Running atop Android 6.0.1, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI receives some refinements and new features. This latest build retains the mostly white interface with coordinated highlight colors that was introduced with the Galaxy S6. Looking more closely, however, reveals new application icons and a redesigned notification shade.
One of the new features is Always-On Display (AOD). Similar to Google’s Ambient Display and Motorola’s Moto Display, this feature displays some basic information while the screen is locked, like a calendar, the time and date, or notifications. There's also an option to personalize what's displayed. Power drain is minimized by taking advantage of the AMOLED display’s ability to only illuminate the pixels in use, rather than turning on the entire panel like most IPS displays. AOD also uses the ambient light sensor to detect when the phone is placed inside a pocket or purse and turns itself off.
A new utility called “Game Tool” provides quick, in-game access to several features. One of its simplest tricks, but possibly the most useful, is keeping notifications from interrupting your gameplay. It also allows you to grab screenshots or record up to 6Mbps 1080p video to document your gaming skill. You can even record a voiceover using the phone’s microphone.
Edge UX, a feature unique to the Galaxy edge devices, undergoes a significant makeover and gains new functionality. For those not familiar with this feature, it's a panel that slides out from the curved edge of the screen that's meant to provide quick access to frequently used apps or favorite contacts, among other things. The most obvious change in this latest version is that the panel is now wider, allowing for two columns of circular icons rather than a single column like before.
In addition to the Apps and People edge panels mentioned above, there's a new Tasks edge that offers shortcuts to common tasks such as composing an email, taking a selfie, creating a calendar event, or opening a specific webpage. The new Quick tools edge displays a compass or a ruler, which can certainly come in handy.
What makes Edge UX really interesting is support for third-party panels (think edge widgets). Informational panels showing news, weather, or sports scores are obvious examples, but other possibilities exist too. More panels can be downloaded from within the configuration menu as they become available. To keep things from getting cluttered, individual panels can be toggled on or off, and the panels can be reordered.
Previous TouchWiz features carry over too such as the quick launch camera, which jumps straight to the camera from within any app or from the lock screen by double-clicking the home button. Multi Window, which allows multiple, windowed apps to run at the same time, returns too, and so do the options for improving one-handed use.
All of these software features put pressure on system RAM. This problem negatively impacted the user experience on the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, whose 3GB of RAM was already over 70% capacity after a fresh reboot. Without enough free memory for applications, the operating system needed to unload apps and webpages to make room for new ones, reducing multitasking and browsing performance. We have not had a chance to investigate this issue on the Galaxy S7 devices thoroughly, but a quick check showed only 55% of system memory in use after closing open apps. Hopefully, this translates to better overall performance under heavy use.