The awesome improvements in the design and hardware of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were not the only area of Samsung’s flagship to get a face lift. While the appearance of TouchWiz is not as drastic a change as the new glass and metal exterior the user experience on top of Android 5.0.2 is really impressive. Smooth and virtually lag-less are not concepts that we have ever associated with TouchWiz. Samsung has done a great job at keeping a lot of features that are useful while scaling back the “in your face” nature of those features.
Starting with the home screen on the TouchWiz launcher you can actually change the grid size. That is something that has been reserved to only launchers for quite some time now. By simply swiping two or more fingers together you will get the menu that allows you to add or change wallpapers, widgets, Samsung’s new Themes, and adjust the screen grid. While you only have three options, 4×4/4×5/5×5, it is surely a start. Samsung has really limited their wallpapers selection in this iteration of TouchWiz and they are all very reserved in their color pallets. Nothing bright and punchy like past wallpaper selections. The widget section performs as you would expect bringing up an app drawer styled group of widgets that you swipe through to select.
The theme engine is new to the Galaxy S line but if you are familiar with Android you have undoubtedly seen one before. Out of the box there are three themes and they make your device appear in the default manner, an interesting pink theme, and a sort of oddly amusing space invaders type theme simply labeled space. You can also go to the Theme Store and find many others. There are some pretty cool Avengers style themes that at the moment are all free of charge.
Launching the app drawer you are presented with a 4 x 5 grid line of icons that cannot be changed. You will most likely want to remove the default folders that so many apps come in out of the box. You will also be given the option to reorder the apps by a small “A-Z” area to the top right in the app drawer. Just to the right of that is “Edit” option which lets you remove or reorder the apps. Mostly standard stuff.
To the left of the main home screen is FlipBoard. If you are not familiar with FlipBoard, think HTC’s Blinkfeed but prettier.
Pulling down the notification shade you have your standard toggles that you can adjust or remove. There is also a screen brightness slider with an auto brightness box that can be checked. Below that is a small area where you can select either S-finder or Quick Connect. Quick Connect turns on Wifi and Bluetooth and tries to connect to other devices in range or on the same network for the purpose of sharing the screen or streaming content to the other device. There is also the time, date, and settings menu as well as an “Edit” button that allows you to choose which toggles are available to you.
The settings menu was the greatest improvement in this iteration of TouchWiz as far as I am concerned. Gone are the multiple tabs or absurdly long list of options that had their own menu. The settings is now five sections and one of them you can disable. Quick Settings, Connections, Device, Personal, and System are the five and Quick Settings will reduce to no icons if you want to remove them. Currently I am only using three spaces for Edge Screen, Battery, and Storage. Battery and Storage are the two settings menus that I look at the most so it makes sense for me to keep them there. There is also a search feature that is easy to use but I am not sure it is easier than simply scrolling down the menu. The menu is cleaner and easier to use than nearly every previous iteration of TouchWiz.
Quick Rant: Let’s discuss for a second something that may seem obvious to some but absurd to others. Samsung has done more for Android on the software side adding features than any other manufacturer. Samsung has had multi-window since what, The Note 2? I know the S4 had it. How is it not a mainstream thing in Android yet? Why do we have a Nexus 6 that cannot support multiple windows at one time? Samsung leads in Android Tablets because of these added features. End Rant, back to software overview.
Multi-Window and Floating apps have returned in this iteration of TouchWiz but they are not as in your face as before. There is no quick tutorial or any sort move to force these features on the users. I found myself actually looking for them. They are hidden behind a long press of the recents apps button. Moving them around and resizing them is easy and if you want to move them out of your way you simply minimize them to tiny floating apps that you can easily reopen with a couple taps. Very well implemented and smooth. There is also a much larger selection of apps that you can use with multi-window than before. I have used Instagram and Twitter in multi-window and had Gmail as a floating app. While the 5.1’’ screen might be less than ideal for this short of usage it really wasn’t that uncomfortable. The processor handled it like a champ too.
The Camera Application has two main modes that most individuals are going to use; Auto and Pro. Auto mode does an incredible job of exposing the photos properly and producing remarkable photos. The Pro mode is for those who want to manually tweak the settings. I’ll be the first to admit I am more of a cell phone photographer than any sort of professional photographer so I stuck mostly to auto mode. There are plenty of other options that used to be standard features that you can now download if you want them. Those features include sports, beauty face, dual camera, animated GIF, and a couple others. The application is much more lightweight than before but still retains most of the functionality and continues to produce those remarkable photos we just mentioned.
Finally the difference in software on the Galaxy S6 Edge is not great from the Galaxy S6 and does not add enough of a difference, to me, to justify the added cost of the S6 Edge. There are only a couple features that are dedicated to the Edge screen. Edge lighting works by lighting up when receiving phone calls or text messages. They will also light up in a certain color if you have people edge turned on. People edge allows you to move five contacts into a special menu and assign them colors. It is a slide out menu that stays persistent even in other launchers.
There is also an information stream, night clock option, and the choice of which screen to show the information. You have choices such as weather, yahoo sports, or notifications. There are also a couple choices for download including an RSS Feed, Whoscall Caller ID, and a news ticker. The odd swipe gesture to activate the Edge screen and retrieve your information is more of an inconvenience than a benefit. In most scenarios it is just easier to press the home button and move to the needed information in the traditional way. Again, the value of the Edge screen is more in the hardware and “wow” factor than it is the added software capabilities.
Samsung has done a great job with TouchWiz on top of Lollipop. It is less invasive, less obnoxious, and a lot faster than before. I only managed to make the S6 Edge lag after taking several pictures and swapping back and forth between the camera, gallery, and sharing those photos on social media. Other than that there were no hiccups related to lag, even when running three apps simultaneously. There are many added features that are not new to Samsung but are simply better implemented in this software package. For the first time in a Samsung device software will not be the reason that many hardcore users avoid this device. This device is the total package. New refreshed hardware, very polished software, and a user experience that rivals that of any other manufacturer to date. Great job Samsung!