over.

  • jammer

    My favorite feature of the GS3 is that I was able to install a custom ROM on it.

  • Levi Wilcox

    Some stuff is gimmicky but they have some really nice camera improvements as well as that "won't turn screen off while you're looking at it", or "smart stay". That seems like a pretty awesome feature to me as well as the screen rotation that detects your facial orientation. I think many people hate touchwiz, just cause that's what all the cool kids said back in the day. If some of these features aren't enough to at least peak your curiosity, just keep drinking that hateraide and stop posting useless articles.

  • http://twitter.com/LeeNephi Lee Smithson

    Indeed.

  • http://halljake.com Jake Hall

    Lots of good points, to be sure, but there are some applications where turning off if you don't touch the screen for (insert your timeout length) seconds is exactly what you want and there are some where you want it to stay on longer. I'm legitimately interested to see what Samsung and others can do with the idea of smart stay.

    Also, I call people from text messages all. the. time. (relatively speaking, of course. most of my calls come from texts but I don't call people that often to begin with) Whether the reply someone wants is too long to text, or I'm driving, etc. It's a minor feature and it's not hard to just click their icon and then call but I can see that being useful as well.

    Otherwise, totally agree!

  • MicroNix

    Ok, keeping an open mind and staying civil, I have to only say that it appears someone had a bone to pick with Samsung because not finding usefulness in Smart Stay is *not* going to be a majority opinion. Its cool as heck, especially for reading those long news articles where you don't scroll very often or get partially interrupted. Sure a lot of TouchWiz is fluff, but IMHO, its the best Android skin on new phones today (everyone else will probably have a different choice and that's great).

    Look the Galaxy S3 is the outselling just about everything right now and even the iPhone 5 launch has done nothing to the pace. These guys must be doing *something* right vs their Android competition. And this article pretty much just talked down every one of those differentiating differences. One can only be left scratching their head after reading this....

    • http://papped.webatu.com papped

      Opinion pieces aren't supposed to be about majority opinion. It's an opinion...

      • PhilNelwyn

        Except that it constantly refers to majority opinion:

        "Never once in my life have I heard a person complain 'I wish my phone’s screen would stay on longer' [...]."
        "I doubt most people who own Galaxy S III's [...] have any desire to use it."
        "[...] who would use such things?"
        "[...] most people are just going to ignore it."
        "[...] most people are just going to do what they already do [...]."
        "[...] which destroys the usefulness of it for most normal human beings."
        Etc...

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Олег-Цой/100002515142603 Олег Цой

      Right, if nothing is useful or innovative then get an Iphone5 and it will make your social status.

  • Max Barlow

    You know what the best features/innovation is? They're the things that in 5 to 10 years time we will look at and think "Oh wow! It's so simple and so clever, how did we ever live without it?!". Those are the things I look forward too in mobile technology. They're the things I look for with every new phone release, but it doesn't happen as often as it used to because it can't keep that same pace forever. We will have slow spells where not much happens, but you will also have a year or two where new feature after feature will come out.

    • Fifth313ment

      Not if Apple has their way! It's OK for them to steal the notification shade but not OK for Android to steal the slide to unlock?! My cousin just got the iPhone 5 and she loves that if she misses a call she could send a text response back (if on a call too) or have the phone remind her later. I was like my OG EVO had that two years ago (text back). My EVO LTE has both the text busy and remind features. Both BEFORE Apple! HTC should sue, lol! NOT!

  • Fifth313ment

    Hey David GREAT article! I really loved it and agree with you 100%! I have stayed away from Samsung phones because of TouchWiz, however I might consider getting one if the specs were right. I personally love HTC phones and Sense. Most people either love or hate sense. I personally think for the older versions of Android Sense made the OS easier to use and more functional (and bloated). The older versions of sense were slower and added unneeded features like TouchWiz which slowed their phones down but now Sense is blazing fast on my EVO LTE! I also love the skinning and the ability to make the phone mine. The newer versions of Sense are damn near identical to ICS with just the skinning to go along. Please do an article on HTC to contrast their realizing that they were slowing down their phones and went to a version of sense less bloated. It could be a followup to this article! Thanks and keep up the great work! Could you respond to this comment either way with your answer? Thanks again! :)

  • Michael

    The Direct Call feature not gona lie is one that I would use all the time. I usually go to texts to call someone because most of the time I was just talking to them over text. and the screen timeout is good too, you have never showed someone a picture or a text and the screen shut off or just trying to read something close and aren't touching and the screen turns off.

  • http://twitter.com/sam1am John Samuel αΩ

    Innovation is about more than implementing features or designs - it's also about bringing it to the consumer. I'm sure something like smart stay exists, but Samsung was the first to ship a phone with it. It is now a feature of their phone, not an app that you can install.

    If we're going to draw a hard line and say if someone has done it before or someone does it better after you do it than it's not "innovation", and that "innovation" isn't iterative, than nothing is innovation.

    This seems like a whole argument over semantics about whether or not you get to call touchwiz "innovative." Seriously ... who cares? Why would you care enough to make an argument that it's not if not some personal vendetta or distaste?

  • BrandoHD

    What I don't understand for some people is the fact that they try to use their own experience as an example for the world to follow, okay, you don't use the features, you don't find them useful, well okay, cool, that's YOUR scenario, there would be other like you, but there are also others that are not, how difficult is this to see.

    Smart stay is a pretty good idea, it doesn't work well now, but hopefully it can be improved and I wish all of my gadgets would stay awake when I am and would go to sleep when I fall asleep, Smart stay is a brilliant idea for me, I use my phone lying on the couch or the bed and I always have to touch the screen to keep the phone awake, increasing the awake time is not the solution, Smart Stay is

    Direct Call is also very useful, I used it today, I got a message from someone and instead of replying, I just read the message and held the phone up to my ear, I could have achieved the same by just tapping the call button, but it is just convenient, so why not, you sound like a guy who would find keyless entry unnecessary, it's not totally necessary to push a button on your key and have the doors unlock when the key is already in your hands, why not just eliminate keyless entry and unlock the door by turning the key.

