Samsung Mobile OS

Designing an OS that is relevant, predictive, fast, and unique

Samsung Mobile Lab was an R&D based in SF, CA. I joined the Lab in 2013 as a Staff Designer and worked on projects spanning wearable concepts, developing and launching new products, IPs, and multiple software innovations.


Staff Product Designer


As the number one manufacturer of mobile phones in the world at the time, Samsung was at risk of becoming diminished to a hardware manufacturer. The company lacked an empathetic understanding of user needs for its flagship Operating System, translating into a UX that was hard to use and learn.


I worked across the end-to-end design process from user research, IA, interaction, and visual and motion design. My contributions included the concept and design of user modes, the new developing new device-to-device management, the task switcher, and the new notifications system.


The result was an OS that was relevant, predictive, quick, and unique. It featured many core innovations under the hood that enabled Samsung to offer a unique value to its users, allowing the company to establish a unique perspective on UI/UX design. Pure was crucial in later OS iterations the company released in consecutive years.


UX Research and Strategy

Due to time and resource limitations for the project, I focused on deploying research methods that allowed the team to develop a unique perspective on critical user problems to help limit our scope and guide focus. Therefore, I focused on uncovering the most important insights that enabled the team to build a strong design foundation to inform consecutive design decisions.

I started by mapping key problem areas and inconsistencies in the OS to allow me to compare and understand statistically how Samsung OS scored against existing competitors. I also interviewed users who used Samsung OS daily to understand their core problems, frustrations, and expectations. I focused on users with particular demands from their OS to find opportunity areas.

To conclude this phase, I synthesized my learnings to gather the whole team's perspective on potential focus areas. The four areas below emerged from team workshops I led and resulted from a collective team effort.

Design Principles

Focus on the people to bring down the noise.

Our interactions with people happen across many apps and social networks, and a conversation that starts on SMS might transition to Facebook and other group chat apps. The OS should help users focus on people to remove the noise and distractions that get in the way.

Contextual and predictive

Mobile phones have become an extension of ourselves, with most users relying on their phones to think and plan various activities. The OS should provide clear access to apps in a consistent, predictive, and contextual way.

Simple yet unique

We are designing for many users, from kids to the elderly. Because of this, the OS needs to be extremely simple and clean. Memorable moments such as animations and micro-interactions help build a unique OS without adding unnecessary clutter.

Build for easy and seamless connection with other devices

At home, the phone works as the hub of the house, helping users to connect to a wide range of devices. While on the go, users need a simple and quick connection and simple access to remain focused on their activities. Rethink how the OS and devices connect to improve the end-to-end experience.

Explorations & prototyping

Apps and Widgets

Major UX Problems

    • Visually cluttered
    • Redundancy and confusion about OS areas
    • Widgets were confusing and unbalanced

Final Solution

    • Organized and consistent
    • Smart groups allowed apps to be better organized
    • Different spaces simplify the difference between the app and the widget


Major UX Problems

    • No clear hierarchy or distinction between system updates, UI controllers, and people
    • Cluttered and full of noise which makes it hard for users to pick out important information

Final Solution

    • Communications with people are aggregated as one regardless of what channel users use (sms, calls, text apps)
    • Privacy-preserving notifications that behave differently depending on what mode a user has chosen
    • Smart assistant notifications bring the right level of detail to the home screen

Task Switcher

Major UX Problems

    • Too far away and hard to access
    • Lacked communication continuity between the current and next app
    • Most users did not use the existing task switcher

Final Solution

    • Opacity and blur help to preserve context and communicate the transition to a new app
    • Focused and simple, with only recent apps being shown at first

Device to Device

Major UX Problems

    • It's hard to find out what devices the phone is connected to
    • Connecting to a new device such as a TV or a speaker is hard and takes a lot of effort
    • Device controls compete for attention and further clutter the notification screen

Final Solution

    • Pull down from the home screen to connect to new devices easily
    • One tap control expands controllers in a consistent way
    • Devices can be disconnected easily
    • View shows device statuses such as a battery or device activity, such as music playing or a new photo being taken

Contextual Modes


    • The OS experience is rigid and doesn't adapt to the user's many scenarios and goals
    • Problems range from privacy issues to easily connecting to devices nearby


    • The new modes allow users to control system-wide behaviors by simply changing modes.
    • Modes can be detected automatically by the phone sensor to reduce the need for manual control.
    • Location and points of interest are used to determine what actions the OS should take (e.g., arriving home triggers music playing)
    • Modes can be neatly integrated into Samsung's home automation stack.

End-to-end experience