Were You Waiting for the ICS UI On Galaxy S2? Sorry to Disappoint

by: LucianDecember 15, 2011

Well here’s some bad news for some (most?) of you. It looks like even though the Samsung Galaxy S2 will receive an update to Android 4.0, it will look nothing like ICS at all. In fact you’ll barely notice any difference in the UI compared to what you have now. It will mostly be the same old TouchWiz 4.0. So most of the changes will be under the hood.

Personally, I find this very disappointing. I was hoping manufacturers would finally start to allow lighter skins on top of Android 4.0, so the user can choose whether he wants to use the stock UI or the UI made by the manufacturer. I understand that the manufacturer feels compelled to make modifications to improve the user experience, but Android 4.0 looks pretty good as it is, and even if they find flaws in the interface, they should still allow the changes to be reversed, at the very least, if they are using stock Android in the first place.

In a way, I understand Samsung’s decision right now. Maybe they thought the new Android 4.0 UI would confuse its users after they’ve been using Touchwiz 4.0 for months. Perhaps they are making TouchWiz 5.0 look a lot more like the Android 4.0 UI. But then won’t the users be just as confused when they will upgrade to TouchWiz 5.0?

But then does this mean the Galaxy S2 won’t be receiving TouchWiz 5.0 at all? And if TouchWiz 5.0 is the only that really embraces ICS, does it mean that some features of Android 4.0 have been removed from this update to accomodate for TouchWiz 4.0? These are a lot of questions that hopefully will be given an answer soon.

Still this gives me little hope that the manufacturers are moving towards a cleaner, stock Android experience. And this might be to their disadvantage in the future. When Google finally acquires Motorola, I’m pretty sure they will make all Motorola phones with the stock Android version, and then all customers who want stock Android will switch to Motorola.

But it’s not just them, all the people that are friends with them, too, because most of them will recommend the Motorola phones then to their friends, too. Hopefully, the other manufacturers wake up to this before it’s too late for them.

  • Iky316

    why do manufacturers of android phones create their own UI’s? surely its cheaper and more beneficial to run stock android. If they want to be different then put that effort in the design and hardware of the device and make custom apps and app stores.

    I hope this is what the future for android will be.

    This is what happens with windows on pc, same UI on various manufacturers and has paid dividends for both the software and hardware companies.

    • Warrenbzf

      Manufacturers create their own UI because generally old people, and non techies, don’t like to have to relearn another UI when they buy a new phone. When I was younger I could handle it better, but as I get older it takes more time to adjust. So it can be annoying, and I think that is what the manufacturers are banking on.

  • Its very early on and lots of things still dont work in the leak. chances are that they are getting hardware to work first. then look into updating the UI.

  • Mnmshafer

    When you install another launcher (go launcher) on SGS2 and you press home it lets you use the vanilla gingerbread launcher. Maybe it will be the same with this update.

  • Erik Neu

    I personally think you are on to something. The first manufacturer to really embrace stock Android will get a signficant tactical advantage, because thought leaders will go there, and will recommend the same to their friends and family. One resident Android geek can easily influence 5-10 Android followers. I had hopes HTC would go this way, but if it winds up being Motorola, that would be fine, too.

    • AppleFUD

      True. . . and maybe Google will make Moto do that.

      HOWEVER. . . and this is a huge however, it really depends on that OEM having enough pull to be able to sidestep the carriers–doesn’t look like most of the carriers are willing to allow that to happen, especially Verizon. Allowing an OEM to push a “clean” OS directly to customers is something the carriers loath to do–really gotta give S. Jobs the props for pushing it through for apple.

      Therefore, as long as carriers are in the middle of the update process it really doesn’t matter if the OEM skins the device or not–it will take a long time to push updates regardless.

  • Anonymous

    Glad i have a Moto Triumph with stock android experience, yes i know im not getting ICS

    Hilarious (though sad) blow to the hearts of S2 fanboys. Even a launcher is not the same experience!!

  • Marcus

    Surely you all jest. OEMs skin Android for differentiation.