    I could go on and on, but the point of my post is too show, YOU are not the one to determine whether the feature is useful or not, the customers, as a collective would, many features started off as "gimmicks" and are now very useful, just look at smartphones, it was once a gimmick to browse the internet from your phone, tablet computing was a gimmick, having internet connectivity from your phone was a gimmick, to some, it still is a gimmick, but, for many, it is now the standard.

    • http://papped.webatu.com papped

      So everything is "useful" and nothing should ever be negative then? We'll all just sit around a campfire and sing songs... Also things can't be criticized in the potential that "people" might collectively find it useful down the road...

      • PhilNelwyn

        Everything's not necessarily useful, but that doesn't mean it's useless for everyone.
        Unlike Apple, Samsung doesn't decide for you on what's useful.

        • abhi

          yeah thats why apple sucks n android rocks....

      • darrylms

        Try engaging in the conversation like an adult.

        • http://papped.webatu.com papped

          Adults don't get their feelings hurt like kids...

    • azhrv

      "What I don't understand for some people is the fact that they try to use their own experience as an example for the world to follow, okay, you don't use the features, you don't find them useful, well okay, cool, that's YOUR scenario, there would be other like you, but there are also others that are not, how difficult is this to see."

      Second this.
      Each person has different opinions. Innovating means giving something new to people. whether they like it or not, Trial and error is a necessity. Introduce new features and see how the market respond. If many people like them, then you are stepping in the right direction. That's how things work. Not just in smartphones, but also in other products.

      If you don't want to be somebody's guinea pigs, then the solution is simple. Don't buy new products.

    • AaronGingrich

      I couldn't agree more. Most of these features are at worst neutral, and at best helpful. Even if they're only helpful for some people, some of the time, that's better than not at all. It's not like having features you don't use hurts you.

    • MartinTran

      Excellent post. I completely agree. Although it may not be a useful feature for some people others have used a lot of Touchwiz 'smart' features. SmartStay is definitely one feature I'd love to see for all phones as it is a main reason why I will be sticking to Samsung based ROMs for my S3 (I have used ISeeYou and the app is more battery draining). After playing around with the Note 2 and the video preview feature, I can see Samsung still trying to do stuff that will add features to Touchwiz. The best thing about pretty much all of the Touchwiz stuff? You don't HAVE to use them if you don't want to. You can disable pretty much every feature or change nearly everything.

      • Sarah

        I got the note 2 and the smart stay works very well ....ciao!!

    • Fozziwig

      And don't forget: "David's phone is an HTC One X..". The article might have more credibility (but probably not) if David's phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3. Will David be writing a report on the Gimmicks of the HTC X1? He should at least be more familiar with those.

    • hot_spare

      Totally agree. Latest example is the multi-tasking feature in Note 10.1 and Note 2. You have to start at one point and then evolve from there. It's not possible to get it right in first attempt. Some things which doesn't work at all will be removed slowly in future, others with potential will be carried forward with better implementation.

      Check this out if you want to see multi-tasking in action from AC:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6c7XaDWmJg

      • PhilNelwyn

        At last a video truly demonstrating it.
        That's impressively flawless. Awesome feature.

        • hot_spare

          Another feature that is missed by many is the hover function of S Pen which works as a mouse pointer. Great for full desktop websites.

          http://youtu.be/ealqvz196M0?t=8m39s

          Check the video around 8:40 mark.

    • Jatin

      i m completely agree with u, i have many videos in my GSIII and SBeam is the fastest way to share them with ur friends it takes less than 3 mins to share 700 mb video file

    • bytewise

      Smartstay and direct call are really innovative. It is especially good because it is not intrusive. If you like pressing the call button go ahead. Direct call is not going to stop you.

    • Gaye Christianson

      I was searching for a place to see if there was a way to PURGE useless app(s) on my Samsung Galaxy ll Aviator (specifically DAILY PERKS!) and came upon your article and I have to disagree with the following statement~
      "Never once in my life have I heard a person complain 'I wish my phone’s screen would stay on longer' [...]."

      So, here I go....I WISH MY PHONE'S SCREEN WOULD STAY ON LONGER!!!
      (I only read the 1st page of comments so I may NOT be your 1st. ;)

      Being a VERY impatient person has taught me a lesson and to NEVER EVER upgrade to a phone that "just comes out!!"
      JUST in case someone happens upon this article and just HAPPENS to be thinking about buying someone else's AVIATOR, I'd like to make the following statement standout.

      SAMSUNG GALAXY ll AVIATOR SUCKS!

      One of MY problems (probably a defect ONLY on my phone(?) is that I couldn't hang the phone up or check more than 1 or 2 messages at a time as the screen would go BLACK and never come back on.
      When I brought it in for a DIFFERENT problem, I mentioned this to the sales person and she told me how to go into my SETTINGS and change the time-out or push the Power Button.
      (I MAY be STUPID enough to have gotten the ANDROID but NOT so stupid that I didn't already DO what she was suggesting.)
      The TIMEOUT was set at 10 minutes (didn't matter) and pushing the ON/OFF switch disconnected my phone call.
      All she said when I demonstrated this was, "Huh!"
      As I said, I was only MENTIONing that fact as I had already downloaded an app called SCREEN ON and my screen now allows ME to hang up on people (YES!!! :) and I can now save, delete, forward, etc. my messages.

