TouchWiz is the first custom Android interface that’s worse than the standard one, and shows what kind of horrible things emerge when Samsung’s interface designers are left unchecked. Here’s how I think the design process went, roughly: The designers dropped a bunch of acid, stared at old Atari games while binging on Taco Bell, then proceeded to shit all over the phone for hours and hours.
If it’s not inherently ugly, like text input screens with awful ’80s neon orange and blue, it’s gratuitous and redundant, like the 3D app cube. Or an entirely separate menu of Samsung icons for apps. And some things, like moving the slide-out menu to the left instead of its traditional place on the bottom, actually work against the way you use the phone — the menu gets in the way now, since I’d often bring it out by accident while changing between desktops. It’s just… terrible. Worse, Home Switcher, an app that reverts phones back to the stock Android home screen, can’t erase Samsung’s disgusting mojo. The Behold II would be 10x better with a vanilla build of Android 1.6.
Even the phone hardware is a mess. The front of the phone is an orgy of buttons: seven, to be precise, not including a d-pad, with a dedicated button for the app cube. The lock key isn’t just on the side but it’s kind of hidden, flush against the bezel. The USB port is weirdly shoved on top. And, uh, what the hell is up with the back plate?
Two things are good about the Behold II — Samsung’s custom camera setup comes straight out of their point-and-shoot cameras, and is packed with features, like extensive manual controls and burst shooting, and it’s very fast unlike the rest of the phone. The other is the AMOLED display which is nice, though marred by the same kind of bluish tint as Samsung’s other AMOLED Android phone, the Moment.
Take a good long look at the Behold II though: It’s a warning to other developers what not to do, and a scary look at one dark possible future for Android, in its infinite permutations. Not just deep fragmentation of the platform, but customised crimes against humanity, perpetrated in the name of Android. It makes me want to cry, except that my brain’s too mushy to make my eyes work.