C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Table of contents
There are many folks out there who swear by stock Android. While we would agree that many Android skins tend to be bloated and poorly designed in comparison, some skins work so well that they transcend stock Android to become something even better. Today, we’re going to look at two of those skins in a kind of face-off event: Oxygen OS vs One UI.
Oxygen OS is the Android skin used exclusively by Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus. The skin debuted on the OnePlus One after the failure of the company’s partnership with Cyanogen, Inc. That company’s skin — known as Cyanogen OS — originally powered the One. In the beginning, Oxygen OS was all about simplicity with an experience as close to stock as possible. Things have changed a bit since then, though.
One UI is the Android skin used exclusively by South Korean smartphone maker Samsung. Most would consider it the third iteration of its original Android skin, TouchWiz. That skin eventually became Samsung Experience which itself evolved into One UI. Samsung’s Android skin is all about options — it allows the user to do pretty much anything they would want at the cost of simplicity.
In the Oxygen OS vs One UI debate, you might already know which side you fall on. However, some people may have only ever used Samsung devices and might be curious to know what all the fuss is about when it comes to Oxygen OS. Conversely, some people may have abandoned Samsung for OnePlus back in the TouchWiz days and would like to know what One UI is like. Hopefully, this article will answer any questions you may have.
Oxygen OS vs One UI notes: To examine the two Android skins, we used a OnePlus 9 Pro running Android 12 (Oxygen OS 12 vC.40) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra running Android 12 (One UI v4.0). Whenever possible, the comparisons were made using out-of-the-box configurations of the software.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: The basic takeaway
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Originally, Oxygen OS was very much like stock Android. OnePlus tweaked it a bit by making things more elegant and adding in some very useful features. The overall goal, though, was to keep things “fast and smooth,” a phrase which the company still uses in its marketing.
This has changed the Oxygen OS vs One UI debate significantly. In the old days, Oxygen OS and One UI were like the macOS and Windows of the Android world. By that, I mean Oxygen OS relied on simplicity and elegance at the expense of features while One UI did the opposite.
Now, though, things aren’t so simple. Oxygen OS looks different from One UI, but both skins cater to the same ideas. They don’t look like stock Android and offer lots of extra features.
With all that in mind, let’s break down the major aspects of an Android skin and look at Oxygen OS vs One UI in each one.
Always-on and ambient display
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
With either operating system, the AOD is disabled by default. Since it drains a bit more battery than left off, both companies assume it’s better to leave it disabled, and then let the people who want it to find the setting to turn it on. If you don’t want it on all the time, you can schedule it out on both platforms.
Once you have it enabled, there are some differences between Oxygen OS vs One UI. For example, Oxygen OS 12 affords you just three different formats for your AOD with the ability to customize the clock. However, that’s where the customizations end.
Samsung, meanwhile, offers a lot of customizations for its AOD — a trend that will pop up a lot throughout this article. Not only does One UI 4.0 come with nearly a dozen built-in layouts from which you can pick, but you can also download even more from the Galaxy Store. Additionally, you can choose the fonts and colors of each aspect.
Thankfully, OnePlus does offer some customizations for its always-on display, including whether the fingerprint scanner icon should be there, which notifications are shown, and the color of your horizon light, which is the notification alert system.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Lock screen
Once you get out of the always-on display, you enter the lock screen. Once again, by default, Samsung and OnePlus offer pretty much the same thing here. The only major difference between the two defaults is that OnePlus offers a shortcut for voice commands (through Google Assistant) in the lower-left corner. In One UI, Samsung has a shortcut to the dialer in the same spot.
However, as one would expect, Samsung offers plenty of customization features for the lock screen. For example, you can change those two bottom apps to be whatever you like. If you don’t like the lack of security with those shortcuts, you can use the floating button setting, which forces you to unlock your device with your fingerprint before swiping to one of the two app shortcuts.
You can also add widgets to your lock screen in One UI, which brings in specialized widgets created by Samsung.
