I challenge anyone to receive a notification on Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and not be charmed by the elegant blue pulse of light that traces the contours of the phone’s gorgeous screen. This sort of subtlety, this sort of organic, emotive, instant appeal is not something I ever expected Samsung would be capable of. But the company once judged to have cynically copied Apple’s iPhone design has exceeded all expectations this year: the 2017 version of Samsung’s TouchWiz brings its software design right up to the high standard of its hardware.

1Good design is hard, and few companies know that better than Samsung

This manufacturing juggernaut spent most of its early days in the mobile industry just trying to keep up with innovation leaders like Nokia, BlackBerry, and, later, Apple. But in 2014 Samsung turned a major corner when it introduced the Galaxy Alpha, a lovely slab of electronics that was the harbinger of a grand renaissance in Samsung hardware design. In its wake, cheap plastic was pushed aside for solid metal frames, polished glass surfaces, and a tasteful aesthetic that could stand right alongside the iPhone without feeling any shame about copying it.

It just never seemed plausible that Samsung would be able to replicate the same upswing on the software side of things. No hardware manufacturer of its ilk has previously been able to pull off the trick. Software companies are much more likely to figure out how to build nice things — such as Snap’s Spectacles, Google’s Pixel, or Microsoft’s Xbox family — than hardware companies are to suddenly discover the secrets of crafting a good user interface. And yet here I am, fresh off a solid week of constantly using the Galaxy S8 Plus, ready to commend Samsung’s TouchWiz variation of Android for actually being better than Google’s own Android in some respects.