Samsung's new One UI 6 Beta follows Apple offering new features to its fans, so where's Google?

Samsung Galaxy S23 series lying face down on a cream table
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung is offering Galaxy S23 series fans a chance to try out its next One UI 6 in a public beta program, confirming news that seemed to have been posted accidentally a few days ago. While a beta can be risky to use on a phone you rely on heavily, a public beta is often reliable enough that it won't leave you stranded or delete your photo library (backup everything, of course). 

Samsung's next version of One UI will be based on Android 14, and Google already has a public beta of its next Android update, but it frankly seemed less inspiring than what Samsung is previewing for Galaxy S23 users. The details in the Samsung news seem minor, but looking at the scant visuals they provide and reading between the lines, it's clear that this is going to be a big update for One UI. 

The Quick Panel, a major part of the Android system, has a greatly improved look and new behaviors in One UI 6 Beta. The buttons look smoother, and it takes less swipes to see all of them, if you so choose. The brightness slider is now always visible in the Quick Panel.

One UI 6 beta screens of Quick Panel and lock screen

(Image credit: Samsung)

Nothing major, but if you follow Samsung, you notice constant iteration and improvement at both the macro and micro levels.

There is a new default system font, and new emojis as well. Samsung is promising a lot more personalization and enhanced aesthetics, which is good to see, as One UI has been lagging a bit behind Google's own version of Android that it ships on Pixel devices like the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Tablet. Samsung phones are packed with features, but design has never been a strength.

There will also be a new custom camera widget that will let you set a preset mode as well as a destination for those photos. So I can set a widget to jump into the Food mode, then save all of my savory photos of baked goods in a separate folder, ready for Instagram.

Samsung will also offer customized lock screens according to specific Modes and Routines, so you can have a very dark star scene, for instance, in theater mode to keep disruption to a minimum.

Analysis: Samsung's Android is more exciting than Google's Android

It's been kind of a bland year in phone hardware, so it's good to get more excitement on the software side. Perhaps that's not a coincidence. While the iPhone hasn't seen a major hardware change in a long while, and this year's Galaxy S23 looks a lot like last year's Galaxy S22, the look and feel of those phones is going to get a lot better in the next few months. 

Apple has been previewing iOS 17 in a public beta, and it's a lot of fun. There are tons of new features to try, and most of them require other people with iPhones who want to join in. You'll share your new Contact Poster, and use SharePlay to synchronize a music playlist between multiple iPhones.

iOS 17

New iOS 17 standby clock screens (Image credit: Future)

Samsung, on the other hand, looks to be giving its user interface a much-needed modernization. Samsung software tends to improve in creeps not leaps, so a major design change is a big deal for Samsung fans.

That leaves Google. Google's Android 14 is going to give us, um, better lockscreens? Also emoji wallpapers, live wallpapers, and wallpapers made by AI. Plus, Google is trying to catch up to Apple's AirTag with better Find My support for devices across the board.

None of this sounds major. None of this sounds like more than you'd get from some app updates, let alone a major OS upgrade. Remember, every manufacturer tags your device with a lifespan rated in the number of OS upgrades you'll get. Google can't squander them. Most only get three, or less! They need to all be great.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.