  • http://twitter.com/WarDraker Hary Ayala

    Hear Hear for a button to turn it off ^_^

  • FadyMahfouz

    You can always get AOSP on your device. In my opinion TW is the best Android modification out there, average user always prefers it. I have a friend who sold his Galaxy Nexus in favor of galaxy s2 ! he said and I quote : "Samsung Android is much better and friendlier than Google Android" an he doesn't know the difference between AOSP and any other iteration of Android. Ask the normal user the would say TW is better, not for me though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677335368 Sill Ming

      so your friend just sold away his chance of getting latest Android update for a phone that don't even have JB? Sounds about right

  • Abhinay Mukunthan

    I'm no fan of Touchwiz, in fact, I got rid of it on my Galaxy S (yes, the original!) within a week of buying it over two+ years back now. But, I do think that some of the features have merit, *if* they work as described.

    I like the idea of smart-stay. A lot of the time, I read a webpage on my phone and I keep having to turn on the screen after it hits the timeout and turns off automatically, simply because I have a large amount of text to get through. Similarly, the whole call from SMS thing. There are a lot of times, when I'd be in the middle of an SMS conversation and I just feel like calling instead, because I'm short on time and/or its too cumbersome to type.

    I get that the whole NFC-file-sharing is gimmicky, but I think it'd become useful if all Android manufacturers collaborated on it and made it useful for other things. Tap to share a web-site that you're browsing. Tap-to share a youtube video that you think is hilarious. Tap to share business cards or Wi-Fi network settings. It really needs to be more interoperable and intuitive. I think it will get there, but I think that Sammy just wanted to put the concept out there, so it can claim to have invented it (and hence not get sued) when others inevitable find better uses for it. Also helps that it is good for marketing.

    I'll say it right now. I still dislike Touchwiz. Its smooth and all, but I prefer the stock CM9/10 experience with Nova thrown in. But some of these features do have long-term merit. They can be used for innovations in the future. And if a certain fruity company comes around and does something clever with it, Samsung can easily ape it and claim that it created it all along.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      Android Beam comes stock with Ice Cream Sandwhich on a phone with NFC, so you can share a website or youtube video etc. S-Beam is just Samsung linking it up with wifi direct sharing, so you can do that across all android manufacturers already.

      • iTKe2k

        i thought Android Beam can transfer using wifi direct too?
        if its not then that is a BiG difference, i shared a few files over bluetooth yesterday and it was slow and time consuming....

        if i will be able to do the same with wifi across different phones i'm all for it

        "just Samsung linking it up with wifi"
        thats what innovation is all about improving on existing idea's, making it better
        different from invention which is making stuff without basing it on prior art, stuff that don't exist yet.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

          Oh don't get me wrong, I think it's great and I'll use it whenever possible just for the sake of using it lol. I just wish it could be open for non-Samsung devices and I think with Jelly Bean the straight Android version of it will be just as useful.

          • iTKe2k

            then we share the same views :-)
            i wish this will be a standard among smartphones
            because it it useful and far from being a gimmick

            the only smartphones that cant transfer files with standard technology i know of are iphones
            ever tried to send a ringtone or a clip/picture to a friend with an iphone?
            yup bluetooth, same thing but only iphone-to-iphone...

            having more features on a smartphone is not a bad thing,
            having less is another story...

          • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

            Yeah it's frustrating that iPhones can't do anything with any other phones other than call and text. I think even Wifi-Direct does more than either "beam" and that's supposed to be cross platform.

          • ari_free

            Bluetooth is so slow. People want to share videos they've just taken with all their friends.

        • Mike

          Stock Android doesn't support Wifi Direct. The handshake is NFC but the transfer is executed over bluetooth. Samsung's S Beam uses wifi direct which I have personally used (both) and is much faster.

  • roger

    I had the same feelings as the writer. All of them, I always preference vanilla. But I have to say the motion controls I find myself using all the time, smart stay work great when reading on the train. I love PopUp Play. Nothings better then watching your favorite sitcom while checking your facebook with no interruptions.

    Touchwiz interface I now prefer over stock, and yeah its fast. You say there Gimmics but the thing is they work and I appreciate having a company that throws everything they have behind a phone. If you dont like a feature there is almost always a toggle to disable it. Same goes for bloatware.

  • Edward Smith

    Such a joke!

  • Kurt Wurmser

    I do like Direct Call on my phone, although it can also cause pocket calling (text wife, put phone in pocket, a few minutes later my wife is saying "Hello? Hello?" from my pocket. The gesture-based stuff seems to be mostly going for "cool" factor. Sure, there are a ton of screenshot apps out there if you're rooted, but with TW you wipe across the screen from right to left with the side of your hand, and presto, screenshot. That's just trying to be cool .

    Android's openness is a strength, not a weakness. That applies to the developers making their own ROMS on XDA and the like, and it applies to the big companies too. I say let Samsung go wild with it -- and HTC, and LG, and Motorola. They'll come up with ideas; some will be flops, and some will be pretty cool. If it's not your cup of tea, no problem -- you can always get a Nexus or an AOSP ROM for pretty much any phone out there.

  • Ravenuk

    This guy just seems to hate Samsung and android.I bet he has a Apple. And like most things, if you have to much, you end up hating it. And apple is to big and is now bulling other companies cos it is losing to a company that is leading the way with what I think it's a better product.

  • Freak4Dell

    This is probably the best article ever posted on AP. I agree with everything.

    Except virtual buttons. Fuck virtual buttons.

  • Tim Harper

    I would say the floating video app would be good with apps other than the stock video player app. I often listen to songs on YouTube and get frustrated when i get a text that cuts the video off with my popup notification or having to stop the player to see what it is.

  • poseidon5213

    Galaxy note is an example of innovation

  • Michael Haab

    This is about the worst article I have seen, here are some examples of how I use my Galaxy S3 everyday.

    When I am on a long bus or train journey I can copy videos to my phone to watch on the journey, then I get an email, or text hit the popup play button and check the message people do this all the time.

    I like having my screen on a short time out (30s-1min) this increases my battery life when I don't press the power button to put it to sleep, which makes smartstay extremely useful.

    I have no problems getting palm swipe for a screenshot to work, 100% of the time.

