When Samsung took their first stab at a custom Android UI, the results were not pretty. Reviewers hated Touchwiz and Gizmodo said, “Samsung’s Behold II is the most impressively ugly Android phone in existence. The custom interface is so bad, so gaudy and so confusing it turned my brains into ooze.”
To no surprise, sales of the T-Mobile Behold II disappointed and Samsung cut their losses when they decided not to release Android 2.1 for the phone.
If you you considered the original Touchwiz a disease, then consider the new Touchwiz 3.0 as the cure. I’ve only spent a couple of days with the new user interface on the Samsung Captivate, but I can say it doesn’t get in the way or annoy the user and you can switch to an alternative desktop if you prefer a more traditional Android experience.
Overall, Touchwiz 3.0 doesn’t really add anything of value to the power user because most (if not all) of its features can be duplicated with free apps from the Android Market. Users will find scrollable widgets, custom live wallpapers, alternative input methods like Swype, and a custom app drawer that many say is Apple-inspired. Samsung also tacked on toggles for settings like WiFi and Bluetooth to their notification bar, which is a nice feature but I wish it could be turned off.
The best thing I can say about TouchWiz is that you are not forced to use it. There is no forced “Touchwiz” account like you see on the Motoblur phones and all the widgets and sync services can be configured to off. Owners just use the built-in Android settings and they can configure which social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.) that they want to connect.
Our only real question about Touchwiz 3.0 is – how long will it slow down software updates like the pending Android 2.2 releaes? Samsung doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to pushing out updates, but I think they are aware of this.
While we wait for the carriers to push out Android 2.2 this summer, it appears like Samsung will step out of the way and let the community support the Galaxy S devices on their own. The handset maker has already released their source code and it appears the majority of Galaxy S devices have unlocked bootloaders that allow users to flash unsigned updates. These important “features” should be enough reason that the Galaxy S will become one of the most popular platforms for open source development.
Since you can easily root all their phones, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a situation where open source developers port Android 2.2 to some of the U.S. phones before they even go on sale.
For a quick idea of what to expect from Touchwiz 3.0 and to see what other desktop replacements look like, check out our quick walk-through video.
p.s. check back tomorrow for a report on the TV out functions