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One UI 4: Top 5 things we want to see from Samsung's Android 12 update

One Ui Wishlist Apps
One Ui Wishlist Apps (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Samsung's One UI software is at the heart of many of the best Android phones out there, like the Galaxy S21 series. The company's smartphone UI has come a long way since the days of TouchWiz (a.k.a. the old, bad Samsung UI), and the current One UI version 3.1 boasts fast performance slick animations and a rich feature set.

Nevertheless, there's always room for improvement, and Samsung's position as the leading Android manufacturer in the West means that expectations are high for the upcoming One UI 4.0 update. After three years of One UI, we've rounded the top five things we want to see in the next version.

1. No more ads

Ad notifications from Samsung

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

There's no excuse for unblockable push ads on a $1000+ phone.

In the U.S. in particular, Samsung phones have become notorious for aggressively pushing ads, often in the form of notifications, to its users' devices. While it is possible to turn off ads on a Samsung phone, this involves digging into the settings in multiple places, and even then some promotional messages will pop up from time to time. Even in core apps like Weather, you'll see videos surfaced from Samsung's partner, Weather.com, with no way to disable this part of the app.

Samsung's best phones sell for between $1000 and $2000 unlocked, and so it's understandable that owners feel irked by such an aggressive level of advertising on even the most expensive Galaxy phones.

With the upcoming launch of One UI 4, Samsung has the opportunity to eliminate, or at least severely cut back on this growing annoyance.

2. More helpful notifications

One UI popup notifications

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Notifications are a core part of the smartphone experience. Our phones, ultimately, are communication devices, and notifications are a big part of how we communicate. Which is why it's weird that the current version of One UI bungles notification popups pretty badly compared to other Android phones. The out-of-box configuration for pop-up alerts on a Samsung phone is "brief," meaning you'll only see the first few words of a message, without the additional buttons to mark as read or reply inline. (To do that, you'll need to find the notification in the notification shade.)

Want easy glanceable notifications? On One UI 3, you're largely out of luck.

This is easily remedied by changing the setting to "detailed," which gives you the standard-sized Android alert, buttons and all. The only problem there is you can't use the "Edge lighting" feature with detailed notifications, so it's not possible to have the full message text pop up when the screen is off. Compare that to the stock behavior on OnePlus, Pixels and most other Android phones, Samsung's approach makes it less easy to quickly glance at alerts as they come in.

The broader Android ecosystem is full of examples of easy glanceable notifications, whether it's via an Always-on Display feature or Pixel-style popups — and pretty much all for these work better than what's currently in One UI 3.

3. A more functional power menu

One UI Devices menu

Source: Android Central / Alex Dobie (Image credit: Source: Android Central / Alex Dobie)

The power button (or side key, as Samsung calls it) pulls double duty on Galaxy phones, sharing functionality between the power menu and Bixby. However, Samsung is missing a trick in not including smart home controls in its power menu, as most rival manufacturers do. Instead, this stuff lives behind the "Devices" shortcut key in the notification shade, where it's harder to reach.

If you regularly use your phone to control smart bulbs, speakers or Chromecast targets, you'll probably agree that the barebones power menu offered by Samsung at the moment is a waste of prime UI real estate. Whether you're using Google Home or Samsung's own SmartThings ecosystem, there's definitely more that can be done with the One UI power menu, and we'd hope to see it expanded in the next version of the software.

4. Vertical scrolling app drawer

One UI was originally built to split the screen into a display area and an interaction area. Samsung recognized that phones were getting bigger, and most people could only comfortably reach the bottom half of the screen. As such, apps and menus were redesigned with new scrolling behavior to make it easier to reach the top of lists, and relocate important controls closer to the bottom of the screen.

But one notable area where One UI is stuck in the past is its app drawer. On the current version, it scrolls horizontally, meaning some apps are perpetually stuck at the top of the screen. Most other Android phones avoid this issue by scrolling vertically, so most apps are easily reachable. The same goes for the app search bar at the top of the app drawer — reaching these with one hand on a larger phone like the Galaxy S21 Ultra is almost impossible.

Not everyone uses the app drawer. But for those that do, and for the sake of usability, Samsung should consider redesigning this part of its launcher in One UI 4.

5. A more useful Recents menu

One UI Recents Menu

Source: Android Central / Alex Dobie (Image credit: Source: Android Central / Alex Dobie)

As of Android 12, Google includes plenty of extra features in the recent apps menu, including screenshots, direct text selection translate and Google Lens. By comparison, Samsung's is relatively barebones, offering only a selection of four predictive app shortcuts at the bottom of the screen. With more manufacturers like Oppo building direct translation and Lens into their versions of Android, it's time for Samsung to follow suit.

A redesigned Recents menu could also let Samsung highlight its pretty great windowed and split-screen modes, most of which are hidden behind yet another layer of menus on the Recent apps page.