    Turn over to mute/pause is also useful perhaps at work place it screen down on your desk and it will not make a noise, while it only saves a few seconds with notification controls it still has a use (slightly more gimmicky though)

    I also get texts from my sister saying "ring me" all the time because she is on PAYG and I am on contract, it costs me less to call her making direct call extremely useful.

    Battery life while I do agree it could be better guess what it's a powerful phone (quad core CPU is a huge battery drain) with a huge screen (another huge battery drain) make battery life lower. If you want battery life get a Nokia 3310.

    Also plastic, it is a fantastic material for phones, because it absorbs impact, the only reason screens break easier on the SGS3 is because the bezel is so thin. Car bumpers are made of plastic for a reason. Metal doesn't absorb impact at all the shock goes straight through it and glass just shatters on impact making the phone useless.

    Kevlar will be nice... if you plan on shooting your phone and carbon fiber will just push prices up even more for little advantage for the shock a phone will recieve (unless you plan to launch your phone at a wall over 100 MPH.

    So apparently because one person doesn't use these features no one else will and I am not normal. Please I find this article offensive at least get poll results in before posting this BS.

    • ari_free

      Carbon fiber may interfere with radio signal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Very entertaining article. I personally like that they're trying lots of new and ridiculous things. Even if some don't stick, I like those sort of things. You know what I miss? Sliding my finger along the notification bar to change my brightness on the stock gingerbread original Note. It was lost in the ICS update unfortunately. Really I think Samsung is doing more than the other OEMs and I'm glad that they're more successful because of this. Brb going to try and find a 64GB Galaxy Note 2 to import to the States.

    • k2hsharpe

      that finger sliding brightness control is the reason i won't update my Galaxy S2 from gingerbread ...
      on such small things lives flounder
      LOL

  • kervation

    Ninety percent of these actions you could automate with the app Tasker on practically any Android phone. Although I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus it is devoid of all these "additions" and I am running pure rooted stock Jelly Bean which does the job for me. Well written op-ed piece. Why the backlash for the article? I guess people can't express their viewpoints anymore.

  • John Fair

    This type of article goes out to prove one thing...the reviewer is self opinionated and thinks they're the shh. Samsung does innovate and provides a wide range of options for their users whether that single user uses it or not. I don't use all the features on my phone but am glad they are they rather than not. I think it's anti innovation to disregard the innovations that have clearly been designed, tested and utilised for a identified purpose.

  • nsnsmj

    Great read, and I agree. I've got no problems with Samsung adding features, but there's no need to change the look and feel of Android in the process. Most of what Samsung's added features are just apps, or things that could be added without skinning. The rest of the S-crap Samsung is so keen on calling their own product, isn't. They just added something to already existing software and call it their own.

    S-beam -> Android Beam
    S-Planner -> Stock Android calendar
    S-Voice -> Vlingo

    The majority of Samsung's apps are just the stock Android apps with ugly skins.

    The S3 design is also just a repurposed Galaxy Nexus, but without the curves and an added ugly home button.

    Also, there are way too many Samsung fanboys here, who seem incapable of accepting criticism of their beloved company.

    • kervation

      I agree and I own a GNex.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      In what way is S3 just a re-purposed Galaxy Nexus? Don't tell me because they both have a screen and a bezel. They have different SoCs, different batteries, different screens, different designs, different cameras, and I believe different basebands.

      • kervation

        The S3 is for the masses. What he is trying to say is that the S3 is for less technically inclined users who don't care about receiving timely software updates and will be happy with the phone for the next two years.

        The "bells and whistles" will make you happy while your phone is passed by in specs and software updates a month from now. The carriers control your phone, Nexus devices get their software updates direct from Google with no middleman.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          For what it's worth, I buy my phones unlocked. Carriers in my country just provide data and voice services, they've got nothing to do with phones. And because they don't subsidize phones, their services are very cheap (1cent per minute and $30 for 10GB data), there are no tethering charges, and the phones are unlocked with no contracts.

  • BrianBreniser

    I agree with this post. Good job! Although the actual point by point comparison is kind of moot. The experiences one person has vary from person to person. But there is one point you really can't argue with. And is the primary reason I hate touchwiz (and all other skins), they are change for the sake of change. They all just want their products to be unique... No one is trying to make android better, they are making it DIFFERENT.

    If you could turn it off, then who would care, right? But you can't. And more importantly, it is ruining the experience of native Android. I've seen phones go years with no updates, phones where the updates only cripple the phone, and none of this has to do with google. All of it has to do with the manufacturer.

    They are shooting themselves in the foot trying to COMPETE with android. I know, they are using android so how are they competing with it? they bring out features side by side with android and then disable (in some cases) native android apps. S-Voice? Siri-knockoff, google now? Serious contender to the possibilities of how you might use your phone in the future. Software buttons are standard, but Samsung continues to have a physical (not even capacitive) button dead low and centered. A direct knockoff of its ios copy-cat days.

    Touchwiz is bullshit. Even Mororola/htc etc. software is bullshit. I hope Google makes motorola shed its skin and create 100% skin free android phones. And I hope that all nexus phones from every manufacturer become the most popular android phones so we don't leave good phones in the past with outdated software.

    Oh, and Samsung has to get rid of the cartoon look. Every time I look at it I want to vomit.

    • azhrv

      One thing that android have over iOS & WP is UI customization. You don't always have to use native android skins. You can change it with whatever you like. That's why each phone maker made their own skin. It's not about COMPETING with android, it's about making their products UNIQUE.
      People who love Sense will prioritize HTC phones in their buy list. People who like touchwiz wil consider samsung. People who love native android themes will buy Nexus phones. If you hate the skins, you can always look for alternatives in the market.

      With millions of S3 (& incoming Note 2) sold, you can expect Touchwiz will linger on in the next few years. For samsung, it shows that Touchwiz is acceptable to their customers, It doesn't matter to them if you hate it.

