A few years ago, I believe the general industry consensus was that Android phones didn’t provide the best overall smartphone experiences. The hardware may have been ahead in certain areas, but some felt Android phones felt a bit sluggish, maybe even the experience degraded over time and seemed complex.
After my experiences with the Galaxy S10+, Note10+ and the Fold, I believe Samsung changed that Android phenomenon with the introduction of One UI 1. Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down and chat with Samsung’s VP and Head of UX Innovation Team, YooJin Hong, to discuss the company’s goals with One UI 2, introduced today at Samsung’s Developer Conference (SDC). I even had the chance to use an early Beta on an S10+ and wanted to share my experiences on that and my conversation with her.
One UI 1 at SDC 18, contributing to 16.8% NPS improvement
Last year at SDC 18, Samsung discussed many ways it was providing up to 2.5B endpoints of developer opportunity across its large platform. One of the bigger announcements was a total revamp of its smartphone user interface, called TouchWiz and then later called Samsung Experience, to “One UI” 1. Last year I noted that the new user interface allowed devices to scale between the smaller and larger displays in an intelligent manner, very important in this day and age of varying display sizes and foldables. Most of the content viewing occurs at the top of the screen, while most of the interaction takes place at the bottom, closer to your fingers. Samsung said at SDC 18 that this reduced clutter and made it easier and more natural to use while scrolling with one hand. Trying to improve the experience for “one-hand” phone users was a smart move if you ask me—that’s how a lot of us already use our smartphones.
So what was the verdict? After using the Samsung Galaxy S10+, Note10+ and the Fold, I believe Samsung eclipsed all other Android smartphone makers I test and achieved parity with iOS, something I never I thought I would see with an Android platform.
Samsung shared with me that NPS on the S10 increased 16.8% in all age groups and a whopping 36.5% with buyers in their 20s for the U.S. and South Korea.Patrick Moorhead, President & Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy
This is an incredible improvement which I give primary credit to One UI.
So how do you make the experience even better? Samsung’s VP and Head of UX Innovation Team, YooJin Hong, told me the goals were to focus even more on the task at hand, enable even more natural interactions, and make the mobile experience more visibly comfortable. Samsung is also migrating, expanding One UI to its tablets, wearables, foldables, and DeX for PC.
One UI 2- Focus
The first goal Hong shared with me was the desire for the end user to focus more on the task at hand versus getting distracted by every knob and slider on every screen. This made sense historically as Samsung’s success was built on introducing many useful features but with that came complexity on how they could be discovered.
“More” used to mean ‘more,’ but now “less was more.” Samsung’s VP and Head of UX Innovation Team, YooJin Hong
With One UI 1.0 we saw “focus blocks” and with 2.0, Hong says she is minimizing pop-ups and notifications as well as architecting a simplified camera interface.
I got to see One UI 2 “focus” in action, and particularly interesting for me was a simplified camera UI with some of the top UI options reduced and decluttered. I saw a mockup of a smaller incoming caller ID notification when trying to watch a video versus a giant notification. In Gallery, the upper and lower (Pictures, Albums, Stories, Shared) UI disappears when fast scrolling through pictures, resulting in maximum photo viewing real estate.
One UI 2- Natural interactions
Hong also wanted to make One UI 2.0 experience feel like “second nature with simple and more fluid interactions that make sense.” She said it all starts with putting the elements the user interacts closer to the fingers and thumb, which is the lower portion of the screen, called the “interaction area.” The “viewing area” is on top. This was introduced in One UI 1 and expanded in 2 to more areas like application folders, making even more functions controllable with your thumb with one hand.
One of the biggest One UI 2 improvements is the Samsung Keyboard. Users can “undo” and “redo” text with two-finger gestures. They can also, without even taking a finger off the keyboard, use the cursor. I have to spend more time using the feature, but this could end up being a differentiator. Just when you thought there wasn’t innovation left in on-screen keyboards, we get this.
One UI 2- Visibly comfortable
While One UI 1 made strides visually with “Dark mode” and smoother animations, Hong explained that there was a lot more that the team could do to make the experience more comfortable on the eyes. I am always impressed when UI leaders go through their craft as I get an enhanced appreciation for all the details required to make a device “feel” and “look”good.
Dark mode was enhanced to look good for use in the day or night by changing the intensity and contrasts of the whites and colors. Too much contrast at night hurts the eyes while too little during the day means you’ll have a hard time seeing it. The lock screen was even enhanced where depending on the wallpaper colors of the photo, the text and icon colors will change so users can see the elements all the time. Facial and color optimization algorithms and blue light filters are now applied so every wallpaper looks better, and you can learn and act on the information.
One UI 2 for tablets, wearables, DeX, and foldables
As discussed before, the response from One UI 1 was overwhelmingly positive and the S10 saw an large improvement in NPS. Therefore, the natural question was, “when can I get this on other Samsung products”? Hong says that the company is bringing One UI 2.0 to Samsung tablets, wearables, DeX for PC, and foldables, offering developers and of course, users a more unified experience across devices. This move makes a lot of sense and would have been nice from the start, but I understand the company wanted to gauge the response.
Samsung made a lot of strides with One UI 1, and according to Samsung’s YooJin Hong, she intends to make as big a leap with One UI 2. The company wants to improve the UI to keep users focused on the task at hand on its phones, tablets, wearables, DeX for PC, and foldables by decluttering it, enabling a more natural interaction, and making it easier on the eyes. Better yet, Samsung delivered the One UI 2 Beta with Android 10 one month earlier than last year, a signal the company is listening to its users who want the latest and greatest operating systems even earlier. The One UI beta launched to developers on October 14, and Samsung believes the first roll-outs will occur in the coming months.
Nothing beats a video, so here is a One UI 2 sizzle real here: