Samsung Galaxy S5

Looking for a more Googley GS5 experience? Here are eight ways to get started ...

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the hot new Android phone of the moment, with waterproof credentials, a new soft-touch plastic rear and a highly capable 16-megapixel camera. But one major sticking point for Android purists is Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. Though it's been pared back, flattened and de-bloated in its latest revision, TouchWiz remains a polarizing UI. And some of us just prefer the simpler look of vanilla Android.

Fortunately, thanks to Google rolling out many of its own Android apps freely on the Play Store, it's easier than ever for GS5 owners to switch to a setup closer to stock Android. Head past the break to find out how.

Google Calendar

Calendar

Google's stock calendar app is an easy download from Google Play if you're not feeling the Samsung Calendar app (called "S Planner" on some international models).

To avoid duplicate notifications from the built-in calendar, head to Menu>Settings>Event Notification in that app, and choose "Off" under "Select Alert Type."

Google Keyboard

Keyboard

Samsung's built-in keyboard, based upon the SwiftKey SDK, is pretty good on the Galaxy S5, providing a full row of number keys and continuous input. Google's own Android keyboard app is a great alternative though, and it's freely available on Google Play. (We'd also recommend taking a look at the full version of SwiftKey for even more accurate predictions.)

Using Hangouts for SMS

Hangouts SMS

Since late last year the Google Hangouts app has had the ability to handle SMS and MMS as well as instant messages. (You'll probably have seen a notification about this the first time you powered your phone on.)

To have Google Hangouts handle your text messages instead of the built-in Samsung Messages app, go to Settings>Applications>Messages>Default messaging app and choose Hangouts. You may then need to select which Google account you'll associate with SMS messages — that'll determine which account shows your text messages, if you have multiple Google accounts.

Use a custom launcher

Google Now Launcher

There's no Google Play edition Galaxy S5 just yet, but that doesn't mean you can't make your GS5 look like a Nexus phone. Nova Launcher and Apex are both worth a look, and can be extensively customized to bring your GS5 closer to Google's vision of Android.

At present you can't download the Google Now Launcher from Google Play on a non-Nexus or GPe device, but it'll sideload just fine onto the GS5. Simply download the APK onto your phone and install it as usual. (Things can go a bit wonky, however, if you use Ultra Power Saving Mode.)

The Google Now Launcher brings Google's predictive search engine to your home screen, along with clean, simple arrangement for your icons and widgets. Google's launcher also includes all the static wallpapers from the Nexus 5, giving you an alternative to Samsung's garish multicolored backgrounds.

Also be aware that some TouchWiz widgets — including Weather and the full-page calendar widget — only work within Samsung's home screen launcher.

Once your custom launcher is installed, you can toggle between it and the TouchWiz launcher through Settings>Applications>Default Applications>Home. (And if you're no longer using Samsung's weather widget, you can disable this on your lock screen through Settings>Sound and Display>Lock screen)

Sun Beam Live Wallpaper

Sun Beam

Ported from the original two Google Play edition handsets last year, Shen Ye's Sun Beam Live Wallpaper is identical to the red-hued animated background you'd find preloaded on GPe devices.

Google Camera — and a word of warning

Google Camera

With the recent launch of the Google Camera app on Google Play, it's now possible for any Android 4.4 KitKat device to use the stock Android camera app, with features like Photosphere and the new lens blur effect.

You'll miss out on many of the Galaxy S5 camera's more advanced features, however, including the wide range of image tweaks, and advanced modes like Shot & Mode and Virtual Tour. So this may be one to skip if you're a keen photographer.

More: What's new in the Google Camera app, Galaxy S5 camera review

Recommended extras: Muzei and DashClock Widget

Muzei + DashClock

Googler Roman Nurik has created two apps which are ideal add-ons for a Googlified Galaxy S5. DashClock gives you a customizable widget showing the time and any number of extensions from a range of built-in and third-party apps.

And Muzei Live Wallpaper brings beautifully blurred wallpaper to your phone, with a wide array of extensions allowing you to plug in fresh images from various sources. Check out our round-up of some of the best Muzei add-ons to get started.

More: Galaxy S5 review, Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S5

 
There are 87 comments

shaytoon21 says:

for a skin, i highly recommend using nova launcher to make the phone feel like its running anything but TW.

Taz89 says:

Yep nova prime all day, been using it since the s2 and it's always the 1st thing I set up when I get a new phone. Can't give up custom grid, gestures and icon packs.

Posted via Android Central App using galaxy s4

TW is the only thing that has stopped me from buying a Samsung phone

Lynx says:

I may be the biggest ANTI Samsung person around here. I despise TouchWiz with every inch of my existence. With that said I actually purchased the gs5 and m8 and put them to the test against each other (I am HUGE iOS fan also). Long story short, the m8 easily has the build quality and speakers, but its just not as comfortable in the hand IMO.