  • Isidhu

    I think the issue here is choice. A few of people might want most of the features, some might use just a few and a few just think its a gimmick (including me). The problem with the 2nd and third group is there is no choice to either remove these intrusive features or go back to the stock AOSP options like Google now. That is the only reason I have personally never bought a samsung device. If only it had a turn off option for these features I would gladly hand over my money (Looking at you next Nexus)

  • DeadSOL

    David, while I completely agree with you, here's one thing to remember;

    If Samsung doesn't come out with these new features right now, Apple WILL and they'll patent it. Then, they'll make it look like a feature that people can't live without and people WILL follow. iSheep are iSheep.

    I'd rather that Samsung keeps coming up with innovative and new features than an iSheep telling me that his iCrap can do stuff that my flagship Samsung model can't.

  • Runey

    You made no mention of the actually useful Kies service? Maybe it's 'too niche' for your tastes despite your 20 something years using technology but I find the Kies intranet connectivity very useful for sending things to and from my computer sans cables.
    Poor smartphone Internet browsing can be attributed to terrible Web designers after all we still have Internet Explorer optimized websites. That exists in 2012.
    That being said some of the other apps are indeed useless, and tacked on crap. Pop up play is cool and a precursor to what multitasking will come to mean in smartphones soon... Windowed mode apps. The note ii makes mention of it already.

  • Spc14

    I find smart say incredibly useful and have never found no problems with it!, I know you can extend the screen on time but that can waste battery so I think the smart say idea is awesome

    • ari_free

      Yeah simply extending the time is I'm sorry, a pretty dumb response.

  • http://twitter.com/_KID_ANDROID_ KID ANDROID

    I completely disagree, other than the voice command feature I use every feature that Samsung has & absolutely love them. It makes no sense to say you'd rather have vanilla Android then have the option to use the great features Samsung brings to the table. Is like saying I'd rather go to an ice cream parlor that only serves ice cream then a place that gives you the option to add toppings like sprinkles or fudge or nutts ect, you might not get toppings but it's great to have the option. There are many Samsung features that surprise me at how much I use them & enjoy my device so much more because of them. They are definitely innovations & are in their early stages, everything starts off being finicky when it's first created & when they perfect these innovations and they are innovations it will make use of your device much easier & more of a joy to use. I really don't understand your views here sorry, I love Samsungs innovations & they seem to be the only company putting effort into their devices vices. - KID ANDROID ( TEAM.ANDROID.CANADA)

  • Spc14

    Smart *stay

  • Brian Knapp

    I prefer the look and feel of stock Android. My G1 and G2 were both a stock experience. My reason for wanting a Nexus is not only stock, but faster updates. However, I will be buying a Samsung TouchWiz device (Note II) when it comes out because the upcoming Nexus devices will likely lack an SD card slot and removable battery. Despite TouchWiz, the GS3 and Note II are well rounded in terms of hardware. I want my phone to last me 2-3 years and expandable storage and removable battery are a huge part of making that work.

  • cooldoods

    I've been using TouchWiz on my Samsung Galaxy S 4G and now on my Galaxy Note for over a year now. It's not really that innovative but it's easy to transition my desktop experience on to it because of its focus on menus, homescreens, and folders. That said, I just purchased Nova Launcher during the Play Store sale and I've been using it as my default launcher for its ability to squeeze up to 7x7 icons on each screen and up to 7 icons in the dock.

    I think Samsung not playing around much with big changes to stock Android is good considering that they've been able to push out firmware updates at a better rate (still behind, but better). Smart Stay is a feature I would greatly appreciate if it works well, because I do a lot of reading but I like to keep my screen's awake time short. The palm swipe screenshot is also a time-saver for me instead of wrestling with buttons, to combat any horizontal scroll introduced by the swipe motion I just scroll the view a bit to the right before swiping. Otherwise the S Pen can take screenshots with a button press.
    S Voice I think is extraneous but I commend Samsung for trying. Perhaps they have some vision for it, like better localized content, if they ever get it right.

    The video popup feature is nice and can be useful at times, the Note II version even lets you resize the picture and might find its way to the S3 in future. As for the lift to ear to call function, it's a time saver when you've already been texting with the person and decide to switch to voice. It's two steps less.

  • willbeh

    Smartstay could be better implemented. Use it and set the screen timeout at 15s. Give us some night vision for that :)

  • anjarys

    Totally agree. Touchwiz is awesome but somehow, bloated. Thats why i trade my s3 for gnex for the sake of simplicity. And i just did.

  • k2hsharpe

    I'm a fan of TW
    with the addition of a couple of apps and widgets (primarily SIMI Folder app & SIMI Clock widget) i have my fone down to 2 home screens with minimal clutter on each. Over the past 2 years iv'e bought a number of apps that i don't use simply cos TW does it simpler / does it better for my needs.

    for the author and those vehemently & vocally upset by TW there is a simple elegant solution - don't
    buy
    samsung

    or buy samsung and root or use different launcher, what ever ....
    but either way, ffs stop all this whining.

  • yarrellray

    Samsung has nothing to be ashamed of whatsoever. Touchwiz offers far more than stock android ever will. I have been on both sides of the fence owning the Verizon Galaxy Nexus then now owning the Galaxy S3 on Tmobile. How the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon worked is the reason why I am now on Tmobile with the Galaxy S3 . What a big difference it is boring ass stock vs touchwiz industry leading features. If people prefer stock great for them but stock will never have the same api's as skinned devices and applications exist for skinned devices that don't exist for stock android devices. People can keep there stock android experience with inferior hardware and software. No Nexus device will ever top any Galaxy device.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=677335368 Sill Ming

      stock android experience with inferior software. lmao

    • kervation

      The new Nexus device will absolutely obliterate your S3 in the specs department in a month. Get your facts straight before you talk on such things. BTW, good luck with getting the next OS update after Jelly Bean hits your device. Whenever that will be. Your S3 will be obsolete by Christmas.

      • ari_free

        Will this amazing new Nexus be able to play protected divx video? No.

    • squiddy20

      "No Nexus device will ever top any Galaxy device." And yet the last Nexus released was called the *GALAXY* Nexus, and it therefore IS a "Galaxy device". Or do names mean nothing to you all of a sudden?
      "applications exist for skinned devices that don't exist for stock android devices" By that you must mean Samsung's apps. Yeah, like we'd really want those when they're mostly ripoffs of other apps or provide superfluous ways to do the simplest things. Oh and by the way, several apps exist that can be downloaded on any Android device (yes, stock Android too) that does Samsung's "revolutionary" Pop-Up Video even better by allowing content from Youtube and other sources.
      "People can keep there stock android experience with inferior hardware and software." And yet, your SGSIII will need more patchwork/security updates because of the loopholes and zero-day exploits Touchwiz introduces. Yeah, stock is soooo "inferior".

  • @TheMystroSpeaks

    I completely agree!! Just had this argument with some one the other day. I'm a HTC Sense fan and I think its very useful and my brother tried to sell me on the GSIII because of all of these extra features and my main response was "WHEN WOULD YOU EVER NEED THAT IN REAL LIFE" lol

    • ari_free

      I'd rather have GS3's features than Sense's memory management features.

  • ari_free

    Not everything has to be innovative. It's good to add all kinds of little things that you might not notice until you use another phone. But the idea that Samsung isn't very innovative is kinda silly after seeing the Note 2.

  • http://whitemarket.freeforums.org/ Avery Dejuan Herron

    Reading threw this was very painful as it was mostly one sided and ask about what you think would and what doesn't half the issues you said I've never had and yea i do own a galaxy s3. "A keyboard that you draw on to type on a smartphone" yes believe it or not some people have large hands and this is helpful to them, and i use my phone for the internet 98% of the time and its not slow or painful at all..... well maybe on some websites but those i just get on threw my pc...

  • Xeltos

    I dont like virtual buttons. I like hardware buttons. Virtual on screen buttons just get in the way. Eat screen real estate and are very bad for gaming.

  • Laurence

    I mostly agree with this article. And I generally agree with David's philosophy of technology. I would rather have features that are polished and work really well, rather than a grab-bag of "innovations" that are thrown in just to see what works. That said, I do think that Samsung is on to some good ideas here:

    1. Smart stay. I do think this solves a genuine problem. I remember, on my very first Android phone like three years ago, installing the "Screebl" app to solve this very same problem. I uninstalled it because it was buggy, and Samsung's solution seems like a potentially more elegant one.

    2. S-Beam. I've already had use-cases where this would come in handy, eg. I want to send a friend a movie that's on my phone, but we don't have a computer handy. The real problem, as you say, is that it only works you both have an S3. In which case, the real problem isn't the idea itself, but rather the fact that the technology isn't ubiquitous. Solution: Google needs to steal S-Beam and incorporate it into Android Beam so that every Android phone which has NFC and WiFi Direct can do it. I assume that Samsung would be somewhat pissed off about this, but moving from using Bluetooth to WiFi Direct seems like a natural evolution for Android Beam to me.

    I agree with you on the rest. Direct call seems harmless, but I can't see myself ever using it. Pop-up video is dumb, frankly. And the palm-swipe-to-screenshot gesture is idiotic. I would much rather use the generic volume down + power method on vanilla ICS. Like you said, at least that way you don't run the risk of changing the very thing you're trying to take a screenshot of.

  • Ashail

    Out of all the problem points mentioned I would only agree with the last two (ie. plastic material and low-light camera). The remaining items seems to be there just for the sake of adding more points. I have no qualms with the browsing experience, call quality, and display of my S3. Battery-life is far superior to any other smartphone I've used previously (iPhone included). And messy Android UI was a valid argument up until gingerbread. The jellybean based TouchWiZ rom is fantastic and can only be compared to a game of Where's Waldo if you're upgrading from a Nokia.

  • Briscoe

    Hands down worst article. Yeah talk is cheap and the author may want some attention, but sounds like someone who cannot keep up with the latest innovation. I use every feature listed daily basis and I cannot thank Samsung enough for bringing these features to us. Please go educate yourself at least some basic real use case before you start putting out an article next time. Even if some may not work perfectly, innovation is innovation. Nothing is innovation until it's perfect? What kind of non sense is that? Every feature has something called compatibility - so even if it only works for Samsung devices, it does not mean its useless especially when its most popular one out there. if web browsing is not convenient with your phone, some innovative people keep trying to tweak and make it better, while your kind just bash about their hardwork. Please stop this kind of garbage. Please.

    browsing is not convenient with your phone

  • http://twitter.com/acmilan77051 utsav roy

    .we can say anything in the comments,if somehow u dont like our opinion find it offensive,u delete it..we readers tend to bias to one OEM or stock rom or skinned rom..i dont think u should be biased,and bash a company for bringing up with new ideas..some people love it,some people find it useless,when we find it useless,we dont have to be so nice to comment about it,but it's just plain wrong to bash the major and biggest OEM who actually has turned it around for android,i can say pretty much singlehandedly..they did it with their hardware in S1 and S2,and along with hardware they are also improving their software touchwiz,which is the best skin of android,arguably after stock,u name one another OEM,who is actually have done anything in terms of improving stock android experience..even apple has stopped innovating,and when samsung actually tries,u just bash them..we can be hard in the comments,but u guyz are editors writers u shouldn't be so biased against one company..u could have used soft language,instead u lashed it out....u should write same thing about other OEMs,then we shall know u haven't got any gifts from other companies to write this bullshit..

  • Adam Smith

    This was brilliant to read. However after using other people's phones since I got my S3 I must say that smart stay has become something I depend on. A lot of people don't have there screen awake time higher than 30secs and it really annoys me that they flick off since mine doesn't. Obviously it doesn't work in some cases (dark places) but during the day it's a real helper!