To its credit, Oxygen OS allows you to change the lock screen, such as wallpaper (naturally), how your notifications show up or even disable notifications altogether. You can also add a brief message to the lock screen, such as your contact information (should your phone get lost) or an inspirational quote. However, One UI also offers these settings.
Lock screen security
To leave the lock screen and gain access to the phone, you’ll need to unlock it. Depending on which device you have, there could be different options for either One UI or Oxygen OS. However, there will be a lot of crossovers.
Both Android skins offer plenty of ways for you to unlock the phone, including a PIN entry, a swipe pattern, a text password, and the very insecure face unlock (since Samsung and OnePlus have yet to roll out phones with 3D sensors on the front, this isn’t an advisable option). If you don’t care much about security, you can also choose to just swipe out of the lock screen or even deactivate it all together, as both skins have these options.
Almost all newer Samsung and OnePlus devices also feature fingerprint scanners, whether under the display or elsewhere. This is also an option with One UI and Oxygen OS.
In both skins, you can also choose how the lock screen is activated. For example, how fast after the display goes to sleep do you want the phone to lock itself? The default is five seconds, but you can make this shorter or longer. You can also choose whether or not hitting the power key (which will immediately put the screen to sleep) locks the device or not in both skins.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Home screen
Once you’ve unlocked your smartphone, you hit the home screen. It’s pretty incredible how similar One UI and Oxygen OS are out-of-the-box here. Although things are re-ordered a bit, the layouts have the same information and available functions. OnePlus’ five default dock apps are essentially the same as Samsung’s four (OnePlus just throws in its Photos app). There’s a Google search bar in the same position on each screen, too.
Outside of the Camera, Gallery, and Games apps, OnePlus only offers Google apps on the main home screen. If you swipe to the right, there are a few more apps on the second panel, too. By default, Samsung’s home screen only has one panel.
Oxygen OS borrows a bunch of features from Color OS for the home screen. You can change transition animations, the shapes of icons, wallpaper styles, and icon layout grids. One UI has fewer features — you can’t change the transition animations, for example. However, both Android skins have plenty of tweaks to make to get your home screen feeling like yours.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Home screen settings
You can long-press on some empty space from the home screen on either Oxygen OS or One UI and pull up the home screen settings. We’re going to break down each aspect of the various settings here.
Samsung offers a few extra functions here as compared to OnePlus. With One UI, you can easily add blank home screen pages by swiping right and clicking the plus button. We’re not sure why you would ever want blank home screen pages, but One UI gives you that option. You can also easily delete home screen pages regardless of whether they have content in them or not.
If you swipe left in the home screen settings page on One UI, you can enable or disable Samsung Free (on some devices, this can also be Google Discover).
Meanwhile, Oxygen OS doesn’t offer either of these features. To control how Google Discover works, you need to go to the main Android settings section. You also can’t add blank home screens here. To add a new home screen page, you need to drag an icon from the main home screen to the right, automatically creating a new screen. If you empty that screen, it will auto-delete as Oxygen OS doesn’t let you have blank home screens.
Both Oxygen OS and One UI have quick shortcuts for changing wallpapers to their respective control centers. Here you can easily change the lock screen wallpaper or home screen wallpaper, regardless of which skin you’re using.
Oxygen OS has a special setting here called Inventive Wallpapers (borrowed from Color OS, naturally). Using a photo you upload, it pulls the color information from the picture and then creates various algorithmic wallpapers incorporating those colors. If you spot a color scheme you like, this is an easy way to make your phone match. You can also take a selfie to match your phone’s wallpaper to your outfit, for example.
One UI offers something else called Wallpaper Services. Here you can program your lock screen wallpaper to change constantly between photos in various categories. If you want to do even more with your wallpapers, you can hit the Explore more wallpapers button and visit the Galaxy Themes store, where you can browse through free and paid theming aspects to install on your phone.
