I have no problems admitting that I am a huge fan of Samsung Mobile and its Galaxy line in particular. I remember going to CES and viewing the first Note and thinking to myself: “Man, Samsung is going to make some real headway in the mobile market.” But, there is a difference between being a fanboy and being a blind fanboy. You must acknowledge your problems if you’re ever going to solve them, and blind fanboyism leads to inferior products like the iPhone (this is a joke as the iPhone is great in its own ways, but blind fanboyism does nobody any good). So remember, as you read through this post, realize I actually am using a Samsung Galaxy Note Edge as my daily driver(read my review here).
I fell in love with the Note 3, and even though people hated Touchwiz, I actually liked it(please remember this point. I do not hate TouchWiz). I loved having it for the stylus, split screen functionality, unique audio controls, etc. When Touchwiz ran on Kit Kat 4.4.2 it actually wasn’t a bad experience for me. Then I went to the Note 4 and Note 4 Edge, both on Kit Kat, and I thought those were the best phones on the market. There is no doubt in my mind that Samsung currently makes the best total hardware package right now, but it’s the software that is causing headaches, and I actually believe Samsung would dominate again if they fixed this issue.
My colleagues here at Androidguys, in particular Cooper Le and Benton Trerise, convinced me to buy a Nexus 6 and give stock Android a spin since they knew I am a diehard Samsung Fanboy. So, I did. I bought a Nexus 6 and learned a ton. I first learned how bad stock Lollipop was on the Nexus running 5.0. It drove me nuts as it did to others. When it went to 5.1 many bugs were fixed, but it made me question how Google gives too much freedom to manufacturers to mess with the software. As much as I love Material Design, at the end of the day it really doesn’t make me drool over Lollipop anymore than Kit Kat.
Motorola is a great example of a company who knows that lag, slow updates, and undeletable apps are super annoying to users. So what do they do? They offer features they believe will help the user experience and nothing more. They definitely don’t make their own email app, or texting app when Android already has them. And another company who doesn’t allow carrier bloat is Apple. One area where all iPhone users are fortunate.
Lollipop on Samsung hardware
Lollipop 5.0.1 SUCKS. Nexus owners don’t have to deal with many issues anymore because they are on 5.1. If you’re a Note 4 or Note Edge user, like me, you most likely started with Kit Kat on your device, which worked great. And then Google decided to release a buggy version of software that murdered battery life, caused memory leaks, and created WiFi issues (just to name a few). My first issue is with Google and releasing a version this buggy, because they left every manufacturer to fend for themselves to work through those issues. In their fifth generation of software, you would think battery life wouldn’t be an issue. My Note Edge went from easily making it through a full day on Kit Kat, to only lasting about 3/4 of a day (and that’s after cutting my usage). It took a couple of months to fix it, but Google did with the release of 5.1. But that doesn’t help me on my carrier-locked Note Edge. I have a thousand dollar phone, which at times runs slower than a 2nd gen Moto G with the battery life of a phone that can’t hold a proper charge.
The worst part of this is, I have absolutely no idea when Samsung and AT&T will release Android 5.1. I used 12 different phones last year, with the Note 3 and 4 being my daily driver while I experimented with the others. I haven’t bought another Android phone since the Nexus 6, because I am so tired of the fragmentation. I don’t want to look up if the LG G4, HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, or any other phone, are running 5.1, because I shouldn’t have to. Lollipop 5.0 is so bad that no smartphone user should have to put up with it any longer, yet it’s been over 9 months since Lollipop has been released and many of us are still dealing with issues. I’m not saying a phone’s software should be flawless, but I am saying a phone’s software in its fifth generation shouldn’t be killing battery life 9 months after its initial release.
Do away with bloat
Lollipop 5.0.1 on my Note Edge with TouchWiz and AT&T is a DISASTER. I have over 20 apps preinstalled by Samsung and AT&T that I can’t delete. Furthermore, it is annoying that some of those apps have to get updated through the Galaxy Store and not the Play Store. For someone like me who is a fan of Android smartphones, I can manage the updates. But for people like my brother who tried an S6 Edge, before going with an iPhone 6, have a valid point that it is ridiculous to have two app stores. It’s ridiculous that there is S-Voice in addition to Google Now. With as good as Google Now is, how can Samsung actually believe people would use S-Voice (if any reader uses S-Voice can you tell us in the comments why you use it)? I pay for a subscription to Google Play Music, and for as great as I think Milk Music is, I really don’t want it on my device. I will NEVER use it. Why does Samsung need to force apps on us? Are they really making that much money on these useless apps? I have a hard time believing they do, but cut the crap out Samsung. It’s not a good way to get people to like your devices when you force crappy apps on them. Even disabled I am left with 1.3GB of useless apps. The storage space is not trivial.