    You really think having a stock launcher will make a phone a best seller? Out of the tens of millions who bought the Galaxy phones, what percentage of people care – or even know – that their device’s UI is not the stock “Google experience”? Those of us who know or even bother reading this stuff are but a teeny weeny percentage of the target market. Why should OEMs care what we think? Their R&D and QA test results probably say most people prefer a smpler UI like TouchWiz or a more full featured one like Sense. And they’re right.

    I’ll tell you something: even up till Gingerbread, the stock Android UI was never considered more attractive or, more importantly, more user-friendly than the UI thrown onto the phones by OEMs. ICS may change this perception in time, but it’s too early to say so with any authority (see what I did there?), especially because we’ve yet to see what the full suite of ICS customizations being created by OEMs will look like.

    And like it or not, OEMs need to differentiate. If they couldn’t try (trying is not the same as succeeding) to differentiate on software – making it more user-friendly, prettier, easier to learn etc then stock – then they can only differentiate on hardware. And trust me when I say that’s a terrifying proposition for all but a handful of manufacturers. How many Android OEMs do you think can bravely say they’d fancy their chances of success in a unified software market? Someone like Samsung could put together a high end device to blow the competition away, and still have enough cash left over (especially with economies of scale) to bring out best-of-class devices at. every. other. price. point. Who’d be able to compete with that over the long run? Not many other OEMs, I’m afraid. And competition is key to making Android thrive. Without competition the whole ecosystem will stagnate. Think about it.

    Oh, and by the way, there is absolutely no indication that Google will force Motorola to ship devices with stock Android. If they did that I can assure you all the other OEMs will go into panic mode because that would basically signal that Google are actively going into the hardware business. Once the other OEMs start to think that, they’ll suspect Google to be favouring Moto over them (since Moto would belong to Google). If that happens I guarantee many OEMs will stop devoting so much resources to Android. So, no, Google and Moto must operate (or be seen to operate) independently.

    • Warrenbzf

      Why would Google wanting Motorola to use stock Android UI be seen as a threat to other phone manufacturers?

      • Marcus

        Because, when faced with the question of what the acquisition meant for other OEMs, Google expressly said they wouldn’t interfere with how Moto operates. They said Moto would essentially be independent and would still have to compete with the other OEMs, meaning to say that Google wouldn’t favour Moto over the rest.

        The moment Google does actually make Moto do something (or are perceived to have done so), the appearance of independence will be gone. If you were any of the other OEMs, you’d start to suspect that Google were no longer treating you fairly. Would you still be so invested in Android? Or would you start to diversify your resources?

        It was no coincidence that people were speculating about Samsung buying WebOS soon after the Moto acquisition was announced. Such a move would have been a natural defensive mechanism in case Google did start to play favourites with Moto.

        • AppleFUD

          I disagree. Moto going stock doesn’t really signal any threat to any other OEM. In fact I would argue the opposite–it would be a non-differentiation for Moto, any OEM can do the same.

          The favoritism OEM’s are worried about is, Google allowing Moto first crack at new OS versions and holding it back from them thus giving Moto an edge. Of course Google will have to tell Moto what to do from time to time–they aren’t going to just sit by and watch Moto lose money.

          I also think that the Nexus line will change and go directly to Moto in the future–it has to be a major pain for Google and partners to develop a Nexus the way they currently are. But, they may continue it. . . I just doubt that OEM’s really care about it–never been a big seller.

          • Marcus

            I wasn’t talking about Moto choosing to go stock; I meant Google *making* Moto go stock.

            I agree with you on the favoritism part – that’s why I disagree with your prediction about the Nexus line automatically going to Moto. You have to remember that whoever Google chooses to partner for producing the Nexus device gets early access to the latest version of Android. Being able to use that code to update and release devices earlier than the competition is a big tactical advantage. (This, and probably the media hype and buzz generated by producing Google’s flagship device, is what will interest OEMs most. Sales figures is further down on the list of priorities.)

            So, if the perception is that Moto will always get access to the latest version of Android first, all the other OEMs will feel that they’ve effectively become “second class citizens” in Google’s ecosystem. From being the OEMs’ partner, Google would then be seen as being their competitor. Why should the OEMs remain so committed to Android then?