Samsung and OnePlus took very different approaches when it came to organizing widgets. Oxygen OS presents widgets in a very simple way: a vertically-scrolling list in alphabetical order. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
One UI uses the Android 12 system for widgets. This categorizes widgets to make them easier to navigate. You just need to hit the dropdown menu to find what you want in each category. It makes things a little easier to sort through, but there’s a lot more tapping involved.
The one aspect here where Samsung undoubtedly wins is the fact that there’s a search bar at the top of the One UI widget selector screen. Oxygen OS cannot search for widgets for some reason.
Oxygen OS has a theming section called Personalizations. However, it is not accessible from the home screen settings page — you’ll need to go to Android settings to find it.
One UI, however, offers a quick shortcut to its theming section in the home screen settings area, appropriately called Themes. All this does, though, is open up the previously mentioned Galaxy Themes store, where you can find free and paid themes to install.
Thankfully, if you choose a side in the Oxygen OS vs One UI battle, you don’t need to sacrifice access to a dark mode with either choice. Both Android skins offer dark mode toggles within system settings. They also each offer a dark mode toggle from within the Quick Settings tiles (when you fully drop the notification drawer), which gives you easy access.
Both skins also allow you to automatically enable/disable dark mode through scheduling. You can have the dark mode switch on after sunset and then switch off at sunrise. You can also manually schedule it out yourself if you like.
Interestingly, OnePlus offers a neat setting that gives you a little more control over your dark mode experience. Within Android settings, you can choose between three modes: Enhanced (default), Medium, and Gentle. Enhanced is for OLED displays and represents truly black backgrounds. Gentle offers dark gray backgrounds for a pseudo-dark mode. Obviously, Medium offers a middle ground between the two.
Samsung, meanwhile, offers a binary system: dark mode is either off or on.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: App drawer
A quick swipe up anywhere on the home screens of either Oxygen OS or One UI will bring up the app drawer. This is where all your apps get organized unless you previously chose to eliminate the app drawer and have everything be on the home screens.
In older versions of Oxygen OS, you would also find a nifty feature called Hidden Space. This allowed you to hide apps and lock them behind a password. However, in Oxygen OS 12, this feature is gone, with Oppo’s version known as Private Safe taking its place. With this, you set a password for all your privacy-centric software needs, such as hiding apps, taking private notes, locking apps, and storing media securely. This password is not the same as your lock screen password/PIN/code, which adds an extra layer of protection since accessing your phone won’t necessarily give someone the ability to access Private Safe.
One UI doesn’t have something quite like Private Safe, but it does give you the ability to simply hide apps. However, there isn’t an easy way to then access all the hidden apps.
As far as app drawer organization goes, Oxygen OS and One UI list out your apps in alphabetical order by default. Both skins allow you to customize the order, but only One UI allows you to move around the apps manually and create your own custom order. Oxygen OS 12 only allows you to sort alphabetically, install time, and most used.
Oxygen OS only has one option for the layout of its app drawer: a vertical-scrolling list with four columns of icons resulting in around 28 apps per page. One UI has horizontal-scrolling pages and allows you to choose how many icons appear on each page, with the minimum being 20 and the maximum being 30.
Thankfully, both app drawers have a search bar at the top, which is essential for anyone who finds themselves with hundreds of apps installed on their phone.
Oxygen OS bloatware
A large portion of the pre-installed apps with a OnePlus phone is made by Google. Chrome is the default browser, Google Pay is the default wallet app, Gmail is the default email app, and on and on.
OnePlus does pre-install some of its own apps, though. There’s a weather app, an app designed to help you move your data from another phone, and an app that links to the OnePlus community forums. These three apps can be uninstalled if you don’t want them.
Related: Does bloatware drain your battery?
The only third-party, non-Google app pre-installed on OnePlus phones is Netflix. That app cannot be uninstalled or disabled.
Finally, one app that OnePlus includes with its phones is a duplicate of what a Google app already offers, living up to the definition of bloatware. The OnePlus Photos app — which has a limited feature set compared to Google Photos — can’t be uninstalled. You can’t disable it either, nor can you set Google Photos as your default app if you want.