My iPhone 5s has been on the sidelines for 2 weeks now and I am absolutely loving my Galaxy s5.... using Nova Prime of course because TouchWiz still sucks lmao.

Nic Horn says:

Just disable it? You don't even need a custom launcher such as Nova or ADW. Kill the launcher in the app draw and next time it will ask if your want TouchWiz or Home (Vanilla)

lebatte says:

Can you expand on this? Not sure what to do.

Using Nova is pretty much the same as using stick it you apply the right things to go with it.

jeddo45 says:

Eh, cyanogen mod has gotten so easy to use I would just root the phone!

Brought to you by the Nexus M8

Kayone73 says:

Except CM sometimes causes problems with hardware functionality like BT and other phone functions depending on the device amd quality of the CM build

Posted via Android Central App

Nic Horn says:

But the S5 would have a stable build, its one off the most popular phones on the market

SEGROUKIN says:

CM has a history of bugs such as poor camera optimisation, speakers out and bluetooth.

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Or save yourself a bundle and buy a nexus 5

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Taz89 says:

Exactly, I own a s4 but if you want a all Google/nexus experience than your better off getting a nexus 5 and save money at the same time.

Posted via Android Central App using galaxy s4

retsaw says:

But the S5 is waterproof, has an SD slot, a removable battery and an IR blaster.

These are all features I would use.

For those that might question why I want a waterproof phone, it's not because I'm likely to drop it in water but because I play Ingress and if it starts raining I either have to stop playing or wrap my phone in a plastic bag.

I can't say I'm willing to trade in my Nexus 5 for the S5, mostly because of the extra cost, and partly because of TouchWiz, but it is tempting at times.

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cokemanpac says:

Its not water proof only the experia devices are. Its water resistant. BIGGG difference

Posted via Android Central App

sonofalink says:

And, as a person coming from iPhoneland, a physical home button.

I also have a Nexus 7 and I simply cannot stand the onscreen home, back, launcher buttons. But then again, I also hate the fact that Samsung put the back button on the wrong side.

Kayone73 says:

Except the N5 doesn't have the hardware features that the S5 has, like ita camera, removable battery or expandable memory slot

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scottyhifi says:

But if you want a stock experience the N5 is second to none.

NoNexus says:

Except stock sucks

Posted via Android Central App

MERCDROID says:

Lol

ScottJ says:

No, that's your mama you're thinking about

scottyhifi says:

It is really a matter of preference. Either you like near stock Android or the terrorist win.

NoNexus says:

But have to deal with a ton of suck

Posted via Android Central App

ScottJ says:

Leave your mama out of this

ameadows252 says:

Step 1. Return Galaxy S5
Step 2. Buy Nexus 5

Cheetah23 says:

Step 3. Hope you're not on Verizon!

NoNexus says:

Step 4 have regrets

Posted via Android Central App

MERCDROID says:

Not with the Nexus 5. My only gripe with it was the battery life. Other than that, the experience was solid.

ScottJ says:

Man..all you can talk about is your mama. You are her only regret.

ab304945 says:

Stock android is boring.

Posted via Android Central App

Taz89 says:

Yep agree, imo it looks nice but it's just very bare bones for me. I have a nexus 7 and s4 and I enjoy my s4 more. Wish features like multi window was available on my nexus 7

Posted via Android Central App using galaxy s4

TallyHo says:

Why don' t you install Xposed Framework and add the multi window module? Does that not work on the N7?

Taz89 says:

Yh I want to root it but to do that I need to unlock the bootloader which factory resets the device. I just can't be asked to set everything up again etc

Posted via Android Central App using galaxy s4

Agreed. Thank god we have a choice.

Ita pretty funny people say that android is all about choice yet they go around demanding stock to be on everything....

This is android not ios

Posted via Android Central App on the HTC One M8

ScottJ says:

Stock android is boring.

...to you.

Personally, I prefer an OS that gets out of the way and stock Android does just that.

MERCDROID says:

This.

scottyhifi says:

Stock Android is beautifully simplistic.

bhatech says:

Wrong. You can't change the underlying touchwiz in settings and so many other places.

Posted via Android Central App

eahinrichsen says:

Hence "look more like."

rmkilc says:

But there is no app that will get rid of those physical buttons.

teomor says:

Or just install CyanogenMod and delete that shi11y Touchwiz from your phone :)

eahinrichsen says:

There's no language filter, man. You can just say "shitty."

NoNexus says:

But have half the hardware not work well

Posted via Android Central App

ScottJ says:

Like your brain? Are you the Hulk? Slip of the vaunted S-Pen? Stroke?

