Samsung has confirmed that when the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 launch in the summer around the globe, both will be sporting a revised version of Honeycomb with Samsung’s own TouchWiz UX interface.
But what does that mean and should you be excited? Here we look at the core details, what’s different and whether or not you should be putting your hand in your pocket come launch day.
It’s worth pointing out that although Samsung will be adding the TouchWiz UX to Honeycomb, it’s still very much a Honeycomb experience. Overall the main changes are how the front widgets look, how they act, and how you interact with certain elements of the interface be it the contacts, calendar, settings, or the apps tray.
Regardless of these changes, the Samsung Galaxy Tab experience is still a Honeycomb one. If you want to learn more about Honeycomb and what it offers you should check out our in-depth Honeycomb review. Think of it as a friend with a new hair cut. They are still the same person underneath, but their appearance is just a little different.
Public facing, widgets are the crux to TouchWiz UX. It’s all about the widgets and live panels that can be customised with different content such as weather, calendar, and email.
While you can already get widgets on Honeycomb, here Samsung has super powered them. Most of the widgets come in different sizes, and can be manipulated on screen to fit a size that suits you, allowing to fill your homepages with numerous widgets like photo galleries, favourite websites, email, weather and other gems. To do that, you simply add the widgets that you want to the homepage in a very similar way to how you do on pure Honeycomb. It’s all very simple and an easy way to quickly customise your tablet.
Resizing the widgets is also easy with the TouchWiz software showing you possible sizes available via a stack of orange guides. Dragging the widget out moves it to that size.
While pure Honeycomb has the ability to access your favourite apps either via shortcuts you’ve put on the homepages, or via the apps menu (top right), Samsung has created another way to help you get to what you want quickly.
The apps tray is fully customisable and works like a docking station on a PC, Mac or iPad. Hidden for most of the time a quick swipe on the bottom of the screen reveals the hidden feature. It means you’ll be able to switch between apps quickly.
Honeycomb’s notification area gets an slight tweak bringing with it a number of new features in Samsung TouchWiz UX. Now, you get the ability to manage your Wi-Fi, GPS, sound, rotation, and brightness settings at a the touch of the System Bar, in that same way as you do on Samsung's Android phones.
You still get notifications as previously. But the whole experience has been designed to be a one touch offering rather than multiple touches.
Yep you get a more TouchWiz-looking keyboard that takes the dark blue standard Honeycomb experience and turns it white, makes it bigger, and adds other shortcut keys.
With the Samsung Galaxy Tab models sporting TouchWiz you will get a "www." Shortcut, a key to launch an emoticon menu and a caps lock button, which might seem excessive as Honeycomb gives you caps lock with a double tap of Shift. The keyboard we tested was responsive and easy to use, and although the space bar is shorter, the addition of the other buttons might speed up the text entry. We aren't sure why you would need a "www." button, but hey that's a question for another time.
Open up settings and you’ll realise that Samsung has tinkered here too with the settings panel getting a white Samsung makeover.
There is little change here, although it's clear that Samsung has had their finger in the interface pie and again, it reflects the changes they make to their Android phones.
Contacts and Calendar
Both Contacts and Calendar have been enhanced considerably with Samsung opting for a mix of light and dark colours to improve the overall aesthetics of the experience.
For the Calendar the page looks a lot more styled and complete with Samsung adding a “list” option that gives you an agenda view, rather than displaying them against as day, week or month. As for Contacts, again Samsung has gone for the two-toned approach with it really coming down to personal preference as to whether or not you’ll prefer this to the original Honeycomb experience.
Ultimately Samsung’s TouchWiz UX (version 4 if we are tracking these things) is Honeycomb tweaked and tinkered with rather than the massive overhaul that we suspect someone like HTC would bring to the experience with it’s Sense UI interface.
Honeycomb still shines through with Samsung merely enhancing features rather than drastically changing anything. It seems more about aesthetics than anything else in some cases.
That’s likely to appeal to some, but will also cause problems when it comes to upgrading as you’ll have to wait until Samsung updates their version of Honeycomb after an official Google OS update and we’ve seen in the past that that often means delays.
That could suggest that for those that really care about getting the latest iteration, TouchWiz won’t offer them enough benefits over the disadvantages of waiting for future Honeycomb versions.
However for the rest, the enhancements will probably be welcomed.