Samsung One UI 4.0, coming soon

Samsung's One UI 4.0 is likely to break cover this fall, bringing with it the Android 12 platform update. If previous years are any indication, we could see beta versions of the new software available as early as September or October. We'll be crossing our fingers for these new features in the next version of One UI. In the meantime, be sure to share your own hopes for the next-gen Galaxy UI down in the comments.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra in Phantom Black

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best phone you can buy right now, and will be one of the first devices to get Android 12 / One UI 4.0 when it launches.

Alex Dobie
Alex Dobie

Alex is global Executive Editor for Android Central, and is usually found in the UK. He has been blogging since before it was called that, and currently most of his time is spent leading video for AC, which involves pointing a camera at phones and speaking words at a microphone. He would just love to hear your thoughts at alex@androidcentral.com, or on the social things at @alexdobie.

21 Comments
  • Pretty good list of features here. I think the horizontal scrolling of the app drawer is the single biggest reason I wont use the stock launcher.
  • If they would add it to HomeUp I'd be happy! Atleast give us the option of it.
  • I prefer the horizontal scrolling app drawer, it's easier to find apps I'm looking for this way and I love the fact that I can locate an app I'm looking for no other Android OEM offers this feature.
  • #1 is never going to happen. Sadly.
  • I think the Ads issue is only an issue in the USA or maybe its only on the S21 because on my S10 I've simply never seen them. I do torn off the Marketing options, could it be Android Central staff are to lazy to look in Settings? They complained the Samsung Calendar notifications are full screen when you can literally change it in settings.
  • I miss app suggestions in recents menu on pixel phones and it will be great if Samsung keeps them.
  • My biggest gripe with One UI is that everything has to be done through Bixby routines such as setting your phone on battery saving mode when your battery is low and the notifications or at least how they are displayed when you get a notification, I don't like it. That's literally my 2 gripes about One UI 3.1 and that's how good Samsung's UI is that I only can think of 2 complaints about it.
  • I don't understand your point. Bixby Routines is great and is the feature for automation. Which most phones don't have built in. Where else would they put it?
  • Bixby routines is great but give us other options as well.
  • I don't understand people receiving ads I've been using either a Note or an S phone since 2016 and I've never received the first ad. I only use the app drawer a couple of times a month because I use Lunch Board to launch apps but I like the horizontal scroll, I think it's much faster to find an app then the vertical scrolling. With the Recents Apps if you can use Samsung's Good Lock with Samsung's Home Up there is a lot of options you can have the recents menu most anyway you would want. Anyone that uses a Samsung phone and reads Android Central knows about Samsung good lock and Samsung Galaxy labs I don't know why Android Central don't cover them more as good lock and Galaxy Labs adds a lot to a Samsung phone that's not available on any other Android based phone. With Bixby if you don't want to use it just never touch it never think about it and it goes away if you look in running services in developer options it's not their running unless you've tapped on it sometime.
  • Good Lock is great, I use Home Up, multistage and Lockstar mostly.
  • They show up in apps like Music and Health. I don't get notification ads etc, but I stopped using music and went with a 3rd party one because of the ads, and that's even with a system wide adblocker in place.
  • I've literally only seen them in the Galaxy app store. I wonder if it only happens in the USA. Never had a notification one once, never seen it in music or weather. Samsung Health isn't preinstalled on my S10 so I don't know about this.
  • Same here, ads seem to be an issue for Samsung devices in the US.
  • The ads are the reason I will never buy another Samsung phone. My Note 9 had no ads, but OneUI brought with it an enormous amount of ads. Music App, Weather App, etc. All of these started getting huge banner or modal pop-up ads after the OneUI update. Samsung Today Panel was gutted and turned into something utterly useless. Pro Video Mode disappeared for WELL OVER A YEAR. There is NO RELIABILITY OF UX with these devices. You do NOT get what you paid for. They feel like web services. I'm not spending $1,000+ on another device that turns out to be an AdWare machine that can drop features that got me to buy the phone at a whim. Never fu.cking again. Ever. I'm done with them. Apple forever.
  • You'll be back, you'll realise that the overpriced, overhyped, overrated and limited and restrictive walled garden isn't fun and you'll come back to Android and to Samsung who makes the best software and hardware on the Android side.
  • OneUI didn't bring in Ads, OneUI in the USA maybe. I've never seen any and I'm on my third Galaxy. S10 currently.
  • I think the Ads issue is only an issue in the USA or maybe its only on the S21 because on my S10 I've simply never seen them.
  • The App Drawer one is so stupid. You wrote a paragraph on what's just a personó preference. Root in the past, seriously? We scroll left and right on our home screens. I much prefer it, having specific pages makes it easier to find Apps and it's useful it remembers the page you left it on.
  • You missed the most important: Let us room All the Samsung apps we don't want. OneUI is much better than Samsung phones used to be but I also want to at least be able to disable Messages and Calender.
  • Also can Samsung change the way updates are available and actually show notifications for updates rather than having to check them manually.