Samsung Galaxy S9

I quite like my Galaxy S9+. The overall experience of using this high-end phone is great, but as I've said many times I'm not a huge fan of the software overall. To put it concisely, I use the Galaxy S9+ despite its software rather than because of it. That's the opposite of my feelings toward phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 6, which have software that draws me in and rarely frustrates.

So I'm going to nitpick for a little bit, and point out the handful of things I'd love to see change in Samsung's software simply for my personal edification. The Galaxy S9's software is finished and isn't going to change dramatically, but hey maybe we'll see some of these changes come to the Galaxy Note 9 or the GS9's successor next year.

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Make Samsung apps optional during setup

Samsung Galaxy S9+ app drawer

In an alternate universe where Google didn't operate the Play Store or make a whole host of extremely popular apps, Samsung's suite of pre-loaded apps would make a ton of sense. But the reality is Samsung's apps are completely duplicative with Google's, and they just constantly get in the way — and it'd sure make things simpler if Samsung just let you pick and choose which ones to use when you first set up the phone.

Some people prefer Samsung's apps, but those who don't should have a choice.

To be clear, I'm not asking for Samsung to go full-on Motorola or OnePlus and just move to only using Google's apps rather than its own. I simply want the option during setup to choose which ones I want. I know a lot of people like Samsung's Gallery, Email and Messages apps, but I don't — and I think everyone should have the choice. Of course you can set your default apps and hide the ones you don't want from your launcher, but why should we have to go through that hassle?

Yes I understand that Google requires that Samsung load many of its apps as a condition of having the Play Store, and that's rather unfair to Samsung. But it's the world that every Android manufacturer plays in, and I would love to see Samsung make a consumer-friendly move and let us make the choice as to whether we want its apps or not.

The notification shade should respect media apps

One of the most egregious examples of Samsung's software being designed in a vacuum is its notification shade. Despite having guidelines to help integrate, the Galaxy S9's notification shade has no idea how to gracefully handle app-defined non-standard notification colors, leading to jarring (and frankly broken looking) visuals. The entire shade is white, with these multi-color notifications coming through in a complete contrast — making it worse is the persistent bar at the bottom of the notification shade for managing notification settings.

Galaxy S9 media notifications Galaxy S9 media notifications Galaxy S9 media notifications

Multi-colored notifications from media apps clash hard with the white aesthetic in a way that makes me wonder if anyone at Samsung listens to music or podcasts with third-party apps. There are ways that you can integrate these multi-colored notifications in a smooth way, and it looks like it hasn't even made an attempt.

Fix your dang keyboard

Despite its massive engineering resources, Samsung somehow continues to ship one of the worst virtual keyboards in the industry. Yes you can replace it, as I do with every Samsung phone I use. But the people who don't know (or care) to replace their keyboard end up using this subpar experience.

I'm not sure what it is, but Samsung's auto correction system is just horrible. It randomly inserts punctuation and corrects words to form incoherent sentences with no regards to the structure of the words around it. I don't quite understand how it could be this bad, especially given there are many companies that would happily license (or outright sel) to Samsung to improve things.

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Overhaul the lock screen and always-on display

Galaxy S9 always on display

Being an early pioneer of OLED displays, Samsung had a big differentiator on its hand when it introduced its always-on display. But it's 2018, and every single company has some sort of ambient display now — the core concept of Samsung's hasn't changed since it was introduced.

Samsung was an early pioneer of always-on displays, but it's fallen behind now.

Always-on display is pretty useful, but only in a very limited set of conditions. It shows you various different clock styles, along with the date and a couple other small bits of information ... and that's it. There's no integration with the lock screen or notifications, so any interaction with the always-on display is different from what you'd experience by turning on the screen first. Yes you can add music controls and calendar "widgets" to the always-on display, but these are different from the lock screen ones. Baffling.

The always-on display shows icons for notifications, and that's it. Why? Who knows. Every other manufacturer lets you glance at the screen and get a better view of details about the notifications right alongside the clock and date information Samsung provides. Samsung knows you want to see the notification details on the lock screen itself, why not show a greyscale version on the always-on display also?

I like that Samsung has put a lot of thought into the design of the always-on display, and it definitely wins in the customization department, but the functionality portion of the equation isn't anywhere near the competition. This needs a redo.

Push out security updates, please

It's hard to pick on this one in particular because it's both something you can't actually see and something that isn't actually wrong with the current software on the phone. But Samsung continues to have a borderline abysmal record of consistently updating its phones to the latest security patches, even for the latest high-end models.

People buying an $800 phone shouldn't have to worry about updates for a while.

Perhaps the most frustrating part about this whole situation is that it varies wildly between regions and even specific carriers. Some have received a few security updates since launch and are just a month behind, while others haven't received a single update. Considering Samsung isn't interested in pushing large bugfix and feature improvements regularly, in which it would make sense to maybe roll up a couple security updates together with them, it must improve the cadence of security updates to its phones.

You can argue that the average consumer doesn't care about security updates, and I'd agree with you. But I'd also say these are the people who will benefit most from having inherently more secure software to save them from unknown security holes they may be walkaing into.

So that's my list of changes I'd like to see on the Galaxy S9 — do you have any of the same complaints? Or maybe different ones?

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+


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