One UI bloatware
When it comes to One UI, pre-installed apps run rampant. Different apps are pre-installed on different phones, so you may or may not have them all. Here is a list of the Samsung apps on a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra that you cannot uninstall or even disable:
- AR Doodle & Zone
- AR Emoji & Stickers
- Samsung Internet
- Galaxy Store
- Link to Windows
- Game Launcher
- Samsung Cloud
- Samsung Pass
With these apps, the only thing you can do is hide them. They will still be active in the background and take up internal storage space.
Additionally, Samsung includes a bevy of Google and Microsoft apps, and Netflix and Facebook. Some of these apps can be either disabled or fully uninstalled, but others, such as Facebook, can only be disabled.
The bottom line when it comes to apps is that Samsung really wants you to use its proprietary apps while OnePlus leaves it mostly up to you.
Oxygen OS and One UI offer almost identical options when organizing your apps into folders. Regardless of the platform, you can drag two apps together to automatically create a folder. You can then name that folder whatever you like and then add or remove apps from it to your heart’s content.
You can also create folders for the home screen and the app drawer independently in both skins. Or, you can make one in the app drawer and drag it onto the home screen to create a duplicate. However, the copied folder will become independent, i.e., adding an app to one won’t automatically add that same app to the other.
The only difference here is that you can change the background color of a folder in One UI. Oxygen OS does not have this option.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Notification shade
The notification shade is probably one of the most important and defining aspects of Android. As such, the way an Android skin organizes and displays the information here is incredibly important.
Obviously, both skins will show you all your notifications here. You can also swipe notifications away or long-press one to see additional options related to that application. However, the design of the shade, as well as what information is shown there, differs across each skin.
When you pull down the notification shade the first time, both Oxygen OS and One UI show you similar information. The first six Quick Settings tiles show the date, time, and status bar information. Both skins also give you a quick shortcut to jump to Android settings, depicted as a small gear icon.
Although there are differences in how the two Android skins layout this information, they each have access to all those features.
Back in the day, One UI would show a lot of extra information here. However, now it’s Oxygen OS that goes the extra mile. It includes a brightness slider on the first pull of the drawer, which One UI lacks. Meanwhile, One UI shows shortcut icons to Device Control and Media Output by default. You can easily turn these off if you don’t want them there.
When you do a second pull of the notification shade in Oxygen OS, you see a few more Quick Settings tiles and a shortcut to edit their layout. If you had it enabled, you would also see a shortcut to the user profile settings. That feature allows you to create different profiles for your phone, say one for you and another for your kid. You could also do one for your job and one for while you’re at home. You can easily swap from one profile to another without ever leaving the notification shade.
By default, One UI on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra brings in a search shortcut (that combs through your apps and internal storage), a brightness slider, a power menu shortcut, and an overflow menu with more settings tweaks.
In the overflow menu, you can change the order of the Quick Settings tiles, turn off the previously mentioned Samsung Media and Samsung Devices shortcuts, move the brightness slider so that it appears even with just one pull, and take a shortcut to tweak the status bar icons.
Recent apps (aka Overview)
When you hit the recent apps button from the navigation bar (or use the appropriate gesture), you’re taken to the recent apps screen (also known as the Overview). Here, you can see the last app you viewed and all the apps you currently have open. You can also swipe away individual apps by flinging them up to the top of the screen or hitting a button to close all the apps at once. This is all the same regardless of which skin you are using.
In Oxygen OS, if you long-press an app’s card, you’ll see an overflow menu. You can then choose to lock the app (which prevents it from being closed out when you hit the “clear all” button) or put the app into split-screen mode. There’s also a shortcut to the app’s information page within Android settings so you can force stop it, uninstall it, see how much data it’s used, etc.
One UI offers all those same features. However, it adds a few more and limits you on one. Notably, it puts a search bar at the top of the recent apps screen so you can quickly find an open app. It also shows four icons at the bottom of the screen for which the operating system thinks you might be searching.
Unfortunately, Samsung only lets you lock three apps at a time here. OnePlus, however, doesn’t have this limitation.
