updated 03:05 pm EDT, Wed August 3, 2011
Samsung to require TouchWiz on Tab 10.1 for new OS
Samsung as part of the kickoff of its TouchWiz rollout for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 revealed that the update wouldn't be optional in practice for real users. Although owners will have the option of declining the custom interface, they won't have the option of upgrading to Android 3.2, Ice Cream Sandwich, or any other patch. The move would leave everyone preferring the original, stock experience locked to 3.1 for the device's remaining lifetime.
TouchWiz had been promised for the tablet from March onwards, but Samsung only clarified that it wouldn't be preloaded relatively close to the launch.
The interface brings some potentially helpful additions, like a more advanced quick control panel, live panels on the home screen, the Dive recovery feature, and Samsung's various media hubs. However, components like the live panels and the mini app tray can either bog down performance or add clutter to the interface.
Samsung's policy is likely to frustrate certain early adopters. Virtually all currently shipping Galaxy Tab 10.1 models, including the one we reviewed, came with the stock interface and both set expectations as well as gave the tablet a rare advantage in the frequency of upgrades. It shipped with Android 3.1 even before the months-old, stock Xoom received its update and was expected to close the months-long gaps between upgrades common to Android. Owners now no longer have that guarantee and may see delays as Samsung has to test and patch its own interface before it can sign off on any upgrade.
The company may be counting on its own commitment to solving delays as part of the upgrade. As part of Google's anti-fragmentation coalition, Samsung has promised to speed up its patches as well as deliver them for at least a year and a half after release whenever possible.
Nonetheless, the release underscores a concern about control over Android. Although Google maintains that the platform is open and provides choice, customers who had trusted they could skip the interface now won't have any way to both keep the clean UI and upgrade their devices without hacking the platform to get it to work. iPad owners don't have the official choice of alternative operating systems but get the interface the OS developer intended andconsiderably faster updates.