When I reviewed the beta version of One UI 5, I believed that it would not be possible for Samsung to surprise me in 2022... Oh boy, was I wrong! Without a doubt, this is the most advanced Android-based software we can find on the market today. We have reviewed the latest version of the South Korean manufacturer's operating system on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and these are our thoughts.
First, the One UI 5 is a visual upgrade from the previous version of the Galaxy smartphones' OS, offering greater integration of the color palette into the system. It also has many optimizations that make the user experience even smoother. Interestingly enough, Samsung has managed to go even further this time: The turn Android took with Material You last year, Samsung has done with One UI—and on a much higher level than Google!
With One UI 5, Samsung is genuinely concerned about offering better options for those who have chosen to dive into the Galaxy's...galaxy.
Samsung takes ownership of Material You in 2022
With Android 12, Samsung integrated the system colors with the smartphone'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 smartphone 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 for each app, as well as understand which notification categories that each app can access. This is certainly an improvement that provides users with more control.
- Don't miss: Samsung Galaxy A or S: What's the difference?
More than that, Samsung managed to unite the main Android customization tools with the new lock screen's customization fundamentals that are reminiscent of Apple's iOS. Interestingly enough, none of the Theme and Style features have been copied. On the contrary, they all originate from One UI and have been available for a long time, but access is now more intuitive. This is the classic example of using short videos on the lock screen, among the wallpaper options.
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. Yeah, design is a subjective thing, and you may not agree with me, but as a fan of Samsung's UX, One UI 5 is the cleanest and most intuitive interface I have ever used on any Galaxy device—and I dare say on any Android smartphone.
Virtually all Galaxy devices released over the last two years will receive this update
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 to 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 Settings. Being bilingual, this is a really appreciated function.
However, what frustrated me a little was the fact that the marketing is based on a function that, so far, can only be used in the Korean language. In the promotional material for the new version of the One UI, Samsung highlighted the popularity of the Bixby Text Call function among participants in the beta testing program. Now part of the Phone app, the feature transcribes text into audio and allows users "to communicate in the manner that is most convenient to them. Which means that you can answer phone calls simply by typing a message.
Samsung itself reported that "this feature is set to support English early next year", but any user of the Galaxy S22 series can already find the feature available, albeit it remains not functional in languages spoken in the West. This gave me the feeling that we are still in beta even in the official and stable version of One UI 5.
- 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 feature for accessibility.
One UI 5 is the most advanced Android-based software on the market today
An interface packed with new and awesome features
With Android 13, Samsung made the new Modes and Routines features available. As an iPhone user, it is almost impossible not to associate Samsung's approach with Apple's Focus Mode feature. Everything is very similar, from the location in the settings menu to the style and usage. Perhaps because of this, it was very easy for me to adapt and configure each available mode.
Using the Routines function is also quite simple and works very well, which does remind us of apps like Google Home, Alexa, and IFTTT for creating routines for the smart home. For example, every time you launch the Play Books app the system automatically activates the Eye Comfort Shield feature. When you close the app, the system returns to the previous settings.
Both of these new features work very well and, frankly, are very welcome in the One UI. However, I believe that the similarity to Apple's Focus function should not be a mere coincidence.
Two other functions that aggrandize Samsung's software are security-related. If last year the Privacy Panel brought more transparency to Android, features like the new pop-up message on the Share Panel that warns users if they are about to share photos that contain potentially sensitive information are top-notch. This prevents you from posting unintentionally sensitive data in social networking posts. I am sure that many people here would have liked to see this function arrive years ago.
The second new feature, besides ensuring the security of your data, is also helpful: I'm referring to Maintenance Mode here. The new feature in One UI 5 allows you to block access to your data while devices are being repaired.
Features like these make me realize that Samsung is not just concerned about adapting its software to Google's guidelines—as we saw last year—but genuinely concerned about offering better options for those who chose to own a Galaxy! It reminds me of the company's positioning regarding the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5 series of smartwatches, which now offer exclusive features for those inside the Galaxy ecosystem.
- Also read: Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review
As for the final plus point, the third feature worth mentioning in this One UI 5 review is the Camera Assistant. As part of the Good Lock app, this feature added a number of new options to Samsung's native camera app, such as video recording in photo mode, and allows to speed up the shutter by capturing fewer frames and more. The only issue with Camera Assistant is that it is only available on selected modes or lenses.
Yes, One UI 5, I see your true colors shining through. I see your true colors, and they are beautiful like a rainbow!
It doesn't matter if you are a Zoomer and didn't understand the above reference, the point is that Samsung really got it right this time. The One UI 5 is more efficient, more intuitive, and offers truly functional features. This is clearly noticeable when we see functions that have existed for ages coming out of the background into the foreground. Yes, I'm referring to the lock screen customization—competition with Apple has certainly done Samsung a whole lot of good!
Of course, not everything is a bed of roses, especially for those who were hoping to have more freedom to permanently uninstall native apps—as is the case with Samsung Free—, or to see advanced features coming to DeX mode. Regarding the former, I believe that Samsung could offer a smarter alternative, without compromising the operation of the smartphone's operating system because of dependent apps and services.
As for DeX mode, performance has been well-optimized at first glance. I can also mention support for autocorrection when texting using the physical keyboard on One UI 5, as well as enhancements to the taskbar. However, desktop mode continues to be a rather limited feature when it comes to more advanced work, like audio editing. So it's clear that Samsung can go a lot further when it comes to empowering the user in the 2-in-1 use of DeX-compatible smartphones.
Finally, the biggest advantage for Samsung users is that the manufacturer has a great update policy. From the A to S series, virtually all Galaxy devices released over the last two years will receive this update. And yes, this is also a major achievement!
That's it! Over the next few days, we will show you how to get the best out of the new functions of One UI 5 in detail, but now I would like to know what you think about this review. Do you agree that One UI 5 is the most advanced version of the Android operating system available on the market? What did you think about the new features implemented by Samsung in 2022? I'm curious to know what you think!