If you tap the app icon at the top of its recent apps card, you can see more settings for the app. This includes the same stuff we saw in Oxygen OS with the additional features of changing the app’s aspect ratio and opening it in pop-up view.
When you first set up a Samsung phone, it defaults to the traditional three-button navigation layout. On the other hand, a OnePlus phone asks you which one you’d prefer during the initial setup, with gesture navigation being the pre-selected choice.
Both One UI and Oxygen OS show you the classic three-button navigation bar with a circular home button in the middle and the recent apps and back buttons flanking it on either side. Thankfully, in both skins, you can swap the button layout to your preference (although the home button must remain in the center).
One UI and Oxygen OS also both lock you into its preset options for the navbar. That includes launching Google Assistant with a long-press on the home button and quickly swapping to the previously used app with a double-tap of the recent apps button. There are no options for the back button.
Both Oxygen OS and One UI offer gesture-based navigation options if you don’t want to use the classic three-button layout. Google develops the gestures in both systems for Android 10 (although Samsung does offer a slightly different system optionally). You swipe up on a thin horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen to go home, swipe in from the sides to go back, swipe up and hold to see recent apps, etc.
Oxygen OS offers a unique interesting feature here, which allows you to hide the horizontal bar if you think it’s an eyesore. It also gives you an optional way to use the “back” gesture (swiping inward from the right or left of the screen). With this option turned on, you can swipe in and hold to switch to the previously used app. However, this does not turn off the standard gesture for that same action.
In One UI, there are a few more options. You can choose whether or not you want to see gesture hints, which is useful if you’re just getting acclimated to the system. You can also select the level of sensitivity of the gestures and show a button to hide the keyboard. With the Galaxy Note series, you can also block the use of gestures while you’re using the S Pen.
Samsung also has a unique gesture system you can use if you want. By turning it on, you can swipe up from three different spots on the screen to mimic the usual three-button layout. It’s just that instead of pressing buttons, you’re swiping upward. OnePlus does not offer this option.
Using the phone’s volume rocker buttons on Oxygen OS and One UI turns various sound volumes up or down. However, each system also offers a few options on how to customize that experience and different things you can do with multi-button presses and holds.
Both skins offer an accessibility feature that involves holding down both volume keys for three seconds. Doing so will result in one of the multiple different actions you can choose from in each skin. Both skins also allow you to automatically control the volume of active media when using the volume rocker.
On either Oxygen OS or One UI, quickly pressing the power button and the volume down button together will take a screenshot. This is similar to most other Android phones.
On Oxygen OS 12, nothing happens if you hold the volume down button and the power button aside from the screenshot it will capture. You can, however, change what holding down the power button alone does (see next section).
By default, within One UI 4.0 on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, holding down the power button and the volume down button brings up the power menu and doesn’t capture a screenshot. This can be changed, though (see next section).
Power button/side key
To clear up any confusion, Samsung doesn’t refer to the power button as such. Instead, Samsung refers to it as the side key. OnePlus sticks with the usual power button name.
In Oxygen OS 12, the power button will turn on the device if it is off and shut off the screen if you give it a tap. While the device is on, a long press of the power button brings up the Android 11 power menu (which is interesting, considering it’s based on Android 12). However, you can change this if you like. Instead, you could make a long-press of the power button a shortcut key to activate Google Assistant. To get to the power menu under this scenario, you need to hold down the power button and the volume up button.
You can customize the power button in three other ways within Oxygen OS, though. The first is that you can make it so hitting the power button terminates a call, and the second is choosing if a power button tap while the display is on locks the phone instantly or just turns off the display. The third customization is turning off the feature where a double-tap quickly opens the camera. These toggles are easily found in Android settings.
In One UI 4.0 on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, a long-press of the side key launches Bixby by default. This is probably why Samsung doesn’t call it a power button. To turn off your device, you instead need to swipe down the notification drawer and hit the software power button you find there. Conversely, as described in the previous section, you can hold down the side key and the volume down button.
