Maybe the S8th Time’s the Charm

With the impending release of the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, I thought I would take a moment to look at the new devices, and write down my thoughts.

The S7 finally looks like the Samsung device for me. It has it all; fantastic design, and a lot of features. Samsung brought back some of the favourite features from S5, and really put together a good package.

But sadly, the S7 still isn’t perfect. Here are the top things the Galaxy S7 missed on:

USB C

Samsung didn’t include the fantastic new USB C reversible charging plug in the S7. While it is a small thing, as a Nexus 6P user, its something I really couldn’t imagine going without. The reversible charger is so convenient, and the fast charging is incredibly useful.

Dual Front-Facing Speakers

It started with HTC’s Boom sound. I wasn’t a believer at the time, but now I am. The front-facing speakers are the future. As a serial YouTube watcher, those front-facing speakers make all the difference. Much, much better than the standard speaker on the back, and much, much better than the speaker on the bottom. The S7 has a bottom speaker, which is still better than a back-speaker, but it just doesn’t compare to the sound of front-facing speakers. Also, it’s placement is far to easy to accidentally cover with your hand when using the device.

Home Button

Samsung devices have clung desperately to the home button for years, but it needs to be let go. The home button is an archaic tool that Google phased out of Android years ago, but Samsung has tried to keep it alive. Almost every major manufacturer has phased it out, or at least given users the option to choose what they want. HTC got rid of it, but brought it back in a sense for the finger print scanner. OnePlus has had a physical button on the OnePlus Two, but again, as a finger print scanner. The user could free use the on-screen buttons that are the standard in Android now. The only two major manufacturers that continue to force users to use a physical button are Samsung and Apple.

In both cases, I feel the space can be used much better. Physical buttons take up space; there has to be room for the button itself, travel room so it can be pressed, components within to register the press. With the fingerprint scanner built into them now, that adds to the componentry inside. That space can be utilized much better. A bigger screen, without significantly changing the size of the device. Or, adding a front facing speaker. Those are two possibilities that would use that space better.

Touchwiz

Touchwiz is Samsung’s Android skin. For those out there that don’t know the difference between Samsung and Android, or for those who are not familiar with Android as an operating system, Google (the company that makes Android) allows manufacturers (like Samsung) to add skins (visual customizations and software customizations) to Android. Because Android is an open source operating system, it is free for anyone to use. Google has strict rules about how it is used, and what manufacturers have to do with Android. These rules dictate who can and can’t utilize some key features of the operating system that are designed specifically by Google. Things like the Google Play Store (the app store), and Google Now (Google’s extremely efficient Siri competitor). These are things Google builds to add functionality to the Android operating system. In many cases, these can be fundamental to the Android experience. In a way, Google can control Android, even though Android is free and open sourced, by leveraging these rules.

These skins were much more prominent in the early days of Android, when Google’s version of Android, stock Android, or vanilla Android, was not aesthetically pleasing. Skins allowed manufacturers to create a more visually appealing version of Android, with added features that Google didn’t build into stock.

Samsung has made Touchwiz since the beginning. While each iteration has improved, it is consistently one of the unruliest, bloat-filled skins available for Android. In an attempt to create an identity for itself, Samsung has built its own apps for its devices. Calendar. Messaging. Dialer. Samsung Apps. S Voice. The list goes on. However, Google has its own set of apps that already does all of these things, and in most cases, does them better than Samsung’s apps. Those rules I mentioned above? Google’s apps have to available on all Android devices. The result? Every Samsung devices ends up with two different apps that do the same thing. One from Samsung, one from Google.

This is just a single example of what makes Touchwiz so irritating. Other things, like Samsung’s pandering to carriers and software makers, make the problem infuriating. Carriers, like Verizon, insist on having their apps installed on devices. Often times, the incentive to allowing this is that Verizon stores will push those products over others. This means, if you buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 from Verizon, out of the box you’re likely to have around 30 apps already installed, and most of them cannot be uninstalled.

For the tech savvy, this is an inconvenience. For the tech unsavvy, this is a nightmare. A nightmare that they often don’t understand or know how to fix. A nightmare that leaves them with an unsavory taste in their mouth.

For me, the number one way Samsung can improve the S7 and make it a guaranteed buy, is to remove Touchwiz. And I’m not saying they should get rid of it all together. Just give me the option. Let me buy a stock Android Samsung device. Or better yet, let me choose when I buy a device. One first boot, a screen that says, “Would you like stock Android, or Touchwiz?” It isn’t a difficult concept. And it would solve a number of the S7’s biggest issues.

No Root Support

After reading an XDA article the other day (XDA being the forum where Android enthusiasts gather to discuss rooting devices, and just about everything else Android) I learned that the S7 makes things even more difficult than before. For most Android users who find their devices filled with bloat, the solution is to root their device. Rooting allows users to completely remove bloatware and even install different versions of Android on a given device. Samsung devices have long been a difficult breed; they utilize Samsung’s own Exynos chips. Samsung keeps the info locked down on those chips, making it difficult for developers to build working Android versions for those chips.

Developers were excited when the S7 was announced; for the first time, there would be a Samsung device with a Qualcomm chip. Qualcomm chips are used in many Android devices, and the company is far more open about their chips, allowing developers to build software that works well with them.

It began to look like developers would be able to build their own Android versions for the S7. However, Samsung has restricted the S7 versions that will have the Qualcomm chip. Only certain versions of the phone in the U.S. will have the ship. And worse, those versions will be locked down. As of now, they look almost impossible to root.

Originally written and published at www.thedailydobson.tk