[Opinion] The excellence of a user interface may have come at the expense of hardware

New updates are added at the bottom of the story …

The original story (from September 19) follows:

Samsung’s smartphone software wasn’t the friendliest until the recent One UI version which was first introduced with Android 9 Pie.

“One UI from Samsung is the best software ever installed on a smartphone”, read The title of The Verge at the time. But still, there were still question marks as to how often Samsung would update the new skin.

Samsung has already addressed this aspect with the promise of 3 Android operating system upgrades for its select premium and mid-range Galaxy phones, as well as 4 years of security updates.

As of this writing, One UI 4.0 has been released, the first we’ve seen Samsung release beta firmware in recent times. And it shows how the company’s perspective on software updates has changed. And that too for the better.

TouchWiz was not the most desirable custom Android skin. Bloatware, unnecessary features, and some questionable visuals that are far from the current One UI characterized it.

Many were hoping that Samsung’s switch to the Nougat-based Experience skin would fix these issues, but that wasn’t the case even after the upgraded Oreo-based version.

Samsung knew this too and quickly made up for it with the release of a completely revamped One UI based on Android Pie. It was the first declaration of intent.

Samsung built the new skin from the ground up, this time focusing on an easier user experience. Specifically, one hand mode was a much needed addition due to the increasing size of phones, and One UI 1.0 indeed did not disappoint on this front.

One Hand Mode-Samsung-One-UI

Rather than making massive changes and big feature additions, the successive iteration to One UI 2.0 has only focused on improvements with a few new features here and there, some via incremental updates.

Samsung cleaned things up again with One UI 3.0, with a revised look and feel that made the entire software look cleaner and sleeker than anything that came before it.

With One UI 4.0, which has Android 12 at its core, this One UI refinement sequence continues. There are a number of new privacy features and several more focused on usability, but nothing revolutionary.

Having said that, it is evident that Samsung’s main focus over the past few years has been to make One UI more appealing to the eye and pleasant to use through regular improvements to existing functionality.

No doubt it was much needed after years of poorly optimized software, but it looks like that One UI excellence comes at the expense of the good hardware we’ve all grown used to seeing on flagship Samsung phones.

During the same period that One UI has become one of the best Android skins, Samsung’s smartphone hardware has experienced a kind of downward spiral. Recently we have even seen Xiaomi to go past at the top of the charts in Europe.

With One UI software doing better than ever, part of this meltdown could possibly be attributed to some of the questionable smartphone hardware decisions Samsung has made in recent times.

The recently launched iPhone 13 series offers storage options of up to 1TB. Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone to offer a similar storage option is the Galaxy S10.

Even the recent Galaxy Z Fold3 5G doesn’t have this option, instead it hits a maximum of 512GB. This is where a microSD card slot would have come in handy, but for some reason Samsung has also dropped that.

They got rid of the STD support for contactless payments in the US earlier this year as well and of course the famous headphone jack.

Galaxy-Note-9-1

Fans of the IR blaster, yours really at the top of the list, can’t go for Samsung phones anymore, and most of us think it was. a terrible idea to abandon this technology.

Another who also saw the door is the iris scanner alongside the dual aperture of the main camera. The latter was a good idea that maybe needed some time for more refinements, but it never got past the Galaxy S9, S9 +, and Note 9.

After years of using curved displays, Samsung ditched this design with the Galaxy S21 series. Some might be cool with it, but it’s not easy to get past something you’ve gotten used to for years.

The S21 series also lacks the heart rate sensor, although the Galaxy S20 Series was the first to suffer this blow. But perhaps one of the most shocking decisions was to switch to 1080p panels on non-Ultra devices.

Even Apple, which was known to ship non-Pro / Plus models with an HD display, doesn’t these days. The standard iPhone 13 has the same resolution as the Pro model, just like the iPhone 12 before it.

There are several other hardware “downgrades” that Samsung has made in recent times, including the ditching of dual selfie cameras on high-end devices and the lack of super-fast charging to match the Xiaomis and Oppos of this world.

Heck, Samsung even ditched the Galaxy Note series during this same time period, a phone much revered by many, and there seems to be no project to bring it back.

All of these hardware decisions came at a time when Samsung is making some of the best software choices, which makes me wonder if all of One UI’s excellence came at the expense of cutting-edge hardware on flagship Samsung phones?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Also feel free to vote on the Twitter poll, the results of which will be shared after one week.

Update 1 (September 26)

Survey results are live, with 100% of voters agreeing that staying loyal to Samsung is indeed becoming painful with all the recent hardware downgrades they’ve made to premium Galaxy phones.

If you missed the survey, you can leave your comments in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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