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Samsung One UI 1.0 Review - Was it worth the wait?

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An OTA update from Samsung recently went live that brings the Android 9.0 Pie based One UI to the Galaxy Note9 and the S9 series.
Samsung One UI 1.0 Review - Was it worth the wait?
Samsung's One UI home screen and app drawer

What's new with Samsung's One UI?

1. It is now running on Android 9.0 Pie with the January 1, 2019 security patch. 
2. Content, settings and other information have been reorganized to keep the user's focused on the task at hand. 
3. Interactive elements have been moved to the bottom of the screen so that they are always within reach. 
4. UI Night mode is introduced.
5. Settings Menu has been reorganized to make things easier to find.
6. The Scene optimizer automatically enhances the camera's color settings to fit the scene.
7. An all-new version of Bixby.

Let's delve deeper and see how much as really changed with Samsung's new skin for Android.

Update installation

The One UI update arrived for the Philippine Samsung Galaxy Note9. The update file is 1.6GB large and may take time to download depending on your internet connection. We recommend charging your phone to maximum capacity before performing the update process.
Android Pie
Android Pie

After the installation is done, it is already apparent how different it looks with some of the UI elements. The navigation bar icons have changed! You now have an option of either the traditional back, home and recent buttons or full gesture control with three indicator bars at the bottom of the display.

The UI

One of the new things that I immediately noticed is that when you press and hold on any icon on your home screen or app drawer, a new fourth option appears on the dialog box: the 'app info' which is present in other skins of Android but was sorely absent in previous Samsung Skins. If you wanted to go to the app info before, you had to go to settings > apps > pick the app you are looking for. This took too many steps. This is a huge quality of life improvement if you like to fiddle with your apps or like to clear the storage often like we do.
Reorganized quick toggle and settings menu
Reorganized quick toggle and settings menu

Night mode is now available which turns UI elements into a darker theme to make it easier for the users eyes at night. Honestly, we kept it permanently on Night mode because it was easier on the eyes and it somehow saves on battery when partnered with the Super AMOLED display.

When you swipe down to reveal the Quick Toggles, you can now swipe down even further so that all the toggles will be near the bottom of the display which makes reaching them so much easier.

This is apparent in a lot of the UI elements. Samsung has made it a point to make our lives easier by making sure that interactive elements of the UI are at the bottom half of the display (or within reach) and the visual aspects of the UI to be at the upper part.
The advanced features and accessibility tab
The advanced features and accessibility tab



The settings menu has seen a subtle but high impact change. The organization and categorization of the different settings have been simplified. The largest change is that most of the unique features that is unique to Samsung have been relocated to the "Advanced Features" tab. Examples of these are the S Pen, Gestures, Dual Messenger and the Game Launcher." The rest are classified and categorized where they should be like Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi are all in the connections tab.


If you look at the right screen shot above this text, you will see one new feature that is unique to the One UI that I think should be copied by other skins. When You go to a Settings Menu Tab like 'Accessibility,' on top of each setting is a quick access pop-up that quickly shows you which settings that you've interacted with before. In this screenshot's case, the camera flash with a turn-off prompt. This is because I turned it on and it deviated from the default. This new feature saves you time and saves you frustration especially when you don't know exactly where a setting that you toggled before but weren't sure where you found it before. Not everyone is able to quickly remember and navigate the menus and this feature helps!
 The two features that make the Note series so unique
The two features that make the Note series so unique

The Note9 has a large 6.4-inch display which makes it great for multi-tasking because you have a larger visual real-estate that is divided into the two apps than most phones. This allows for incredible versatility in how you can divide the screen depending on your needs.

The S Pen still makes the Note series unique because it allows for precise and deliberate actions easier to do that makes no sense when done with a user's fingers. There isn't a large change for this but as they say 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' This is still the best pen experience we've ever had on a smartphone.

Camera app

The rear camera app was updated too
The rear camera app was updated too

The Auto tab has been replaced by a Photo and Video tab. The old red record button beside the shutter button has turned into its own tab. Above the tabs is the standard to telephoto lens switcher. To the right of this is the Scene Optimizer toggle button.

On the top left part is the AR Emoji and Bixby Vision modes. Below it are quick settings like the aspect ratio and the magic wand. The magic wand toggles the different filters and the Beauty mode.

The Slow Motion, Super Slo-Mo, Hyperlapse and Panorama Modes did not change too much. 

For the Pro Mode we noticed that the Shutter speed can be set from 1/24000th of a second to 10 seconds. We wished that it could go up to 30 seconds so we can do longer exposures which can be found in competing devices in the market. 
Revamped selfie camera UI
Revamped selfie camera UI

The selfie camera's largest change is the revamped filter and beauty mode layout. You have access of up to 8 levels of beautification from the following: skin tone, color, Face (slims down your face shape) and Eyes (makes your eyes bigger). The result is surprisingly good. Unlike most beautification, the skin tone, eye and face slimming adjustments look almost natural. It is one of the best implementation we've ever seen on a smartphone to date.

Performance

The performance and battery improved
The performance and battery improved

If you check our original Note9 review here, you will see that the AnTuTu scores of our Exynos variant improved from 239,055 to 246,169 while the Battery performance maintained its performance over the span of six months since we received our copy of the Galaxy Note9. This is astounding as in our experience with previous Galaxy Note phones is that the battery life degrades over time even when software updates have been applied.

In our real-world use, we could see a noticeable snappier feel while navigating through the menus and settings while launching and switching between apps have been even faster. There is also an option to reduce the animations and it feels way faster. It's like we got a new phone!

Issues

We've received reports with issues with performance and scrolling issues with Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Phones. We've never encountered these concerns nor did we run into issues with our One UI experience for the past several days of testing the new update on our Galaxy Note9.

Pros - Improved performance, design, organization but maintains the distinct Samsung feel
Cons - Could improve in some camera and minor UI interactions

Verdict

Samsung's new Android 9.0 Pie based One UI is looking to be their best version of Android yet because it looks and feels faster, easier to use and more organized.

My largest complaint with the previous Samsung Experience UI was the hard to navigate Settings Menu has been addressed! It is immediately apparent how so much thought went into the development of this new UI. It feels like a new Phone!

It isn't perfect though, we think the camera app could still be improved with more features and a better Pro mode. We also think they could improve their navigation bar gesture indicators to be more similar with the stock Android or the OxygenOS version where you can either tap or swipe on the bar/icon and have the same effect because transitioning from tapping to swiping can be awkward the first few times. This serves as an in-between the old Navigation buttons to the new Navigation through swiping/gestures.

If Samsung continues to make huge and impactful changes like this in software, then we can expect even better experiences in the future so we highly recommend you try the new One UI if it becomes available to you.

We hope that Samsung brings it to all devices and not just the flagships as soon as possible as it can breathe new life to old phones.

The changes are subtle enough to be impactful, but still distinctly feel Samsung.

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