Samsung is bringing newer One UI features to older devices

If you have an older Samsung foldable phone, tablet or watch, you may soon see some new features trickling down from the latest devices. The company announced today that the One UI 5.1.1 update — Samsung’s latest custom UI sitting atop Android — will roll out soon, bringing enhancements from the Galaxy Z Fold 5, Z Flip 5, Tab S9 series and Watch 6 series to pre-2023 gear. The features will support most of Samsung’s foldable phones and its recent tablets and smartwatches.

The One UI 5.1.1 update will support a long list of recent Samsung devices, but some may have to wait. It will roll out to Samsung’s stable of foldable phones, scheduled to reach the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4 “starting this month,” while the Z Fold 3, Z Flip 3, Z Fold 2 and Z Flip will receive it “sequentially” later. Tablet multitasking updates will arrive for the Galaxy Tab S8, Tab S8+, Tab S8 Ultra, Tab S7, Tab S7+, Tab S7 FE, Tab S6 Lite, Tab A8, Tab A7 Lite, Tab Active 3 and Tab Active 4 Pro. Finally, new smartwatch features will support the Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro, Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic.

Samsung’s foldable phone updates in One UI 5.1.1 make it easier to show or hide the Flex Mode Panel (the controls appearing on the bottom half of the screen when the phone is semi-folded). “When folding your phone in Flex Mode, the panel’s icon will float up the screen, allowing you easy access,” the company wrote. “Enjoy a more personalized Flex Mode Panel experience by simply dragging and dropping the icon on the toolbar.” In addition, Samsung says the media play bar button (now including 10-second fast forward and rewind buttons) will be more prominent and simpler to find when the Flex Mode Panel activates. You’ll also be able to press down on the timeline to scrub through media more efficiently.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Samsung is tweaking multitasking on recent tablets and foldables, making switching to multi-window from pop-up window modes easier by long-pressing the handle. It also adds two-handed drag and drop, which lets you hold your finger down on a document from one app, use your other hand to open something else and then drag the file onto it for sharing or storage. The company also says the Z Fold 4 and Tab S8’s taskbar will be faster and include more recent apps. “Now, the Taskbar enables lightning-fast task switching with access to up to four recent apps,” Samsung said.

On the smartwatch front, the company is adding sleep-tracking upgrades from the Galaxy Watch 6 to older wearables. The changes include “a more intuitive UI” with the additions of Sleep Score Factors, Sleep Consistency and Sleep Animal Symbols. Sleep Coaching will also be available on the watch without looking at your paired phone. The Galaxy Watch can also automatically adjust SmartThings home devices for a more rest-inducing ambiance at bedtime.

Closeup photo of a Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 smartwatch on a person's wrist. A finger is touching one of the hardware buttons as an image of a man with a teddy bear displays on its screen.

Sam Rutherford / Engadget

Smartwatches will also receive fitness updates. The Watch 6’s Personalized Heart Rate Zone feature trickles down; it analyzes your physical abilities and “defines five optimal running intensity levels to help users set their own goals based on their ability — from burning fat to high intensity workout.” The Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 4 series will also add Irregular Heart Rhythm Notifications in the update, which could be a lifesaver for some.

Meanwhile, Track Run, which (as its name suggests) records your runs on a track, also makes its way from the Watch 6. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro will have access to a GPX File Database for downloading map data to your watch. Finally, One UI 5.1.1. lets you control the Flip 4’s camera with a paired Galaxy Watch. A new quick-access button will let you use your watch as a remote shutter, and it also lets you switch camera modes and control zoom levels.

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