It’s 2014. The market for smartphones has matured to a point where specs do not really matter. Instead, it’s the software on devices that decides what kind of experience users get and just how useful the device is in complementing their lives. Android has reached a point where even $100 devices run fast enough and do most of the things that a flagship device can do, so why is it that the software on Samsung smartphones is still so slow and laggy?
I’m not one to limit myself to devices from a single company. Ever since I lost my Galaxy Note 3 earlier this year, I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of sorts, going through no less than three flagship smartphones from other companies. I started with the Sony Xperia Z1, followed it up with the HTC One M8, and finally settled on the OnePlus One for a month or so before buying the Galaxy Note 4 as soon as it launched in my country.
Using those devices from Sony, HTC, and OnePlus and then switching to the Galaxy Note 4 was an eye-opening experience. What I noticed on the Note 4 from the moment I started using it was the insane amount of lags, stutters, and waiting times for things to happen. The Galaxy Note 3 was a fast device, but it had a camera and gallery app that were utterly slow. Many have pointed out that the gallery and camera apps on their Samsung devices run absolutely fine, but I’m not sure those who say that have used smartphones from other manufacturers in the last year or so.
On the Note 4, things are worse. While the camera app is a bit faster, the gallery app is still painfully slow at loading images. But that’s not the worst part. The Note 4 even takes a second or two to wake up when I press the home or power button when the screen is off, often making me wonder if I pressed said button properly or not (S Voice is turned off and disabled, so that isn’t the reason for the delay.)
Once past the lockscreen, there are a few stutters and lags in general usage as well. For example, the recent apps menu takes up to two seconds to show up, and scrolling through the apps in the recent apps screen is very jittery. Then there’s the settings menu. Every time you open the settings menu, you can expect to be met with stutter when scrolling through it, though it becomes smooth after a few seconds.
Software optimization was never Samsung’s strong suit, and on the Galaxy Note 4 it’s far worse than what it was on the Galaxy Note 3. Sure, I understand the higher screen resolution puts more load on the processor and GPU, but maybe Samsung should have stayed on Full HD and instead focused on bringing its software up to the mark first? A flagship device, in 2014, should be extremely fast, fluid and lag-free, but it seems Samsung just doesn’t seem to care about how fast its software is, as long as it can cram a lot of features and functionality and parade them as bullet points for their marketing campaign.
In terms of functionality, the Note 4 is a killer device and the best phablet in the market today, but using it as my main device hasn’t given me the flagship feel that I got from even the year-old Xperia Z1, or the HTC One M8, which remained extremely fast and smooth even after six months of use. I have written before that Samsung needs to optimize TouchWiz if it intends to go after the low-end market, but if its flagship devices can’t match what the competition is now offering, I wonder if the budget market will see Samsung as a dominant player ever again.
It’s 2014, Samsung, and maybe its time you stopped running after mind-blowing hardware like a Quad HD display and instead focused on making your software as fast, smooth and jitter-free as it should be in this day and age. Apple does it, Google does it, even a small company like HTC did it (Sense 6 is the fastest manufacturer UI out there), and with the resources at your disposal, maybe you can too.