Message to Samsung: Be your own thing.
Don’t abandon your loyalists by taking away our removable batteries and memory card slots. If you do, give us a real alternative like a kick ass battery. Sony manages to deliver incredible battery life with the Xperia Z3, and that has a metal frame with a glass front and back just like the S6. Make upgrading to 64GB cost just 25 dollars more than the 32GB variant. Don’t make us pay 100 extra for more internal memory just because Apple can. We all know it doesn’t cost 100 dollars more to insert 64GB vs 32GB. You’re so focused on Apple that you’re letting the Chinese catch up. Keep up this type of behavior, and you will be out of the mobile business just like Nokia, Blackberry, and even Motorola at one point.
Speaking for myself, I loved the Galaxy S5 and Note 3 even though they were made of all plastic. I know objectively they weren’t the best-looking devices, but in your hand they felt great and were rather durable. The S5 was waterproof but still managed to have a replaceable battery and expandable memory. The Note 3 was a true workhorse and offered a fantastic user experience. There were bugs on those devices, but nothing like losing battery life or memory leaking. The people that complained the most about the plastic build were not real Samsung fans as they cared more about how the hardware looked and felt over how it performed. So Samsung responded and abandoned its loyalists with the release of the S6. My first reaction to the release of the S6 was,” Oh geez, why did you have to go and play the Apple game and focus on looks rather than function?”
The funny part about the S6 is the Samsung haters came out in droves to buy it and the Samsung fans were just pissed off about taking away the memory card slot and swappable battery. Even many Apple users were swayed to try out the S6, but felt validated that Android was terrible because of all of the bugs and bloat on the phones. Many of the iPhone users who tried the S6, and went back, will probably never come back to Android now because this was probably one of the worst experiences you could have with Android. Nice work Sammy.
My suggestions for you Samsung
I’m not here to just complain about the same stuff everyone else complains about; I’m going to offer a solution which will make everyone happy.
Consider breaking up your software.
Keep developing Touchwiz. I think there are many great things about Touchwiz. But do it on your own software, Tizen. Leave Android alone. Google doesn’t do you any favors when they release buggy software like Lollipop 5.0. Not only do you have to deal with its issues, but you also have to correct them on all of your devices on Google’s schedule. I think I dealt with Android 5.0 on my Nexus 6 for 2 months before I got the next major update, which means I have to wait 6 months for the update on my Note Edge!
I remember reading a while back that you were going to cut back on the number of products you make, but I have yet to see proof of that. If anything I have seen the contrary, and you’re releasing even more products. The Note Edge and Note 4 have everything in common except for the Edge screen. Yet both phones are on different update schedules. Why did I buy the most expensive phone you make to receive the slowest updates? You’re spreading yourself too thin. Focus on making a few products great vs. creating a bunch of mediocre products.
Make a stock Android version of your Galaxy line and let people decide for themselves which software they want.
Also, let customers buy them on JUMP, EDGE, or hell, finance the devices yourself! Don’t give us a stock Android option where we are stuck paying full retail. You guys have a lot of money. Stop trying to play catch up to Apple. Be yourself. Stick with the fundamentals that got you success. You already differentiate yourself with your displays, processors, size options, etc.
Get back to your roots. You were an underdog before so there was no pressure when you created the first Galaxy device. Just like HTC and LG are underdogs now. They aren’t the top dog so people don’t have high expectations from them like they do with you. Learn from companies like Motorola who reinvented themselves, or OnePlus One who is making waves in the mobile industry. OnePlus is annoying as heck with their marketing style, and coupons needed to buy one of their phones, but they’re making waves because they’re trying to give people what they want. They don’t want to overpay for things they won’t use like bloatware or extravagant designs.
Stop with the anti-Apple commercials. It has become annoying. Be original. Solve our mobile problems and avoid adding new ones and we will love you back for it. I’m still your fanboy and every relationships has its ups and downs.
None of this is easy to do, but if you want to be great you have to earn it. Doing the easy thing like copying Apple is what gets you into trouble.