One UI 4 review: Humble but solid software update

Samsung has once again outdone itself with the latest version of its Android 12/One UI 4 software update for its flagships. We’ve had to put up with sometimes excruciatingly long wait times in the past, but in 2020 and 2021 Samsung showed it could develop and push software updates exceptionally quickly, just about a month after the official release of Android on the AOSP channel. It’s basically rewriting some established notions about Android and painting it in a better picture.

Samsung succeeded by releasing Android 12 accompanied by the company’s Android One UI 4 skin on the flagship The Galaxy S21 series just 41 days after the official release of Android under the AOSP (Android Open Source Project). It wouldn’t be outrageous to assume that Samsung collaborated with Google on the Android 12 update; the two companies have had a successful collaboration over the past year, giving us the revamped Wear OS and using it on the new Galaxy Watch 4 family of smartwatches. One UI 4 will also go around the next one Galaxy S22 flagships.
So what’s the deal with One UI 4.0? Has Samsung successfully integrated Android 12 features into its own custom interface? Let’s embark on a journey exploring the software advancements of Samsung and comparing it with the previous instance of One UI.

One UI 4: first impressions

Right off the bat, you won’t notice any immediate, game-changing difference between the new and old interfaces, at least at first glance. While the visual differences between stock Android 11 and Android 12 are much starker, Samsung has incorporated the new visuals in a much more subtle way that meshes well with One UI’s signature design language. If you’ve used a Samsung phone in the last two years, you’ll definitely feel comfortable with the new interface from the start.

Frankly, if I didn’t have another Samsung phone with the old One UI at my fingertips, most of the visual differences would have definitely slipped my mind. The differences are subtle and implemented so stealthily that you have to know where to look to spot new additions to the interface. Little to no evidence of Material You, and that’s a good thing! No one really expected Samsung to ditch the style it’s been building for a few years and embrace Google’s new visual style, so how Android 12’s visual changes were implemented is pretty much perfect from a Samsung fan’s point of view.

Granted, there’s a new brightness slider and some stock icons are refreshed, but overall One UI 4 is mostly similar to One UI 3.1. You will feel at home.

Visual novelties aside, One UI 4 is, all things considered, the best interface Samsung has ever come up with…until now. Gone are the days of the garish TouchWiz or sterile, lifeless Samsung experience, One UI has gradually evolved into what is probably the best overall Android skin, arguably surpassing even Google’s foundation with stock Android. And rightly so – UI combines sufficient customization while being user-friendly at the same time, and this applies not only to its current iterations but also to previous ones. Definitely a more feature-rich and mature interface than stock Android, Samsung’s One UI is getting easier to love.

One UI 4: new features and subtle changes

First of all, we have Android 12 theme well integrated in Samsung One UI. The ‘Wallpaper’ menu has been upgraded to ‘Wallpaper & Style’, and venturing inside lets you change the phone’s theme by changing the color scheme. Android 12’s Color Extraction feature has also migrated to Samsung’s One UI and will happily extract the main colors from your wallpaper to create matching color palettes to apply to your wallpaper. your interface. Ultimately, the wallpaper you choose will have a very big effect on the available color palettes, so don’t inflame the interface if it suggests garish colors – just try a different wallpaper!

Now color accents are not so ubiquitous and all-encompassing. For what it’s worth, you’ll mostly see the custom colors in the notification area where your quick toggles and brightness slider reside. Technically, you can also choose to have your icons themed around the main color of the palette, but that only applies to stock Samsung apps and I’d say the resulting icons don’t look so good at all. Interestingly, you can’t theme icons in the main settings menu, where it also makes sense to have an ongoing theme and customization.

There’s also the new Android Widget Picker, which is more intuitive than before and presents the available widgets more consistently. It’s now much easier to see what widgets are available so you can put them on your home screen. Speaking of widgets, some of them are refreshed, but the majority remain unchanged, for better or for worse. From what I can tell, the color palette theme doesn’t work on any of the available widgets, probably because Google’s proprietary Monet theme engine wasn’t yet open-source at the time Samsung was developing One UI 4.

And finally, an intriguing new feature has made its way to Samsung’s One UI. You know how Apple’s iOS reacts when you reach the end of a list or a long menu? Thanks to a previously patented elastic effect, the interface bounces back with a jelly effect that feels natural and makes you feel like you have reached a certain barrier. While Apple’s narrow understanding of this interface element ran out a year ago with the expiry of the corresponding patent, the Android world was no longer legally prevented from implementing them. So, Samsung now has that satisfying hover effect in One UI 4. The effect can be found in stock apps from Google and Samsung, like Messages, Contacts, etc., but also works in most popular Android apps. .

One UI 4: New features

Device maintenance is one of the menus that has changed the most. Previously, Samsung represented device status with a percentage, but in One UI 4, that metric was thrown out the window and replaced with an…emoji, of course! I guess if battery or security issues are detected the emoji will change to a frowning face, but I haven’t seen it change from the default smiley face (which is a good thing I guess ).

There are also some minor but important changes to the camera app. The non-descript pictograms indicating the zoom level of the camera have finally been replaced by numbers, which do a much better job of showing you the zoom level. 1, 3 and 10 are objectively much more descriptive than a clump of trees, a large tree or a taller tree.

The majority of the privacy features introduced with Android 12 are also found in One UI 4. When an app is using your microphone or camera, a green indicator appears in the upper right corner where the battery percentage is usually located. Approximate and precise location is also on deck, allowing you to fine-tune your privacy settings and only share your real location with apps you really trust.

The new privacy dashboard is probably one of the best new features coming with One UI 4. It gives you really detailed information about what permissions each app has and for how long. The privacy dashboard also lets you easily revoke permissions immediately. But the best part is that everything is laid out so comprehensively that you don’t need extensive experience or knowledge to know what’s going on all the time.

Samsung also ditched some slightly controversial and backwards changes to Android 12 which I applaud. Instead of the fairly limited battery stats we got in the newer version of Android, which only shows you the last day of use, One UI 4 would show you detailed battery stats since the last full charge, you giving a deeper insight into your usage.

One UI 4: Performance gains and stability

One of the main features that arrived for many Samsung flagships with the One UI 4 update was RAM Plus, a particularly useful feature that allocates 4 GB of your storage as virtual memory and essentially increases multitasking capabilities. . While this new feature is likely to be appreciated by heavy power users, even regular Galaxy users should benefit from this feature.

However, RAM Plus isn’t customizable, so you can’t choose how much storage to allocate as virtual memory, and given Samsung’s aggressive stance on background processes and apps, there’s little You’re likely to make good use of the extra memory – Android is most likely to kill older processes first.
Overall, One UI 4 is super responsive and, in my experience, super stable with zero bugs. But this is just my anecdotal experience which may (or may not) be very different from yours. I encountered none of the heartbreaking bugs and issues that marred the One UI 4 release for the Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 in South Korea.

One UI 4: Conclusion

One UI 4 is an excellent sequel to the already superb One UI 3.1 and all previous iterations as well. The secret? Change things up a bit, but don’t change them too much while keeping the system stable. While some may think One UI 4 is a rather boring update, and there’s certainly some truth to that, I think One UI 4 is yet another successful iteration of Samsung’s software advancements. Either way, if you’ve loved the idea behind One UI all these years, One UI 4 certainly won’t disappoint; on the contrary, it sprinkles just enough ‘life’ into the Samsung software ecosystem, truly elevating it as Android’s best possible custom interface.