The latest iteration of Samsung’s TouchWiz software is packed a bewildering number of features — so many that there’s now an extra step in the setup process explaining what everything does. We have never been enormous ambassadors of Samsung’s proprietary Android skin, but it is certainly here to stay. The Galaxy S range is the theatre Samsung use to display their latest and greatest software features. The major new additions in the Galaxy S4 include Air view, Air gesture, Smart Pause and Group Play, to name but a few.
While I was doing the long term review of the device over the last three months, I couldn’t help but notice a trend in the last couple of Galaxy S devices. The plethora of features included in every new iteration doesn’t seem so useful when using the device from day to day. I just couldn’t shift the idea that these were features designed to sell me a phone in commercials and carrier stores, rather than helping me out once I’ve actually parted with my hard earned money.
Once the novelty wore off, I didn’t find many of the GS4’s waving, gesturing, eye-tracking tricks to be particularly useful. Tapping a screen is always going to be more natural than awkwardly holding your finger an inch or so away. The same applies to waving your way through photos. Why not just touch the screen? Is the entire feature there for people with dirty hands?
The impractical-at-best mess that is Touchwiz can of course be slimmed down. A lot of the features can be ignored or disabled, and if you really want you can launch in Easy mode – a stripped down, essentials only version. What does that mean for the Galaxy S range? Are we going to see the same features included in the Galaxy S5 – plus some newly designed ones? I certainly hope not.
Instead, the really useful stuff in TouchWiz lies a little further beneath the surface. There’s the overhauled, Galaxy Camera-inspired camera app with a wealth of really useful shooting options, including one of the best panorama modes you’ll see. There’s also the S Health app to entice you, which ties into the built-in pedometer to measure exercise and other health stats. And I didn’t use WatchON, the IR-blaster-based TV app, a whole lot, but when I do it works flawlessly.
In all honesty, I don’t think there is anyone out there that can admit – hand on heart – that they use all or even most of the S4’s features. I wouldn’t have minded the massive feature set if I could choose to use only the ones I want, and the device still performs brilliantly. But that was not the case. Turning on one or two certain features would open the floodgates on unwanted lag and instability – that is not acceptable in my books.
Enough with the fluff, I say! I’d rather have the Google Play Galaxy S4 edition, any day of the week.
Here is the long-term video review: