There’s an awful lot to like about Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, be it the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note II or even the many budget-centric Galaxies that Samsung sells at lower prices. Buy an Australian model, though, and you’re met with a ridiculous limitation that Samsung won’t even talk about.
To be specific, the dock favourites icons in the standard Samsung Android TouchWiz launcher. Samsung already makes things kind of inconvenient when it comes to adjusting the onscreen icon layout of a Samsung Galaxy phone — you’ve got to choose to edit the screen in order to move or remove icons, a multi-tap affair where pretty much every other Android phone or device lets you do so simply.
Where it gets much worse is in the area of the favourites dock at the bottom of the TouchWiz screen.
By default, this line includes the icons for the Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Internet apps. I’ve highlighted it in the screenshot to the right, so you’re clear which icons I’m discussing. You might think you’re able to move those apps around, even via the convoluted edit method for other app links.
If you’re talking a stock Australian Galaxy device, you’d be dead wrong. They’re fixed in place, and you cannot change them, even if you’re using a different browser or messaging application. No way.
OK, there is a way — use an alternate launcher, which is what I do, but there’s a problem there, because those launchers won’t always hook seamlessly into the other features that Samsung builds into the Galaxy devices. This is a notable problem for the Note II. Want the S-Pen apps to launch automatically when you remove the S-Pen? You’ve got to stick with the default TouchWiz launcher and its fixed favourites dock. Use an alternate launcher, and the S-Pen still works — but you’ve got to launch all the apps for it manually.
Now, I wouldn’t have cause for complaint here, except that this is an Australian-exclusive problem. International Samsung Galaxy ROMs allow for the favourite dock icons to be shifted and replaced, so there’s clearly the capability for the devices to do just that. But they don’t, and that got me curious, so I contacted Samsung’s local PR agency to try to get some kind of comment regarding the issue.
Samsung — and this is official — have “no comment on this matter”.
What the very what, Samsung?
Look, it’s obvious that the devices can handle favourite dock re-arrangement, because the international ones do, and flexibility is a cornerstone of the Android experience. Still, it’s a flexibility denied official Australian Samsung device owners. I’m presuming here, by the way, that if you purchased a Samsung device from a direct importer, you’d skip that problem entirely… but I’m sure that Samsung would prefer you purchased locally.
So why the wall of silence? My best guess — and it’s total speculation, just in case any lawyers are listening — is that it’s some kind of carrier requirement, because they’re the only other party in the Samsung equation with all that much power. Quite why they’d decide to partially cripple Samsung devices in that way eludes me, though, and as I say, it’s absolute speculation. Any carriers willing to speak to me, you know how to get in touch… as does Samsung.