            (I’m not making wild guesses here. If you take the time to analyse the flurry of statements released by all the major Android partners soon after Moto’s acquisition was announced – most of them so robotically similar it was clearly group corporate posturing – you’ll figure out what they’re thinking behind the scenes.)

    • Google is going into the hardware business by buying Motorola if you haven’t heard

      • Marcus

        If you haven’t heard, the *official* reason given by Google for buying Moto is the latter’s extensive patent portfolio. Granted, Google may secretly want to go into hardware like you said, but so far there is no indication – official or leaked – that this is true. And like I explained several times, Google knows that if they do show interest in doing hardware, they run the risk of alienating their key OEM partners.

        So: no, your statement is incorrect (at least for now).

    • Jamie Aldus

      I would just like to point out – Android is not Google and Google is not Android. Google merely bought the rights to Android as a means to dominate mobile search, so when you refer to the ‘Google experience’ you are wrong – its the Android experience. But I have to agree that the end user does not necessarily care about/or realise that Samsung have put on touchwiz, and if you was serious about wanting the ics ui then you would install a rom which uses the ics ui, I know I would, intact I use miui rom on my sgs2, I greatly prefer it to the Samsung stock firmware.

  • If android is going to get ANY better at all on this update thing, they need to go the “windows” route. Google releases the OS and the manufacturer releases ONLY the drivers.

    In the drivers there are the customizations or whatever they want to put there.

    This way, the updates could be had much faster and in a more independent way.

    • AppleFUD

      Never going to happen. Would love if it did, but it isn’t going to happen.

      1. Google doe NOT want to support all the devices–far too much work.
      2. Android is open-source thus OEM’s don’t have to do anything–they can just wait for the open-source drop and do whatever they like. And it will always be open-source despite detractors–if they try and close it someone will fork it–OEM’s have too much invested.
      3. The ability to differentiate via the UI is seen by Google as a big plus and a differentiator for Android over MS. In other words, they believe in it.

      Though I do agree with you and think this will always be a massive issue for Android.

  • Anonymous

    I honestly don’t think it is a big deal what the UI looks like as long as the performance is improved in the browser, camera, and the functional enhancements are there, to me it will not matter. Performance > Looks in this department.

  • Mike

    Thank God. I’ve had this device for almost 2 months. It’s not some forthright & simple iPhone. Androids have a lot going on and a lot to configure. I’mstill learning it. The last thing I need is something else to interrupt my flow. Not every Android user is a techie. It’s bad enough that Sammie comes out with a better device every month & creates buyer’s remorse. Keep ICS. With every update comes tons of typical Android glitches

  • Nice work Marcus, the only one on hear that understands basic economics and the need for competition.

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    • dontpostnonsense

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  • Superduty1985

    So the galaxy s2 skyrocket will not get ics with the favs like u see on the new nexus?

  • Amplified

    i aint trippin lol we’ll probably have a port soon

  • Mash21

    I agree, this would be unfortunate for Samsung!

  • GED

    Stable custom Roms will be available by then (if not before) so really no need to worry.

  • wilshire

    I saw the interface n features on the S. Thoroughly disappointed that my S2 won’t get the S voice, and S beam, and other cool features that the S3 holds. Isn’t the S2 capable of handling it hardware wise? Ofcourse not!
    Having just changes in the codes is not what I wanted. I expected a whole new interface, a new feel, more features.
    By not giving these new features I feel Samsung doesn’t care about its former flagship phone! So if there comes out a new Android version along with a new galaxy series Droid, will they forget about the older phones?
    I payed 30,000Rs thinking that the phone i’m buying is future proof till some extent. But now I feel otherwise!
    I really hope Samsung releases a new touchwiz with all the new features alongwith the ICS. But seeing numerous official upwards in other countries I feel the chances are bleak. But I still hope the updates bring a smile on my face. Sure they can put in new features! And its not going to cost them, is it! SAMSUNG!!! ARE YOU LISTENING!!!