The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, the latest release of the Google platform available and the same as what the flagship GalaxyS4 has.
The latest version of TouchWiz tries to stay relatively close to stock Android, but adds many options for customization and a host of new features. The amount of tweaks and options is overwhelming and can take days to fully appreciate.
Here's a user interface video to start you off, which also shows the new air and motion gestures in action.
The lockscreen features the new widgets introduced with Android 4.2, though Samsung fiddled with them a bit. The default lockscreen shows the time along with a personal message overlaid on beautiful photos pulled from TripAdvisor.
The water ripples have been replaced by a lens flare effect but you can switch back to the old one, or disable it altogether.
The lockscreen has multiple panes, each containing one widget. The page to the right of the default one is special and can either be a list of favorite apps (the default TouchWiz setting) or a shortcut for the camera (as in pure Android).
The pages to the left contain different widgets - email, Google Now, Messaging, music player, Yahoo! Finance and News, Smart Remote and you can download apps from the Play Store that add new widgets.
There are no app shortcuts at the bottom of the screen by default - the Favorite Apps widget to the right has taken over that role, but you can enable them and have up to five easily accessible shortcuts.
The greeting on the lockscreen can be changed - you can type something else, set a different font and color. You can also disable the personal message altogether and remove the time and date.
At the top of the notification area there are five (eight in landscape mode) toggles that can quickly enable and disable features. There are more than five toggles, of course, you can swipe horizontally to get to the others. Or you can tap the new button that reveals a grid of all the shortcuts, 20 in total. You can rearrange this grid (the top row toggles are always visible). A two finger swipe directly opens the grid of toggles. Another nice trick is to long press on a toggle to go to the related settings (e.g. Wi-Fi settings).
Below the toggles is the display brightness slider, complete with an Auto toggle. You can disable this slider to get more room for notifications.
The notifications themselves have not changed - they can be expanded to reveal more info and collapsed to save space or dismissed with a sideways swipe. Sometimes they also have helpful buttons on them like "Call back" and "Send SMS" on a missed call notification.
The homescreen looks mostly the same. Samsung has provided many of its own custom widgets like Samsung Hub, S Travel, etc. There's wrap around feature, which lets you scroll homescreens infinitely by always going from the last to the first one.
The Mega 6.3 homescreen auto-rotates, just like on tablets, enabling landscape use of the entire interface. Auto-rotation is more than welcome - the Note phablets don't have it. We like it that the Galaxy Mega doesn't stubbornly insist on being just a phone. The homescreen is a lot more comfortable to use in landscape, especially the dock icons.
You can pinch zoom to get into the overview mode of all homescreen panes. There can be up to 7 and you can easily add, remove and rearrange panes from here. One pane is marked as "home", that's the one you go to when you press the Home button - any of the available homescreen panes can be set as default quite easily.
The app drawer hasn't changed really since the early days of Nature UX. The app shortcuts are presented as a customizable grid, alphabetized grid or list and you can hide shortcuts (good for bloatware you can't uninstall), view only downloaded apps, uninstall apps and add folders.
You can also maximize space in the app drawer by stacking apps into folders.
As before, widgets are in a separate tab in the drawer.
Pinch to zoom in the app drawer works the same as on a homescreen, giving you an overview of all panes as thumbnails. You can choose to have your app drawer ordering to custom, alphabetical grid or alphabetical list. There's a dedicated downloaded pane too, where all your downloaded apps go.
When you drag out shortcuts and widgets to the homescreen you get a list of small thumbnails of all the homescreen panes with the silhouettes of the widgets there so you can check how much space is available on each pane.
The App switcher interface is unchanged - there's a list of thumbnails of all the recent apps, apps can be swiped to dismiss and there are three buttons at the bottom, Task manager, Google Now and Kill all apps.
The Galaxy Mega 6.3 comes with Multi-window, which lets you run two apps side by side on the screen. You can adjust the dividing line giving one app more space. Only compatible apps can be used with Multi-window, for now that means mostly the ones that come preinstalled on the phone.
You can move the small arrow that brings up the drawer with the Multi-window apps to make it easier to reach with your thumb. You can also move the whole drawer to the other side of the screen. That improves ergonomics a bit.
Samsung tweaked the Settings screen to use a tabbed interface. There's four of them - Connection, My device, Accounts and More. You can find the relevant features in their corresponding place - display, for instance, is in the My device tab.
It makes navigating the settings menu much faster and more intuitive.
We like what Samsung has done with the latest iteration of TouchWiz. The company has amassed an intimidating pile of features and options, but that's not a bad thing - the default setup is good enough for regular users, while power users get to have it their way without the need for third party apps.
On a side note, the TouchWiz on the Galaxy Mega 6.3 should be a good indication of what the Android 4.2 update for the Galaxy S III will be like.