Surprise me with TouchWiz in 2014, Samsung

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 7, 2013

I know a few people, more than a few actually, that just don't care what something looks like. They just don't. It can be cartoony, colorful, or just plain ridiculous to most, but as long as it offers some kind of value to them, they don't care. It's not like they have to look at it or anything. What's worse is that they'll admit that it's not "the best looking thing" out there, but it ultimately doesn't matter. (I know people that liked the original MOTOBLUR! Seriously!)

When it comes to functionality, they're getting the bang for their buck.

I may not necessarily agree with that, considering I believe you can find value in a lot of different devices out there, with proprietary software or not, but at the same time it does make sense. When it comes to mobile operating systems, especially Android, the argument for proprietary software is that it just adds a whole spoonful (or two) of features to the already feature-laden software. Custom software like Sense, for example. Or, to be very specific, TouchWiz.

It wasn't too long ago that TouchWiz simply existed like the other custom software out there for Android. It wasn't meant to really add anything, per se, but it was indeed meant to differentiate. When you looked at a TouchWiz-based device, you were supposed to know right off the bat you were looking at a Samsung-branded creation, long before you ever sought out a logo. The same goes for HTC's Sense, LG's whatever-they-call it, and certainly Motorola's long-dead MOTOBLUR.

But now the playing field has changed quite a bit, and companies are looking for ways to make their phones stand out amid the crowd of phones with something more than just face value aesthetics. Truth be told, I imagine we should thank them for that. Considering how expensive our smartphones are we should be looking for more than just visual changes to give them "added value." Now that companies are digging in and adding whatever their creative minds can think of, we're finally seeing a lot more return for our purchase.

Samsung is pretty much the very definition of this "added value" push, as the company essentially uses their TouchWiz UI as a dumping ground for features. You've heard it time and time again, and it hasn't changed in the last few years. In fact, it may have gotten "worse" (or better, depending on how you look at it) in the last two or three years, with more "gimmicks" than ever before.

I'm honestly not sure that I've ever heard someone say software is perfect, whether it be on a phone, tablet, or even a video game console. There's always something wrong, or something that can be changed, or something that can be better. There is always room for improvement, and the best companies out there are the ones that admit to this. That not only acknowledge it, but actively work to make it better with each subsequent release or update.

Recently, Samsung's vice chairman & CEO Kwon Oh-hyun did just that. Using a comparison to the 2013 World Series winning Boston Red Sox' pitching staff, Oh-hyun admits that Samsung's software isn't the greatest out there, and that there are certainly areas that need to be improved upon. To do that isn't a small effort, though, and the company is making some mighty big moves to make sure that their software in the future is better than what it is today.

They're doing that by moving half of Samsung's Research and Development (R&D) workforce to the software front. Based on reports, Samsung is spending somewhere over $3 billion per quarter on R&D, so it's pretty obvious that Samsung intends on fixing whatever they think is broken, and doing their best to make everything else just flat-out better down the road.

I'm not a big fan of TouchWiz at face value, which I've plainly said in the past. And there is no doubt that, just like every other piece of custom software out there on a mobile platform, there is room to grow, improve and expand (in the right ways) to make the proprietary skin better in a lot of ways. The question is, can Samsung actually pull it off? Or will the next versions of TouchWiz just include more features, without actually changing anything at a broad scale?

I want Samsung to surprise me in 2014. We've heard that the company is going to change their physical design practices for their flagship handsets next year, reportedly moving away from plastic to metal, and I wonder if this could go hand-in-hand with the software changes that they plan on making. It would be nice to see an overhaul of the whole lineup, from software to hardware. I think it would add a nice breath of fresh air to the family of devices that's been running for several years now.

So what do you think Samsung needs to change or improve in TouchWiz? Do you think they should make it less cartoony, or less colorful? Do you want to see them tone things down, even go for a "flat" UI? Or should they make things even rounder, even more colorful? Let me know what you think Samsung needs to do to surprise people in 2014 and beyond.