One of the great things about Google Android is that it is customisable. Unlike Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, Android is open to developers, so that each manufacturer can put their own spin on the software. The trouble is, they do. And for everyone who loves HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz, there is another who wants only a clean, Google-like Android smartphone. If you find that your Samsung phone is a little too pushy with its notifications, it may be that it is TouchWiz to blame.
TouchWiz is Samsung's own skin for Android. To some people it adds a welcome splash of colour and many useful new features. But if you want to make your Samsung phone more Google than Samsung, we can show you how. (And if you like the sound of Android phones, you should. Get one: Best Android phones 2015 UK.)
The methods outlined below range from easy to difficult, so you should try them in the order we have written them. But you get nothing for nothing, and to truly dispense with TouchWiz you may be forced to go for method three: rooting your phone and adding a custom ROM.
My own preference is to use the Google Now launcher as outlined in method two. Do let me know in the comments below if you have a better way of doing this! (See also, how to remove Google Now Searchbar on Android.)
How to disable TouchWiz on Samsung smartphone: Reset your phone, and disable individual featuresThis will not remove TouchWiz, but depending on what it is about Samsung's software that irks you, it may remove the problem. If you really want rid of TouchWiz, move on to the next section.
First you need to factory reset your Samsung phone. Go to the Apps page, and then head to 'Backup and reset', under 'User and backup'. Scroll down to 'Personal Data', and choose 'Factory data reset'. All data will be erased from device memory, so make sure you have backed up all the files and documents you need. You will be able to reinstall contacts, emails and apps by re-synching with your Google account.
Once you have hit 'Erase everything', your Samsung phone will reboot and reset. To avoid the worst of Samsung's TouchWiz excesses, you need to discipline yourself not to accept Samsung updates (pictured below), and not to sign up for a Samsung account. You may find that the behaviour of TouchWiz that previously bothered you is now absent.
One of the things that we know bothers TouchWiz users is the constant updates from Samsung's S Planner calender app. We'll tell you how to get rid of this: the same process will work for any of Samsung's apps.
First, trash the icon from your phone's homescreen, and disable the widget from that list. Here's the main thing: go into Settings, Applications, Application Manager, find the S Planner app. Force stop it, disable it, clear the data and the cache.
You will now be free of TouchWiz calender alerts, and that may be enough to make TouchWiz bearable for you. If not, read on. (See also: Best smartphones of 2015: 49 best phones you can buy in the UK.)
How to disable TouchWiz on Samsung smartphone: Install the Google Now LauncherThis is the most you can do without Rooting your phone, and in our experience it hits the spot. But if you really want to get rid of TouchWiz, scroll down to the next section.
A custom Launcher allows you to customise your homescreen - and in this case, to get rid of the worst excesses of Samsung's TouchWiz overlay. Put simply, a Launcher is an app that lets you change how your Android homescreen looks and works.
Simply go to the Play Store and install the launcher you most like the look of. Some of the best custom launchers for Android include Action Launcher, Apex Launcher, Aviate, and Nova Launcher. There are paid-for and free launchers.
The free Google Now Launcher is available on all devices with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or later. Google Now Launcher is limited: in truth it is a means of making Google Now central to your usage of your device. But if you like to Ok Google and you dislike the added faff that is TouchWiz, this could be the launcher for you. And as it is free and guaranteed not to mess with your Android, why not give it a whirl?
Or find a Launcher that better suits your needs. Simply browse our list of the best custom Launchers for Android - there is bound to be one to suit your needs.
How to disable TouchWiz on Samsung smartphone: Root phone, and flash the Google Play Edition ROMOkay, this is it. The surefire way of losing TouchWiz. This requires rooting your phone, and installing a new ROM (in common parlance, getting rid of Samsung's version of Android, and installing another one written by a third-party). All the usual disclaimers apply: once you have done this, you won't be able to go back, although you will be able to install one of the many ROMs available for Android devices. It may also affect your smartphone's warranty.
But done correctly, this could turn your bloated TouchWiz Samsung into a Google Nexus device. And for free.
First, you need to root your Samsung phone. There is a more detailed guide, here: How to root Android smartphones and tablets, but you should be able to follow the steps below. You will need a Windows PC connected to the web, and a USB cable.
Rooting your phone might seem like a scary thing to do but it’s actually quite simple and straight forward. There are a number of downloadable tools which will perform the root to choose from. Not all tools will support all Android devices so check if your device is supported. Some popular ones include SuperOneClick, Unlock Root, Z4Root and Universal AndRoot.
Rooting does vary from device to device so check out XDA for help and advice and Android Central's large list of devices. It's best to do a bit of research on your model before proceeding – check whether it's easy to reverse the process or not. If you're happy with the risks and the process, then here's how to root your Android smartphone or tablet.
First back up your device. Just in case something does go wrong it’s best to back up to avoid losing important data such as contacts and media files.
Now find, download and install your chosen rooting software. We used SuperOneClick.
Install the driver/software for the handset on your PC. Depending on the make and model this can sometimes be done by plugging the phone in via a USB cable or a download from the internet.
Enable USB debugging on your device. This can be done in the Development section of the Applications settings menu.
Connect the Samsung phone to your PC with a USB cable.
Run your chosen rooting software and in most cases press the Root button. The software might ask you to select the device that you wish to root. Do so and click Continue.
The software will perform the rooting process which might involve several reboots of your device. If the rooting was successful you should receive a notification on your PC. You now have root access to your handset’s system.
Now you have a rooted phone, we want to install our Google-esque ROM. This is a two-step process.
Now you need to download the TWRP file to your PC.
Put your Samsung phone into Download Mode, by holding in the Power, Home, and Volume Down buttons at the same time. Then push the Volume Up button once you get a warning screen. Plug your phone back into the PC's USB port.
Go back to the software you used to root the phone, and browse for the custom TWRP file (openrecovery-twrp-126.96.36.199-jfltexx.tar). Click and the software will install TWRP on your Samsung phone.
Now, on the PC, find your phone under My Computer, and double click it. In the phone, via your PC, create a folder called 'ROMS'.
Now download the Google Play Edition .zip file.
Drag-and-drop the downloaded 4.3 Google Play Edition .zip into the ROMS folder you just created on your phone, and then disconnect the device from your PC. Switch off your phone.
Now boot it into Recovery Mode by holding in the Power, Volume Up, and Home buttons until 'Recovery Booting' appears in the top left corner. Release the power button but keep holding the Volume Up and the Home button until 'TeamWin' appears on the screen.
Click on Wipe, Advanced Wipe. Select 'Dalvik Cache', 'System', and 'Cache'. Move the slider to complete the wipe.
Now take one step back, and click on Install. Scroll down to the ROMS folder you made on your phone. Click on the Google Play Edition .zip file, then slide to install the ROM. Once the install process is completed, you will have a Google Play Edition Samsung phone. (See all