  • http://www.facebook.com/artyte Kai Sheng

    Quote: "Samsung isn't actually sure what people will find useful - they just put in everything".

    Isn't this what customisation is all about? Let the user choose what they want and don't want in the software perspective.

  • Itchy_Robot

    They are not gimmicks. They are attempts at pushing the mobile phone user interface forward. Even though many of them do not work the best, I can definitely see the potential in what they are trying, and where it is eventually going. I have to give Samsung credit for allowing us to have so many options, and the ability to turn them on/off depending on how we want our phone to work.

  • Petr Plachý

    Ugly Big bloaty bag of gimmick. Period.

    And yes, I had SGS3 for almost 2 months...

  • Asif

    Every feature seems worthless initially. I like the direct call feature and many people who saw me using it, were curious to get that feature on their phones. Smart stay is another cool features, its just so convenient not to touch the screen every time it goes to sleep. Android structure seems complicated to many people but you can take some time and customize it as per your need.
    And yes i am trying this comment from a samsung phone powered by Android.

  • Andy

    I almost threw up while reading this garbage. This is the mother of all gimmicks whose sole purpose is to get click counts.

    If you have no clue what the real use cases and how much the real users appreciate these innovations, go check Amazon review before posting what your grandma told you.

  • yarrellray

    These articles are ''NOTHING MORE THAN (1) PERSON'S OPINION. People who use Samsung smartphones truly understand WHY they purchase Samsung and exactly what features they need for the phone they desire. People who purchase Samsung are far more educated with the product line Samsung put's out. They cater to there customers desire and spends a great deal of time bringing a product to market that can be used in ways that other android devices will NEVER BE USED. It's a sad conclusion when people make assumptions that do not reflect the usage of the said device they claim isn't any good. Bottomline here Samsung has innovated and continues to bring features and devices to market that will never be seen in any android device at this time. Stock android is NOTHING MORE than a big BORE with no features whatsoever and really nothing for the consumer to learn unless you desire to root and put custom roms on your stock boring nexus devices. I have been there dine that I owned the GALAXY NEXUS on Verizon and it alone was the WORST NEXUS EVER. I gladly KICKED IT to the curb for the Galaxy S3 and trust me the Galaxy S3 with ICS runs rings around any current Galaxy Nexus device even with jelybean. The features you claim are gimmicks are exactly what Samsung brings to market that will never be seen on anyother android/smartphone period. Samsung has nothing to worrry about the upcoming Galaxy Note 2 and current Galaxy S3 as well as the upcoming Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 will be the BEST DEVICES on the market come 2013...Stay with HTC they aren't going anywhere anytime soon that's forsure. The sound you here is LG breathing down the backs of HTC with it's Lg Optimus G device that's the only thing on the market today that can even come close to the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2...

  • grellanl

    For me, TouchWiz is all gimmicks, and Samsung should just get out of the way and use the bare OS and update it aggressively. So that when you buy a Samsung device you know you're getting the best internals with the latest OS and regular updates for the expected lifespan of the device (say two years). The Galaxy S could run Jelly Bean no problem, the Nexus S does. But it's never getting it officially. Plan on people buying every second annual upgrade, and keep them happy in the interim by not abandoning them after six months.

    They see the gimmickry as differentiation, though. They claim these are the features that attract people to the devices. Is that true? Maybe in some cases, but I think mostly it's the tech inside the device (good performance makes for a fluid device) and the big, bright screens.

  • Sawalif Malaykum

    Yea I agree with the most comments here. This post is just uncessary, before I was using Sony Xperia products and I'm contented on how the Timescape UI works, but when i switch to Samsung GS3 I noticed a lot of things that Timescape UI is lacking. Its not all about how good the UI looks its about how the UI works and Touch Wiz works fine.

  • wayne clark

    I would say that Samsung is developing and trying new features. That is how they get feedback from users instead if a bunch of computer geeks who think everyone is a programer. I buy and use what i like and leave the rest alone.

  • Mike

    This author is an idiot. You don't have to use... pretty much every feature you just listed that you don't like. So it's like saying you're not gonna drive a car with heated seats, low profile rims, moonroof, and dual climate control because you don't need them, even if you get them for free.

    It's just a ludicrous line of thinking. Honestly it just boggles my mind.

    But some of this stuff you are just flat out wrong about. S Beam works GREAT. Three people in my family have GS3s and none of us have had any trouble getting them to work. On the other hand, stock Android now has a beam function that also uses NFC to initiate a handshake.... then transfers over a slow as hell bluetooth connection. Give me a break. At least know what you're talking about before writing this garbage. S Beam uses Wifi Direct to transfer files which is at least three times as fast as bluetooth. Then you go on to straight up LIE about S Beam. THERE IS NO "CLUNKY" INTERFACE YOU HAVE TO NAVIGATE THROUGH. No, there actually is no interface. Period. You touch two devices and then you tap the screen and it sends what is on the screen. The fact that you don't even know how it works makes your opinion largely irrelevant.

    Swipe to screenshot works FLAWLESSLY for me. The reason it doesn't work for you is because you're probably doing it wrong, just like someone who doesn't know how to boot into recovery mode does it wrong then complains that iPhones are better. I've only had difficulty getting the swipe to work when using a drawing app. But then again there's more than one way to accomplish many things, so why would I complain?

    Bottom line: if you don't like smart stay, leave it off. If you don't like S Beam, you don't have to use it. You claim that the interface is "cluttered". Give me a break. The interface is only as cluttered as you make it because it's completely customizable. It's no one's fault but your own. And lastly... 3D imagery in Google Maps is innovative... but the pulldown power controls aren't? WTF? To whom is 3D imagery in Google Maps even USEFUL? I can't imagine that it's actually useful to really anyone. It's as gimmicky as everything you say is on the GS3. You're just too arrogant to realize it.