Runn3rs_High says:

The fact that all this needs to be done before a Samsung phone can be bearable is my main reason for leaving Samsung...

NoNexus says:

It doesnt

Posted via Android Central App

ScottJ says:

It does.

Based on the quality of your typing either the Samsung keyboard is defective or you are. I'm betting on the latter.

SkinsFan1987 says:

I go back and forth with the launcher on my Note 3; I'm using TouchWiz right now, but I'll probably be switching back to the Google Now Launcher next week. To each his own, I guess.

I have never understood the hate over Touch Wize it isn't greatly different then anything else to me. It seems like everyone just wants something to hate on. I like TW more than stock, though I like Nova more then both. Nova has some nice added features, but at the end of the day most of the differences are minor between stock and TW.
Many of the other changes called out in this article can apply to the Nexus 5 as well. I would replace the launcher with Nova, replace the keyboard with SwiftKey, add my own custom wallpapers, and associate messaging apps.
It's not like you are trading a Yugo with a Corvette, it's a front end that lets you launch apps which look the same on any phone regardless of the front end.

Taz89 says:

Agree, I use SwiftKey and nova on the nexus 7

Posted via Android Central App using galaxy s4

El Platanero says:

Is there any advantage on using Google calendar vs stock?

Posted via Android Central App

slackerjack says:

No, in fact there's far more reason to use the TW Calendar and Email apps than anything in stock Android. Those two apps represent an entire reason to own a GS5 over a stock android experience...in a different league

I don't get the Touchwiz hate. I'm loving the interface on the S5. Direct access to everything from the Home Screen and the Notification Panel.

But then, I'm coming over from an iPhone/iOS. There are so many more options, features and customization on this S5 than there is on any iPhone. All you see on an iPhone are app icons on every page. That's it. No widgets. They JUST added a control center with the last iOS version to let you have direct access to toggles and brightness... talk about BEHIND the times.... You had to JAILBREAK your phone (and void it's warranty) to get Android-Level access to your iPhone.

On my S5, I got apps and widgets for whatever I want arranged in various formations on individual pages and it makes the phone look so much more interesting and accessible.

In fact, the "More Google-Like" Launchers make the phone seem more "Apple-Like" to me.

I prefer the extra bells and whistles. But, I guess that's just me.

I'll be the "weirdo" and give the S5's Touchwiz a thumbs UP.

Maisoumenos says:

i definitely prefer the bells and whistles of touchwiz or other UI's. vanilla android bores me to no end.

ScottJ says:

Most of the "bells and whistles" people like are apps that Samsung provides, not Touchwiz.

NoNexus says:

Smart stay? Air view? Spen?

Are they apps or touchwiz? There are tons more but you get the point

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ScottJ says:

The S-Pen is Touchwiz? I know you like it because it resembles your cock but larger but it certainly isn't a piece of software.

the1m.polo says:

The problem is touchwiz looks like a cartoon and it's just not as fluid as say sense,stock, or iOS ... I've had many touchwiz devices gs3 , note 2, gs4 including buying my mom the S5 ..and trust me once you go to another UI u will see why many people hate touchwiz... It's ugly and sloppy, but people love it for the features...idk why Samsung doesn't just give it a different look
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Maisoumenos says:

Stock android is ok but i wouldnt want that experience all the time. and judging by how often those guys with nexus devices comment on other phones, it confirms that thought for me even more.

hmmm says:

If you are going to buya Samsung phone I would think you should want to use Touchwiz. That's a huge part of the reason to buy a phone that offers a different customization of Android.

itsmekalyan says:

or go buy a Nexus 5

slackerjack says:

I did, but the screen, camera, memory and expandable storage are just so much better than the minor perks of running vanilla Android...and I'm not talking minor improvements...I'm talking WAY WAY SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY.

SEGROUKIN says:

Why the hell are people saying "get a nexus 5?" The nexus 5 isn't stock cos it runs GEL on top of stock jeez!!
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ScottJ says:

There's no such thing as "GEL".

slackerjack says:

Yeah - but typing GNL just makes you look like you're illiterate and talking about Saturday Night Live acronymically :)

MERCDROID says:

Because it's closer to stock than the S5.

3rdpig says:

I've avoided Samsung phones because of all the hate I read about Touchwiz. Now that I've finally got one, I'm finding it's no worse or better than any of the others, including stock Android on my N7. It works fine, it's customizable enough for my needs and it doesn't get in the way of the things I really need to do. And since I'm on VZ, a Nexus isn't possible unless I go back to the Galaxy Nexus and we all know what that was like. I'm loving the S5, I'll stick with it.

dadathepanda says:

Google calendar and keyboard are not even close to Samsung calendar and SwiftKey. Stock camera has more features. Like many have said, if you want a stock experience get a Nexus...

