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Samsung could further trim bloatware fat from Galaxy S6

New reports suggest Samsung could strip off the unwanted software from its upcoming flagship smartphone. As great as this sounds it's too early to call for the death of TouchWiz.

Samsung's TouchWiz UI rumored to get radical redesign. Josh Miller/CNET

Skim the headlines and you might get the sense that Samsung is doing something drastic with its upcoming flagship phone, like stripping the Galaxy S6 of almost all bloatware and, maybe, even its custom interpretation of the Android OS, called TouchWiz.

Reports from last November indicated that Samsung's next-gen smartphone would be code-named "Project Zero," and that Samsung would rebuild the line from scratch. Could that actually mean zero bloatware?

Rumors surfacing in the ensuing weeks suggest that Samsung is working to refine the software experience down to "near-Nexus" levels. According to a recent SamMobile report, Samsung is removing "every add-on feature" that could potentially be offered as a standalone app. The idea is to make those extras available to customers who want them, but not to force them on customers who don't.

From the sounds of these rumors, apps like S Voice and S Translator could be pushed to the Google Play Store or Samsung's own Galaxy Apps storefront without being preloaded on the phone. For Samsung, this could turn into one tactic for differentiating its store by offering apps that are unavailable anywhere else -- as long as customers find them.

As great as all of this sounds to Android purists, chances are there's less happening here than it sounds, and less that's dramatically new. Rather, we are likely looking at a continuation of a theme that Samsung's been unrolling in past phones.

CNET has reached out to Samsung for comment.

Wheels already in motion

Samsung, for its part, has been slowly dialing down the TouchWiz interface over the last few smartphones. The most recent versions are far less in-your-face than those of one or two models ago. The Galaxy Note 4 received decent marks for its "scaled back" interface in CNET's rated review, moving a lot of Samsung extras into portals like the built-in Galaxy Gifts and Galaxy Apps.

Samsung's Milk Music service is important to the company and works across multiple devices, including TVs. CNET

It might have taken Samsung longer than we would have liked to get to this pared-down place, but it feels like the company is becoming less ambitious when it comes to piling on the software.

Re-branding the Samsung Apps store to Galaxy Apps and Music Hub to a broader Milk Music service are both signs of a wiser, albeit more humble, Samsung. Getting bloatware under control, or " featuritis," as CNET reporter Shara Tibken once called it, is no easy task, but I get the sense that Samsung is no longer trying to reinvent the smartphone every time it launches a product.

Streamlining features, rather than stripping them

Samsung is hardly alone here; other players such as HTC and Motorola have been doing the same. For one, it's easier to update standalone apps on an individual basis than in one fell swoop with an entire OS update. Also, since the frequency of Android OS updates has slowed over time, this gives hardware companies a chance to freshen up parts of the user experience along the way.

Make no mistake about it, TouchWiz is not going to completely disappear. It's important to companies to forge their own identities as a way to distinguish their phones from others. Companies also pour a lot of resources into creating experiences and features that are more interesting and useful than their rivals'. To completely remove devices of custom apps, services and tweaks would be silly and potentially harmful to that all-important bottom line.

Different vendors use software visuals to help distinguish their phones. James Martin/CNET

As if pressure from other major players weren't enough, companies like Huawei, Acatel, and ZTE are becoming increasingly more competitive. Each, to varying degrees, offers its users custom touches and tweaks in the user experience. To that end, don't look for the Smart Stay screen feature or Multi Window split-screen extra to go away.

New year, new opportunity

Android 5.0 Lollipop gives hardware makers a chance to start anew. Samsung has the opportunity to wipe the slate clean with the Galaxy S6 and deliver something radically different from its predecessors. Samsung needs this, and the company know this. What's more, it knows we know.

As much as hardware evolves from one year to the next, I say that the average user doesn't care all that much about specs. It matters little who makes the processor or that the resolution has imperceptibly doubled on a 5-inch screen. What matters in the end is how the phone looks and what it does. This is where Samsung must focus its efforts.