Samsung’s next update will make your Galaxy phone feel a little more like an iPhone

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The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (left) and Galaxy S21 (right)


Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones are getting a facelift that should make their software feel more seamless and more customizable. It might also feel familiar if you’re switching from an iPhone

Samsung detailed its forthcoming One UI 4 software update during its annual developer conference on Tuesday, where it also outlined its strategy for the smart home, Tizen TVs and Bixby voice assistant. The new smartphone software has been available in beta since September, but the tech giant provided a detailed look at its new features during the conference’s opening keynote. The update will launch at the end of 2021 beginning with the Galaxy S21 series before rolling out to other Galaxy devices. 

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Design is a major focus in One UI 4. You’ll be able to match your phone’s system theme to your wallpaper, and certain actions like setting an alarm or using the device’s fingerprint sensor will trigger haptics and sounds. But several other features coming in the update feel very iPhone-inspired, especially the more consistent widgets and new privacy options. It’s another sign that the gap in features between iOS and Android is starting to get smaller as smartphones have matured over the last decade. 

For instance, One UI 4’s widgets feature corners that are more rounded across the board, whether they’re made by Samsung or third parties.

Based on what we’ve seen in Samsung’s presentation, that looks a lot like the iPhone’s home screen widgets.

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The new widgets in Samsung’s One UI 4 will all have rounded corners, whether they’re third-party or Samsung widgets. 


Samsung

Here are the iPhone’s widgets for context.

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Apple

When it comes to customization, you’ll also be able to set your AR emoji as your profile photo for Samsung accounts. This is similar to the way iPhone owners can set their Memoji as their iMessage and Apple ID photo.

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In One UI 4, you can set your AR emoji as the profile photo in your Samsung account. 

And here’s how Apple’s Memoji sticker looks when set as the profile photo for an Apple ID.

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You can set your Memoji sticker as your Apple ID photo. 


Screenshot by Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

One of the biggest changes to come to the iPhone 11 in 2019 was the addition of QuickTake in the camera app. This feature lets you switch from photo to video mode more easily by just holding the shutter button and then dragging it to the right. Samsung device owners will get a similar shortcut when One UI 4 launches. The update will let you move from photo to video mode simply by dragging up from the camera shutter.

Here’s the demo Samsung showcased during its developer conference.

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Samsung’s One UI 4 update will make it easier to switch from photo to video mode in the camera app, much like the iPhone. 


Samsung

And here’s the iPhone’s QuickTake feature.


Apple

One UI 4 will also help Samsung devices catch up to the iPhone in terms of privacy. Galaxy smartphone owners will be able to choose whether they want to share their precise or approximate location with apps, an option that Apple introduced last year in iOS 14.

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Samsung is adding new privacy controls in its One UI 4 update. 


Samsung

Here are the similar privacy options available on the iPhone. 

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Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Apple and Android device makers have been locked in a race to introduce new features and capabilities to their mobile devices first since the dawn of the smartphone. It’s a competition that will never have a straight answer, and the right choice for most people will largely come down to the operating system they’re most comfortable with.

But throughout the course of smartphone history, there are a few areas in which the iPhone has pulled ahead of Android and vice versa. The iPhone paved the way for the modern smartphone by popularizing touch-centric interaction on mobile devices while the industry remained fixated on tiny keyboards. In more recent years, Apple has generally been more forward-thinking when it comes to consumer privacy. 

But Android device makers pioneered many aspects of today’s mobile user interface, offering staple features like widgets and quick-settings pulldown menus long before Apple did. Companies like Samsung also launched smartphones with larger screens years ahead of the iPhone 6 Plus launch in 2014. Now Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft are experimenting with foldable designs while Apple has yet to mention the possibility of a bendable iPhone.

Check out the video below to learn more about Samsung’s One UI 4 update. 

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