  • realist

    the nexus Is Pathetic loser Notice That You Didn't Buy It

  • Jaybird

    Some issues like call quality and internet speed, are a function of the carriers, which have nothing to do with Samsung. When it comes to hardware, Samsung's screen technology is its competitive advantage, where it can afford to innovate. But a single company can't afford to innovate everywhere. Game-changing innovation doesn't always come from brute force efforts to directly innovate. Unless you have a competitive advantage already, that's very expensive. Gorilla Glass? That's going to take Corning. Samsung isn't going to come up with that. A lot of innovation comes out of left-field, often from university research in (previously) unrelated fields into technologies with no application -- until someone in industry sees an application for it. For example, current cellular antenna technology arose from fractals. Who knew? I still don't think that anyone really understands why it works better, just that it does. Fractal mathematics was pioneered by a Polish Jew named Mandelbrot starting only in the 1970's, and nobody cared for a long time. A lot of innovation has to arise upstream from the handset manufacturers, simply because nobody can afford to brute force it. So it's left to serendipity, but the trouble with serendipity is you can't control it. So, often, revolutions in industries come from newcomers (in their first 8 years of operation) and blow the existing companies and the status quo out of the water. Now, innovations in software and user interfaces? That's something that isn't necessarily expensive, but, like serendipity, takes equally uncontrollable genius. Apple has been beating the pants off of everyone in this department. However, now that Steve Jobs is gone for good, will Apple fall off again?

  • Sabe

    Youre so bloody right! I bought a note2 because i have a big hands and modern phones doesnt come with keyboards anymore. Miss them really. Then i had to spend several days unrooting that piece of shit the way it doesnt show (i dont want to loose warranty with a phone that expensive) only for taking out OVER HALF of the crap that were there already! I thought that android was a customizable platform and apps loading is easy... So WHY THE FUCK samsung wants to decide with apps im gonna use and WHY IM NOT SUPPOSED TO GET RID of the schaisse they feed me. For once ony thing im using the whole motion-shebang is turning the bloody screen... And if i could change the "screen rotation" button to a "TURN SCREEN" button i wouldnt hesitate! Now i have to 1. go to menu, 2. turn on screen rotation, 3. turn my phone, 4. go to menu and 5. turn screen rotation off... Thats five times more difficult than it would be without bloody sensor! (i read a lot in bed, so i need portrait in sideways) AND why cant i customise long press of menu button to HIDE STATUS BAR? That a hard one is it? Split screen is nice and i use it sometimes (had to hack it to accept every app, again) but seems that the blind dwarves in samsung never tried it themselves because in landscape splitsceen the sceen space is so scarce that it would be VERY usable to hide status bar. Im totally flabbergasted of the stupidity of those who design this. I surely hope they are some favela kids who had to work for samsung because their mother sold them for a new kettle, for their own sake. Otherwise that would be too embarrassing. Im shamed that i actually bought that... Im sure someone with hands could make a decent phablet out of this.

  • davisco3

    I've used TouchWiz in the past, I had the OGT GT P1000 with TV tuner, and it wasn't anywhere as useful as it is now. Some people thought I was a freak, Since I would use the thing as a phone. Currently, I use a Note 10.1 as a phone with a BT headset. I have also had two Motoblur devices.
    I'd like to point out that TouchWiz has improved ten fold. Sharing, as the author addresses, is sometimes actually useful. And I don't  necessarily mean sharing to others, what I do mean, however, is sharing to DLNA or UNPnP from withing their built-in apps, which by the way, are desirable to use. I stopped using just Poweramp to use the music player, because it actually has many nice things included in them, such as; voice control for tracks, artists, basically anything that is loaded in the Player or Gallery. The S-Voice is much better at telling me the schedule, which is something Google Now still can't handle. Plus, it tells me, literally, the forecast while my tablet is in my bag. Google Now is great and I know it will always be there for me too.
    If you do root, you get to freeze or even delete the S-Voice the author dislikes so much. I myself have gotten rid of the stupid voice that it forced, Pico, in the app. I don't regret that at all.
    Since the TouchWiz has improved dramatically, it is safe to say it is a tier, hence, it can and must be called, if not innovation for making the android experience better, what else? Furthermore, the "plasticly" aspect, has proven to be strong and to resist falls, at least the accidental ones, in many different occasions. My Motorola Atrix is dead after nearly catching fire. Sammy's hardware and software are superior to Motorola's current and , most likely, the next.

  • Jason312

    I have tried out the Samsung S4 in a mobile phone store with the possibility of upgrading to one when my current contract is up and to be honest I didn't like the touchwiz interface at all.

    My current phone is the LG Optimus 2x which runs Android's vanilla interface and it's fine so why Samsung do you feel you have to add the touchwiz interface to Android?

    I am now not going to get an S4 due to the touchwiz interface and the way Samsung seem to be adding features just for the sake of it rather than thinking what would be useful to end users of all levels of technical knowledge.

    Also I feel the S4 is not particularly well built compared to the HTC One but I have tried the Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Mobile 8 and to be honest that it likely to be the phone I will go for.

  • S4User

    The stupidest part about TouchWiz is that you can't create folders by placing an app on top of another and also the fact that they replaced the Play Store button with Downloads.

  • NOTE 3

    This article seems sort of off. The complaints seemed silly, a good portion of them. Battery life is great on my Note 2. My browser is great 95% of the time. Call quality is OK, etc.

    • Gabernasher

      Did you read the article? He's saying that the phones are full of gimmicks, not that the battery life is bad and the browser is bad. It was not a review of the Note 2.

  • Jerald Lee

    S-Beam is actually quite good and useful. My friend and I (who also have an s3) always use that to quickly share photos.

  • JoshuaLam

    I've worked with many dozens of smartphones as an IT helpdesk technician. Samsung by far has some of the best hardware of any Android device. But their touchwiz is bloaty and laggy like no other. I also think it's really fugly compared to stock Android, which is slick and minimalistic.

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