TO BE accurate, it wasn’t Google who set up the upgrade to the Android operating system for the smartphone I’m currently testing, at least not directly. It was Samsung’s update.
That’s because most devices in the marketplace running the Android operating system are using a custom version of the core OS with a modified user interface (UI) designed for an identifiable look and feel.
Devices that use bare Android, such as Google’s own Pixel series, got the version nine update, codenamed Pie, more than six months ago.
The update that showed up last week has some of Pie’s goodness baked in with some nuances and upgrades that offer some insight into what Samsung is likely to be bringing to market with the next iteration of its premium smartphone series, the S10.
My first experience with the new OS wasn’t great.
A few hours after the upgrade, the device began warning of moisture in the charging port.
Since it had been sitting on a mount, plugged in right in front of me for hours during and after the upgrade, I was hard pressed to think of what triggered the alert. Had the device heated up and somehow drawn moisture out of the cooled air around me? Had I been breathing heavily in anticipation?
Web searches offered remedies for the problem that seemed sensible in the presence of actual water, though the Note 9 is supposed to be able to take a dunking and keep working.
I unplugged the charger, because the warning chirp was really irritating, and a few hours later, the problem went away.
Had the new OS raised the threshold of the moisture sensors?
Who knows? I’ll just have to keep an eye on the device.
Pie brings you, appropriately enough, icons with more rounded, almost fully spherical corners, a call-back to the early iPhone UI days.
It also brings to a merciful end the era of file-drawer-style multi-tasking windows in favour of a more usable side-to-side scroll that’s much easier to flick through. If you feel nostalgic for the pack-of-cards look, Chrome retains that window browsing style.
Samsung has cherry-picked the features it wanted from version 9, dropping enhancements and user features that were a difficult, sometimes contradictory, fit for the way Samsung’s Experience UI works.
Selected text is enhanced with a neat horizontal magnifier of the selection area that’s a welcome addition. The Phone app has also been tidied, though a new Places pane is a solution in search of a problem for me.
System apps have a more unified appearance, and when you open the MyFiles app and Settings app you’ll find an interface that’s laid out as if it came from the same design bench. MyFiles is also more explicit in prompting a user on how moving or copying files from one location on the device to another works.
One user interface hiccup is the return of the three software buttons permanently at the bottom of the screen. There was an option to have these buttons disappear by default in Samsung’s version of version 8, Oreo, but that seems to be gone in Pie.
Notifications on the lock screen seem to have disappeared, but not really. There are small indicators of activity that when gently tugged reveal a full listing of notifications as well as current settings, a distinct improvement.
Overall, Pie giveth more than it taketh away and the update is supposed to claim a smaller footprint on your device than its predecessor.
If you get an option to do the big update on your Samsung device, I’d say go for it.
Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there