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Galaxy Tab TouchWiz update: does Honeycomb need a custom skin?

Galaxy Tab TouchWiz update: does Honeycomb need a custom skin?

There’s been plenty of excited chat of late about Samsung’s imminent release of a TouchWiz update for the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The new skin from Sammy promises to add improved settings functionality and a series of neat Mini Apps, including note taking smarts, music player access, calculator and a task manager.

That all sounds great and the promotional YouTube clip certainly suggests that things work in a slick and smart fashion. But beyond the handy functionality, alarm bells are ringing.

samsung galaxy tab 10.1

Honeycomb is a brilliantly designed and easy-to-use operating system, one which most users would agree does not require any kind of custom skin to make it work better. The Mini Apps detailed by Samsung are hardly revolutionary: it’s not as if there’s a lack of a clock or that notes apps aren’t available in the Android Market.

Samsung makes a big deal of the fact that they can work in the background, but isn’t multitasking one of Honeycomb’s strongest suits?

The major concern here is how this will impact future updates on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Custom skins are already known to hold up updates on Android smartphones, just ask HTC Desire users about that one.

When Android Ice Cream Sandwich is released, will the presence of TouchWiz mean Samsung’s engineers have to work extra hard and make owners wait while they ensure everything is just right, meaning a delayed arrival on the tablet?

It’s more than likely. The only people who lose are consumers, watching as vanilla tablets get the software update in quick-smart fashion. What’s also of concern is the precedent this is setting. HTC’s forthcoming Puccini tablet looks as if it’ll have Sense sitting atop Honeycomb, if leaked press shots are anything to go by.

HTC Puccini leaked UI

Sure, it looks great, but users will undoubtedly be left wanting when it comes to a timely boost to Ice Cream Sandwich. It appears that in their desperation to maintain some form of ownership over software, Samsung (and HTC) are getting in the way of the pure experience that tablet users want.

After all, those buying Android slates are early adopters with money to spare. Surely they want a breezy and easy-to-use iPad alternative, not something that comes chock full of features that could easily be seen as bloatware.

Google is unlikely to step in here, despite all the talk of a tougher approach with manufacturers and Ice Cream Sandwich’s apparent move towards a unified, vanilla version of Android. Expect to see the complaints about custom skins on smartphones to soon be replicated in the tablet space.

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