Samsung hints at new UI for upcoming Galaxy S5

Flatter-designed icons for 'Fitness' and 'Outdoor' shown in blog post suggest stronger ties to smartwatch and other wearables

Samsung Wednesday dropped a hint that its coming Galaxy S5 smartphone will have an updated user interface, possibly featuring simpler, flatter icons.

In a SamsungTomorrow blog post Tuesday, Samsung showed icons for Speed, Outdoor, Curiosity, Fun, Social, Style, Privacy, Fitness and Life that could be part of the Galaxy S5 Samsung is expected to unveil on Feb. 24 in Barcelona at its Unpacked5 event.

The minimalistic-looking icons are each labeled with a superscript 5, hinting at the updated phone. The blog and the icons are part of an updated invitation to Samsung's Unpacked5 event, which was first announced Feb. 4.

Samsung's Galaxy smartphone line has long included the custom TouchWiz interface. The new, simpler-looking icons could be part of a back-to-basics approach by Samsung.

While the coming Galaxy phone will surely run Android, there's been a lot of speculation at how far it will move away from pure Android. Some analysts predict the TouchWiz interface in the Galaxy phone line could be replaced by the Magazine UX seen in Samsung's new Pro tablets. The Magazine UX has reportedly dismayed Google as it moves to reduce Android fragmentation in the market. In January, the well-known and usually spot-on news site evleaks tweeted photos of three smartphone UI screens that some analysts believe could be used with the Galaxy S5. Two of the three break the screen into panels along the lines of what Magazine UX does on Pro tablets, with square elements or tiles as seen in the Windows Phone UI.

Perhaps the icons in Samsung's latest blog could adorn a Magazine UX-like interface on the Galaxy S5, but it's not really clear what Samsung intends to do.

To some, it might not seem to matter much at all what Samsung does with the coming interface, but when Apple updated a new UI for iOS 7 last year, the tech world stood up and took notice. Reader comments on the new Samsung blog noted that Samsung's new icons seem to imitate the flat design of Apple's iOS 7.

What might matter more than the graphic design of the Samsung icons is the inclusion of icons labeled fitness and outdoor. Samsung may be prepping a direct link to smartphone apps for fitness and health monitoring that link over Bluetooth to its wearable devices, such as the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which could be updated on Feb. 24 as well.

Samsung appears to be looking to create a wireless ecosystem of devices, probably with its smartphones as a hub reaching to wearables.

"It's safe to assume that Samsung is looking at the next Galaxy smartphone device as the hub for peripheral function devices like Gear and FitGear," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "It makes sense to put hooks [in the form of icons] into the system that Samsung will ultimately need."

Gold said it will interesting to see if Google adds similar icons to its own pure Android future releases "so as not to fork Android even further."

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel, said that Samsung still faces a choice on peripherals and wearables like Gear or rumored Samsung smart glasses, to keep them compatible with only Samsung smartphones and tablets or to make them compatible with Android products from various manufacturers. Either approach has merits, but each requires a different strategy.

Samsung Unpacked
Invitation to Samsung Unpacked event

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is > >

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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