Thankfully, Samsung lets you alter how all this works. You can customize what a double-press of the side key button does (launch camera, launch Bixby, or launch an app of your choice) as well as make it so holding down the side key launches the power menu rather than Bixby.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Settings
The Android settings panel is one of the most important parts of the operating system. This is where you go to tweak Android to your liking, keep your privacy and security in check, monitor apps, check your data usage, and more.
Both Oxygen OS and One UI alter how the Android settings panel looks compared to stock Android, but all the basic toggles and options are there — they just will be in different places.
Ultimately, Oxygen OS offers the closest thing to stock Android compared to One UI. OnePlus makes a few subtle tweaks and also changes the order of some headers. However, those used to Pixel devices or stock Android will easily find what you’re looking for.
Meanwhile, One UI changes everything around. Headers are renamed, new categories are presented, and sub-headings are moved from one section to another. It can be very confusing, especially for those who are used to the more uniform Android settings.
Thankfully, Oxygen OS and One UI offer search bars or search bar shortcuts at the top of every page within Android settings. If you get lost, you can always use that as a fallback to find what you’re looking for.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Camera
All Samsung and OnePlus phones have cameras, and each company has its own camera app that is the default. You can always install other camera apps from the Google Play Store, but both companies want you to use their system out-of-the-box.
Throughout its history, OnePlus has faced a lot of criticism related to its cameras. Meanwhile, Samsung’s cameras continue to be some of the best you can get in the Android world. As such, it shouldn’t be too surprising that, over the years, the OnePlus camera app has started to look a lot like Samsung’s.
Regardless of which app you use, you see a horizontally scrolling list of various camera modes. You can quickly swipe through them to find the one you like and then start shooting. You can also find everything in a traditional apps list if you hit the More option to the right.
These two systems are so similar now that there’s not much difference anymore. Of these two phones, the OnePlus 9 Pro features a unique XPAN mode, so there are some options for that which the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra won’t have. Other than that, though, it’s all very similar.
Even in an article this thorough, some things don’t fit into the categories above. We’re going to touch on a few miscellaneous things here.
We mentioned earlier in the Home Screen section that if you swipe from left to right on the main home screen in either Oxygen OS or One UI, you end up on different aggregate apps. For Oxygen OS 12, it’s Google Discover, and for One UI 4.0, it’s called Samsung Free.
In One UI, there are a few widgets built into the edges of the display. You can access these widgets by swiping inward from the edge of the phone. By default, when you swipe up from the bottom of the display, you get quick access to Samsung Pay. If you swipe in from the display’s upper right corner, you pull up the Edge Panel, which is basically a mini launcher. Here, you can add app shortcuts, tools (such as a compass), quick contacts, a weather widget, etc. You can also turn both systems off if you like.
Samsung also offers a desktop mode called Dex. You can connect your phone wired or wirelessly to a monitor (or lapdock) and then use it as if it were a desktop. This is something OnePlus (and most other Android OEMs, including Google) doesn’t offer.
To its credit, Oxygen OS offers a nifty app called Zen Mode. With this app, you can force yourself to stop using your phone for a set amount of time. Once you activate Zen Mode, you’ll have at least 20 minutes where you can’t do anything with your phone except take photos and accept phone calls. Even restarting the phone won’t exit Zen Mode. This is a cool feature that can help people who feel they use their phones too much.
OnePlus also has a gaming mode app appropriately called Games. It offers a suite of tools to make gaming on your OnePlus phone a terrific experience. Likewise, it also offers the Clone Phone app, which helps you transfer data from your old phone to your OnePlus device.
You can find plenty of other small unique features in Oxygen OS and One UI, but by now, you get the basic gist of the differences.
Oxygen OS vs One UI: Final thoughts
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
After going through all this information, you’ve likely concluded that Samsung’s One UI and OnePlus’ Oxygen OS offer a lot of the same features. While there are plenty of differences between the two, most of the integral features people need are within each skin. It ultimately comes down to personal preference which one you like better.
Which skin is your favorite?