The panda has spoken

ScottJ says:

Samsung uses a Swype-based keyboard, not SwiftKey.

jschu22 says:

How did they get Dashclock to work? Samsung has apparently disabled lock screen widgets on the S5.

Posted via Android Central App

slackerjack says:

Only on certain Variants - Sprint and AT&T have them disabled, but on other versions lockscreen widgets work as intended - this is a carrier decision, not a Samsung decision

rob90262 says:

Go to your locks screen setting and enable multiple widgets and just delete the original one

Posted via Android Central App

the1m.polo says:

And you just lost another 500mb to a gig of your available 10g

To add ur phone should feel like one cohesive system..Doing this is a good alternative if you don't mind your phone feeling like a patch OS
Posted via Android Central App

zhenate says:

This is a horrible idea. Use a custom launcher if you want, but don't change the calendar, keyboard, or camera to google's version. They aren't better for the S5.

slackerjack says:

Okay - I agree with everyting you say here except the idea that anyone should adopt the Google Calendar over the stock TW version. While i agree that it certainly makes it look more "Google" - the TW calendar is leaps and bounds more functional and just better than the stock Google calendar...same goes for the stock email app.

One other thing I'd like to point out is that if you click on options when you're in your "wallpaper selector" screen - there's an option all the way to the right - you can have an option for screen transition "Cards" is enabled by default, but if you select "None" you get the vanilla 4.4.2 Google now slide transitions (and in fact, if I could just get google now added to the far left homescreen - you wouldn't be able to tell a difference - it looks and functions exactly the same!

Jack

21plays says:

Dash clock is useless. I used it for weeks. The same notifications appear on the status bar.

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trivor says:

My big problem with Samsung Phones isn't TW, it's Samsung radios and it sounds like that hasn't changed. I owned a brand new GS3 (preordered on the first day) on Verizon and while I loved the in hand feel (it was light and thin) I've never dropped more calls or had poorer reception than any other phone (dumb phone, feature phone or smartphone - ranging from LG (multiple feature phones) to the Palm Pixi, Droid Inc 2, and now the LG G2) than I did on the GS3. I suffered with that for a full 15 months until I got my G2. It sounds like people still have radio problems (my GS3 also had poorer reception on Bluetooth and WiFi (2.4 and 5.0 GHz). I still own the GS3 (backup phone) and checked all those things vs. my G2 and it's amazing how bad the GS3 was. TW and plastic design are fine for me - can't stand the poor radios - I still make phone calls with my smart phones.

NoNexus says:

I had issues with my Droid Charge, but my s3 and note 3 are flawless. Only have had the s5 for a week but haven't had a nice issue

Posted via Android Central App

ScottJ says:

I'm sure it had issues with you. It probably wondered what it did to get such a douchebag owner.

neiljay6 says:

What did Nonexus do to be insulted by you like that. Not agree with your opinion? Its been said again and again. There are people out there who actually like TW .

BldyIdt says:

Just read his (NoNexus) comments history...

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chefmorry says:

I too cannot get dash clock to work my my T-Mobile S5. Can't seem to find the option to allow widgets on the lock screen anywhere in settings.

Posted via Android Central App

sequoia462 says:

Can't guarantee the same path on the S5, but for stock android, to turn on widgets, go to Settings > Security > Enable widgets > click checkbox to on

sequoia462 says:

I wouldn't recommend Hangouts if you do alot of texting on the S5, only because of the AMOLED screen and Hangouts is really bright and white. Black pixels are battery saving, so I'd recommend Chomp SMS and set a black background and black bubbles. Though, this is to Google-ify your S5, I know.

Jon George says:

Little late but Team Blackouts has inverted hangouts..I use that on my S3 thats running SlimKat but I have stock hangouts on my Note 3

patstar5 says:

Anyway to get stock phone and contacts app on galaxy s 4? Just got my s4 tuesday, replacing my iPhone 5. Paid $200 off contact for it. Still getting used to it, I hate that Samsung puts all their touchwiz on everything. Any root available for Att galaxy s4 on KitKat? I havn't use isyncr but i will use it to sync with itunes. Also how do I sync iPhoto with it? Should I use Samsung kies for backup and syncing content to my phone or something else? I plan on switching to a new android phone in a few months that is close to stock like moto x, oneplus one, nexus 6.

Posted via Android Central App

Nic Horn says:

Another alternative would to just run vanilla android... Go to your apps and kill Twwiz Launcher or whatever they have it called (I don't actually know a galaxy). Then when you hit your home button it will ask if you want to use the home launcher (vanilla) or TouchWiz