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Samsung talks One UI 5 rollout, seamless updates hopes for One UI 6, and more

Samsung VP Sally Jeong talks all this plus more on Samsung's update policies and why One UI doesn't look like stock Android.
By
October 18, 2022
Samsung One UI 5.
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

On October 12, Samsung held its annual developer’s conference, with an in-person event for the first time since 2019. During the keynote, the company announced plenty of new features related to One UI 5 — the proprietary skin covering Android 13. It also discussed its advancements in the smart home, smart TV, and wearable realms.

The news about One UI was likely the biggest, though. On stage, Hyesoon (Sally) Jeong — who is a vice president at Samsung and directly in charge of the One UI experience — went over the cool new features you can expect with the latest version of the software. She also announced that phones in the Galaxy S22 line will be the first to see the stable rollout of the software. That will happen before the end of October.

After the event, however, Sally sat down with Android Authority for an interview. There, she dished out a lot more information on One UI 5, a look behind the scenes at the development of Samsung’s Android skin, and even what the future might hold for One UI 6. She also talked (via a translator) about why Samsung takes its update commitment so seriously.

One UI 5: When can we all expect it?

Samsung One UI 5 settings menu
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Sally was candid at the keynote about when Galaxy S22 users will see the latest One UI, but what about all the other Samsung phones out there? When will they see it?

“By the end of this year, we will have the rollout to all our flagship models, including the foldables and the Galaxy S21 series.” So if you have a Samsung flagship from the past year or so, One UI 5 is just around the corner.

All recent Samsung flagships will have the latest One UI update by the end of 2022.

Interestingly, Sally said she is already testing the latest One UI on her personal Galaxy Z Flip 4. This beta rollout hasn’t happened publically yet, but considering she’s using it, you can probably expect it soon.

Sally also emphasized how excited she is about the customization elements of One UI 5, which includes the Material You automatic theming first introduced on Pixel phones with Android 12. This allows for your system color scheme to change to match or complement your wallpaper automatically. It also allows for the automatic theming of your icons without needing to download an icon pack.

Seamless updates: They are on the way

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Updating Android Updates Generic
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

Every single Samsung phone available today does not offer seamless updates. Instead, when you update your Galaxy phone, it needs to reboot into maintenance mode for the installation, essentially locking you out for 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile, phones from other manufacturers allow you to get most of the downloading and installing done while you use your device and only require a quick reboot at the end of the process.

Samsung not offering seamless updates is something even die-hard Samsung fans dislike. Thankfully, Sally confirmed that the One UI team is working on offering seamless updates right now and she hopes it will roll out with One UI 6 next year. We asked if Android 13’s introduction of a required virtual A/B partition support had anything to do with this, but Sally didn’t clarify. Regardless, it’s great news that Samsung phones won’t require a lengthy update process as soon as next year.

One UI is here to stay, but not expanding yet

During our chat, we discussed the early days of TouchWiz and Samsung Experience, the Android skins that precluded the launch of One UI. Interestingly, Sally laughed at the mention of TouchWiz, suggesting she is as glad as we are those days are behind us.

However, we wanted to know what’s next after One UI. Is Samsung going to shift to another system again in the future, or is One UI here to stay? Sally made the answer quite clear: “I think One UI is here to stay at least as long as I am.” For the record, Sally has been with Samsung for almost 25 years.

Sally emphasized that One UI represents a huge shift in Samsung’s software ambitions and the company is wholly invested in it. This includes the semi-recent rollout of One UI Watch, which is a skin over Google’s Wear OS. Samsung even skins its Windows laptops with a One UI flavor. However, when pressed, Sally said there are no plans for One UI to come to other products, such as TVs, Chromebooks, etc.

One UI vs stock Android

Google Pixel 7 quick settings
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

When One UI first launched in 2019, it was on top of Android 9 Pie. Over the years, the look of stock Android has changed significantly, while the design of One UI has remained mostly the same. Sally was quite candid with us about what Samsung’s goals are when it comes to “vanilla” Android and how it pertains to One UI.

We’re really looking for a win-win relationship [with Google and stock Android]. We are ready to take what we can take and contribute what we can contribute so that we can really evolve together. We have deep collaboration with Android in terms of our UX and our engineering teams, and especially since the launch of foldables we have been collaborating even more deeply in order to really make our ecosystems stronger. So whenever a new version of stock Android comes out, we analyze it closely to take what we can and incorporate into One UI. Also we make a lot of contributions to stock Android ourselves. The multi-window feature would be a good example, and Galaxy Themes as well. We try to really incorporate and integrate the two together with minimum conflict between the two.

That is all very interesting, but what about those Samsung fans who wish One UI looked a bit more like stock Android? When pressed, Sally made it clear what Samsung prioritizes. “My answer to that would be in terms of look and feel, we will probably have different, separate identities,” she explained. “But when it comes to a features and the ecosystem, we’ll continue to collaborate closely to bring that integrated feel to both.

In other words, you can expect future versions of One UI to continue to crib features from stock Android and for stock Android to crib features from Samsung. But if you want the look and feel of stock, One UI isn’t likely to offer it any time soon.

Why does Samsung take updates so seriously?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Bora Purple Front With Green Photo Frames
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
One UI 4

There was a time not long ago when Samsung’s update reputation was pretty average. Over the past three years, however, the company has become the best in the industry — even better than Google when it comes to how long it issues Android version upgrades to flagship and sometimes even budget devices. What was the reason behind the change?

“People are using the same device for longer periods of time, so software needs to evolve in line with that trend,” Sally said. “We want to give the trust to our consumers that they can use their Samsung devices for as long as possible.”

Sally also mentioned how this fits in with the company’s sustainability practices. Supporting phones longer keeps older devices out of a landfill, which lowers Samsung’s overall environmental impact. Samsung frequently ends its product launches and keynotes with statements on its sustainability goals, so its update commitment is really the company putting its money where its mouth is.

We asked Sally how Samsung is able to do this. How can it support as many phones as it does with frequent and stable updates for four years?

[Samsung has] a structured approach to software development and quality testing. Often, both things are happening simultaneously in order to really speed up the update process. A lot of engineering effort goes on in the back end to really maximize the efficiency. But from the design stage, [One UI] is carefully designed to make it easy to update and upgrade.

Sally made it very clear that she cares a lot about her engineering team which makes this all possible. “We always want to send our support to our engineers,” she said. “If you can include that I said that in the article, that could be great motivation for them,” she said laughing.