When people compare between devices, too often they only look at the hardware specs. Processor speeds, megapixel counts and all the rest become the stars of the show and the software is entirely forgotten. While the hardware of a device is important, the software is just as big a deal. On any phone or tablet, the software can easily make or break the experience. So how about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5? Does its software make or break its user experience?
Samsung has long been known for its infamous Android skin, TouchWiz. TouchWiz is one of the oldest Android skins, and over the years it has continued to evolve and expand while retaining the core idea of a UI that is bright, colorful and easy to figure out. While Samsung’s marketing certainly has a lot to do with its impressive sales, TouchWiz could be a major factor, appearing to be more inviting and simplistic than many other Android skins or even stock Android itself.
Criticism of TouchWiz is just as prevalent as Samsung’s smartphones, though. TouchWiz’s bright colors, simple icons and general gaudiness has led the UI to somewhat resemble a LeapFrog children’s tablet, which is not a desirable trait unless you’re making a device specifically for kids.
The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 features a hefty dose of TouchWiz. The default homescreen contains two massive Samsung widgets as well as a row of apps from Samsung or its partners. From the very start, everything feels over the top and slightly goofy. Extravagant animations are everywhere and the tablet simply doesn’t feel quite as refined as it would be if it were running stock Android or even a different skin.
To the left of the homescreen we can find Samsung’s magazine-style homescreen replacements that allegedly weren’t allowed to be the default because Google felt that they drifted too far from stock Android. These feature a variety of different notifications and services, such as a calendar and email widget. I can see why Samsung included these, but the entire effect comes across as bloated and unnecessary. I never felt as though the setup saved me any time or made anything easier.
The notification panel is done in typical Samsung fashion, with a list of quick toggles at the top as well as brightness and sound sliders below. Above the sliders are quick shortcuts for S Finder and Quick Connect, two Samsung features. The layout is cluttered but highly functional. Samsung could certainly tone down the amount of options are found in the notification shade, but on that same note, it does give you quick access to nearly any option you could want.
While the UI has ventured far from stock Android, TouchWiz is still quite functional. Buried amongst the layers of color and animation are a lot of bright ideas. For example, Samsung’s multi-window is present on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, allowing you to run two apps on the same screen and increase productivity. The toolbox is another useful feature that Samsung has tossed in. This is a little floating button that can be moved around the screen. When you click on it, a list of six apps shows up for you to quickly switch to. Customizing this selection of apps is easy and can be done by heading into the settings menu. In TouchWiz, it’s the little things that make it much more pleasant to use.
While TouchWiz is different, that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s not hard to see how it could appeal to many users. It’s generally fast, it’s full of color and it’s easy to use, with plenty of extra knick-knacks to improve the overall experience. Improvements could be made in a few areas, but overall, Samsung has decent software set up, even if it is very dependent on your own personal taste.