Samsung One UI 5 review: The perfect software update

The trees are already shedding their autumn gowns, which means we're certainly nearing the end of the year, and that's a happy time for most Android users. It's when the latest major Android updates start rolling out for their Android devices, and the suspense of waiting for the anticipated software update is definitely an experience of its own.

Samsung fans have had fewer and fewer reasons to wait too long in recent years, and 2022 is by no means any different. That's good—it took Samsung just two months and some change to supply its flagship Galaxy S22-series with the newest Android 13 and One UI 5 user interface. Great job, Samsung!

And yes, that's right, we really did call One UI 5 the perfect software update, as it embodies everything that makes one of those a memorable enhancement for your phone.

What's so special about One UI 5? Well, as its name implies, its the fifth iteration of the modern user interface that now graces Samsung's phones. While it's arguably not a groundbreaking update and only introduces just a number of improvements over One UI 4, it's a vital software update for every Samsung user that's rocking an eligible device.

But arguably the most important new feature that One UI 5 brings to the mix are the major performance optimizations that have come along. Indeed, using a device running One UI 5 alongside the same one with the older version of Samsung's software feels like a day and a night difference as far as overall smoothness goes. For that alone, One UI 5 is a big W for the South Korea-based phone giant and its consumers as well.

But what else is new with One UI 5? Let's delve in deeper and unwrap Samsung's new software pride and glory.

One UI 5: Customization

Color palette personalization

Android 13 expanded on the color palette interface customization that Android 12 introduced by greatly increasing the possible color combinations you can use to paint your interface. One UI 5, being fully based on Android 13, is coming with the expanded functionality, and now can feature up to sixteen different color palettes derived from your wallpaper for a seamless and coherent interface that helps your wallpaper of choice fit quite well with the adjacent elements. And if you're not a fan of the colors that the system chose for you, you can rely on a set of basic color palettes that are new on Android 13/One UI 5. Cool beans!

Lock screen customization

Technically, Android has always allowed for lock screen customization, but this functionality was mostly relegated to phone manufacturers to decide how to implement any lock screen customization. Some did better job than others, and some didn't even allow anything beyond basic lock screen message customization. Yawn!

It was actually Apple's first iOS 16 beta that urged Google, Android manufacturers, and users alike to pay more attention to lock screen customization on Android. And all of that was thanks to Cupertino's rather surprising expansion of the iPhone's lock screen customization, which was previously non-existent. Of course, Samsung die-hards will be quick to point out that Samsung's own Good Lock module has been around for years, allowing for pretty deep lock screen personalization of Samsung home screens, but the Good Lock app was a niche solution that is available in just a few regions.

Well, a couple of months later and we have One UI 5, which incorporates some rather neat lock screen customization features, and those ship by default with the latest software update, so you don't need to tinker with yet another first-party app. With One UI 5, you are presented with a brand new lock screen customization experience. You can personalize your lock screen either from the main settings app on your phone or by long-pressing your lock screen, similar to iOS 16.

And just like iOS 16, One UI 5 has a number of different clock faces available, with six fonts to choose from and a very large selection of color and color combinations to choose from. The cool trick here is that you can alter the positioning of the clock, as well as increase or decrease its overall size, which unlocks even more customization possibilities.

Surely, the One UI 5 lock screen also includes a host of widgets, but their numbers are limited to a few stock apps and essential functions, not to mention that to these are hidden and only show up after you tap on the lock screen clock, so their overall utility isn't that impactful. Finally, you can choose whether incoming notifications from apps are shown as full previews or merely icons (though tapping the latter expands the notification view). We've had this feature in One UI before, it's just way more useful now, and at the end of the day that's what matters the most.

There's some room for improvement in the lock screen and wallpaper customization experience. Samsung could have taken a page out of Apple's book and allowed for saving your favorite lock screen setups and wallpaper combinations for fast and easy switching, as well as allowing you to link those with One UI's Modes (which are similar to iOS' Focus states).

Widget stacks

If you are a fan of widgets, they probably take up a good portion of your Home Screen. That is probably why Samsung introduced Smart Widgets with One UI 4.1. With this feature, you can stack up to seven widgets in one place and switch between them by swiping left or right, thus having a more organized home screen and more free space for more icons. And in One UI 5, Samsung has tweaked the way you stack and arrange widgets, making it easier for you to personalize your home screen. Now, when you long-press a widget with a minimum size of 2 x 1, you will see a new button named "Create stack," which lets you choose among the available widgets on your phone and create a decent-looking stack. You can intuitively edit your stack by long-pressing it and flicking away the widgets you no longer desire. To be honest, Samsung's stacked widgets look a lot like the ones Apple introduced with iOS 14. The difference is that in One UI, you swipe horizontally, whereas in iOS, you swipe vertically. But hey, apples and oranges, ultimately it's the ordinary users that benefit from such "borrowed" functionalities.

One UI 5: The new features

Choose a separate language for each app

With Android 13, Google introduced a new feature that allows you to select a language for each app without changing the system's language. In One UI 5, this feature is called App languages and is located in the General management tab in the Settings app. When you tap on App languages, it will list all the supported apps.

If the app was running in the background while choosing the new language, just restart it for the changes to take effect.

However, we have to make a quick note here. During our tests, we noticed that the language of the chosen app did not always change. We presume that this is due to One UI 5 being in beta, and most likely, the stable version won't have this issue. But it was worth mentioning.

Extract text from an image On One UI 4, if you need to copy text from a photo, you can use the built-in text extract feature in the Gallery app. You just take a picture with the Camera app and open it in the Gallery application, and then use the Bixby Vision icon. In One UI 5, however, this process is extremely simplified. Every time the Camera app detects written text, it will display a new yellow icon with a "T" on it, which, when pressed, will take a picture and let you copy the text directly from the viewfinder.

New help icon in Pro mode

Although the camera app hasn't scored some terribly exciting features, it's now more intuitive and helpful. The dedicated Pro mode of the camera now offers useful hints for you to while adjusting the different settings, which should come in useful to both camera geeks and photography neophytes alike. Pro mode is more advanced than your usual point-and-shoot camera experience, so it definitely is a welcome addition. This is why One UI 5 also comes with a new help icon for Pro mode, which explains what each option does and how it contributes to the perfect shot.

Create a link to share files with everyone using Quick Share

Android's Quick Share has positioned itself as an alternative to AirDrop, and Samsung has taken some creative liberties with the core Android feature, arguably making it more useful than before. With One UI 5, attempting to share files with Quick Share now lets you make use of a new "Copy Link" functionality, which uploads the files you want to share to the Samsung cloud. A link is generated and immediately copied to your clipboard, which lets you easily share it via a message in your favorite texting app.

When the person in question receives your link and taps on it, they will be redirected to a page from which they can download your shared files. This method is also extremely useful if you want to transfer files from your phone to your computer. However, you should know that the generated link and the uploaded files will be available only for two days, and there is also a da