Ask any Android purist and they’ll tell you: stock Android is the one true Android. But objectively, it’s not perfect, and there are things that Samsung devices do better than any stock Android device out there—even Google’s own devices.
This partly because of Samsung’s hardware choices and partly because of its software modifications. Samsung does a great job of staying ahead of the latest trends in mobile technology, where many devices that run stock Android—namely the Pixels—seem to fall short.
Here’s a look at a few of those things.
What was once a Google-first feature on the Nexus phones of yesteryear, Google moved away from this convenient tech with the Nexus 5X and 6P phones—a trend that carried on with the Pixel and Pixel 2.
But Samsung has continued offering wireless charging for a long time. Year after year, all of the newest Galaxy flagship phones have included it as a standard. And with Apple finally adopting this tech with their newest iPhones, we likely won’t see it going away any time soon. In fact, you can almost count on the upcoming Pixel phones having it, too.
RELATED: How Does Wireless Charging Work?
But for now, Samsung has Google (and almost everyone else) beat in the Android space.
More Security Options: Iris Scanning, Face Recognition, Intelligent Scan, and More
Samsung does a great job of bringing new tech to the forefront of the Android ecosystem, which includes a lot of forward-thinking security innovations—like iris scanning technology.
Iris Scanning was first introduced on the Galaxy S8 as a new way to secure your phone. Face Recognition was also a part of the system. Now, to be fair, stock Android has had some form of that for years, but the S9 provides the option to use both simultaneously with a feature named Intelligent Scan. This uses both iris data and facial recognition for a double layer of security, all without slowing down the unlocking process at all.
Stock Android’s Trusted Face feature (which is part of Smart Lock) has been more laughable than useful over the years, but Samsung’s facial recognition seems to be much better. It’s probably still not good enough to use on its own, but a combination of this with iris canning in Intelligent Scan is pretty brilliant.
Meaningful Hardware Features
Like we’ve already established, Samsung is generally at the forefront of emerging tech. It’s quick to add cool and upcoming tech to its devices, like wireless charging starting with the Galaxy S5, iris scanning on the S8, and the latest Bluetooth tech as it shows up.
The last one is a pretty big deal, because starting with Bluetooth 5.0, the feature itself got a lot better. And while most flagship phones at this point have BT 5.0, a Bluetooth feature that’s less common in smartphones is ANT+. This is important for any fitness enthusiast who wants to use things like heart rate sensors with their smartphone, and Samsung has included it by default since the S4.
By contrast, many popular Android phones require a dongle for ANT+ connectivity, which is annoying and cumbersome. Sure, it’s not a big deal for anyone who doesn’t need ANT+, but it’s just another example of Samsung including extra features its users may want or need.
Customizable Navigation Bar and One Handed Mode
It’s not just about the hardware features Samsung throws in, either—the company includes some pretty useful tweaks in its software layer too.
When it made the jump from [those awful] capacity navigation keys and a physical home button to on-screen navigation, Samsung also included a way to rearrange those buttons. It’s not a huge deal, but little touches like that really make a big difference. If you’re a long-time Samsung user, you can stick with the company’s traditional recents-home-back layout; if you’re coming from a different phone, however, you can change it to the stock Android back-home-recents layout.
Similarly, and arguably even better, most flagship Samsung devices since the Galaxy Note 5 have included one-handed mode—even the “smaller” variants of the S8 and S9. This is an absolute game changing for using your handset with just one hand, as a quick gesture is all it takes to switch from a full-size screen to a much smaller and more manageable size (and back again). This is something Google desperately needs to add to stock Android.
CHEAP SHOT: A Headphone Jack
You know what the latest Pixel phones don’t have? A headphone jack. You know what a lot of people miss? The headphone jack.
Well, Samsung hasn’t killed the headphone jack yet, and something tells me they probably won’t—at least not anytime soon.
Of course, none of this is to say that Samsung is the perfect phone maker—far from it, in fact. For all the things it does well, there’s still one huge mistake that can be applied to every one of its phones: timely OS updates. While it has gotten better over the last several years, there’s still a lot of work to be done here to really compare to Google when it comes to this all-important (arguably the most important) feature.