Even though Android 13 is not an update that added many features to Google's operating system, Samsung took ownership of Material You in 2022 and made the One UI 5 even more intuitive. We have tested the new version of the South Korean manufacturer's operating system, and these are our first impressions.
For this One UI 5 test, we installed the beta version of Android 13 on our Galaxy S22 Ultra via the One UI 5 Test Program. Since the software is still under development, we do not recommend installing this version on your primary device. However, it must be said that during our testing, the Samsung One UI 5 beta 1 proved to be quite stable.
That said, it's pretty clear to me that One UI 5 is a visual upgrade from the previous version of the Galaxy smartphones' OS, with a greater integration of the color palette into the system. In addition, we're seeing many optimizations that make the user experience even smoother. But will that be enough?
Samsung takes ownership of Material You in 2022
With Android 12, Samsung integrated the system colors with the cell phone's wallpaper—as well as compatible applications. However, a big part of the incorporation of these elements was still exclusive to Google's Pixel devices. In 2022, however, manufacturers are able to adapt them to their skins and offer a wider choice of themes and colors.
- Related: ColorOS 13 review
As such, Samsung has made available 16 new predefined color themes based on the Galaxy phone wallpaper and 12 more color options. More than that, the entire operating system seems to have been tweaked, from the quick shortcut bar icons to the settings.
One example of this is the notification system in One UI 5. With the visual overhaul, it is now much faster and more logical to manage the type of notifications and alerts per app, as well as understand which notification categories each app can access. This is certainly an improvement that gives users more control.
Finally, the visual change that One UI 5 brings to Galaxy phones is the completion of what started last year with Android 12. While it clearly took Samsung much longer to offer a similar alternative to Google's interface options, now One UI definitely meets our expectations. Considering that design is a subjective thing, you may not agree with me, but as a legitimate fan of Samsung's UI, One UI 5 is the cleanest and most intuitive interface I have ever used on any Galaxy device.
One UI 5 has become simpler and more intuitive
Beyond the visual changes in One UI 5, we've had a number of small additions to the operating system that combined make Samsung's software smarter. For starters, you can stack a number of widgets in the same field and navigate between them without having to leave the same screen.
Like Apple, Samsung now allows the use of smart widgets, which means real space-saving and better management of content—such as reminders and quick access to Drive documents, among others.
What has gotten smarter with One UI 5 is Samsung's default keyboard. In line with what Android 13 does natively on Google Pixel devices, Samsung now also offers content input via the phone's camera. Called Extract Text, Samsung's artificial intelligence recognizes written content and imports it into the text editor or message quickly.
It also struck me that Samsung is closing the gap with Google when it comes to language capabilities in supported apps. This is because for the first time, Galaxy users can adapt their preferred language in different apps from the Settings. Being bilingual, this is a really appreciated function.
- The Proof-of-concept: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Now, when it comes to features that make the UX more intuitive, functions like split screen and floating window have been centralized in Labs. Both options make a lot of sense on models like the S22 Ultra, which has a 6.8-inch diagonal screen, and have now been reorganized in a more logical way within the settings menu.
Finally, Samsung has optimized the vibration engine, adding different intensities and allowing some actions, such as the gesture to create a floating window to emit a slight vibration to indicate minimization of the window. This type of system feature doesn't particularly catch my eye, however, it is an important as a feature for accessibility.
But the community is asking for more...
Unlike my One UI 4 and iOS 16 beta analysis, this time I also want to share the community's point of view on the next generation of Samsung's OS. Looking at the feedback from those who are beta testing One UI 5, I understood that Samsung seems to have gotten the visual changes right. However, the community is asking for advanced features, such as DeX mode, as well as more freedom.
Also, native apps that the manufacturer has been forcing on users for years continue to be a cause for complaint. People want the chance to uninstall services they don't use instead of just disabling them. And I agree that Samsung could offer a smarter alternative in this regard, without compromising the operation of the phones' operating system because of dependent apps and services.
Another point that caught my attention was some comments about the new features added to Samsung's desktop feature, DeX. Among the most popular changes, I can mention the support for text autocorrection for physical keyboard on One UI 5, as well as enhancements to the task bar. However, desktop mode is a rather limited feature when it comes to more advanced work, as audio editing.
So here it is clear that Samsung can go a lot further when it comes to empowering the user in the 2-in-1 use of DeX-compatible phones.
One UI 5 is clearly what One UI 4 should have been last year. But as everyone knows: the devil is in the details. Overall, we have several small changes that have made Samsung's skin more visually pleasing, as well as more intuitive. But with every software update, it seems that Samsung is missing that something extra—especially for those heavy users.
However, it's really important to remember that One UI 5 is still in development, and perhaps we'll see more functions added to the software until it leaves its beta phase. Right now, however, what I can say is that with the integration of more colors and themes, we have a more customizable UI, which brings more advantages to users. And the other optimizations were really good choices.
Also, the advantage for Samsung users is that the manufacturer has an excellent beta testing program, with a very stable version so far and probably very close to the software that will in the end be shipped to all users. From the A to S series, virtually all Galaxy devices released in the last two years will receive this update. And yes, this is also a great achievement!
And for you: Is what Samsung has presented so far enough? Is there still room for improvement? In which area?