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

Samsung's next update will make your Galaxy phone look a little more like an iPhone

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Smartphones are undergoing a facelift that should make their software more transparent and customizable. It may also sound familiar to you if you are switching from a iPhone.

Samsung detailed its upcoming One UI 4 software update at its annual developer conference on Tuesday, where it also showcased its smart home strategy, Tizen TVs and Bixby voice assistant. The new smartphone software has been available in beta since September, but the tech giant provided a detailed overview of its new features during the conference keynote. The update will be launched in late 2021 starting with the Galaxy S21 series before rolling out to other Galaxy devices.

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 in the update seem very iPhone-inspired, especially the more consistent widgets and new privacy options. It’s another sign that the feature gap between iOS and Android is starting to narrow as smartphones have matured over the past decade.

For example, One UI 4’s widgets have more rounded corners, whether they’re made by Samsung or by third parties.

From what we saw in Samsung’s presentation, it looks a lot like the iPhone home screen widgets.


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


Here are the iPhone widgets for context.



As for customization, you will also be able to set your AR emoji as your profile picture for Samsung accounts. This is similar to how iPhone owners can set their Memoji as their iMessage and Apple ID photo.


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

And here’s what Apple’s Memoji sticker looks like when set as a profile picture for an Apple ID.


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

Screenshot by Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

One of the biggest changes to come iPhone 11 in 2019 was the addition of QuickTake in the camera app. This feature makes it easier for you to switch between photo mode and video mode by simply holding down 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 switch between photo mode and video mode just by swiping up from the camera shutter.

Here is the demo that Samsung presented during its developer conference.


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


And here is the iPhone’s QuickTake function.


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 Apple introduced last year in iOS 14.


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


Here are similar privacy options available on the iPhone.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

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

But throughout the history of smartphones, there are a few areas where the iPhone has overtaken Android and vice versa. The iPhone paved the way for the modern smartphone by popularizing touch interaction on mobile devices, while the industry remained obsessed with tiny keyboards. In 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, delivering basic features like widgets and quick settings drop-down menus long before Apple. Companies like Samsung also launched smartphones with larger screens years before the iPhone 6 Plus launched in 2014. Now Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft are experimenting with foldable designs while Apple has yet to mention the Possibility of a foldable iPhone.

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