Dear Samsung, Love Google: the two companies meet to compromise on Android’s future

Daniel Bader

January 29, 2014 3:41 pm

Google knows that Samsung is at once an important partner and a potent rival. While on the outside claiming to have an amicable relationship, Samsung has been moving to minimize Google’s dominance in the Android ecosystem. It has been doing that by launching its own app store and media hubs, as well as separating itself from Google’s Play Store entirely with the launch of its Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

According to sources close to Re/code, top executives at the two companies met during CES in early January to discuss Samsung’s interpretation of Android’s future. The company is famous for brazenly disregarding Google’s stock Android UI, and most recently introduced a magazine-like interface that resembled Flipboard more than it did any previous iteration of Android. During these meetings, the companies apparently discussed a way for Samsung to temper their changes in future TouchWIZ versions.

A few weeks ago, screenshots of an updated version of TouchWIZ for smartphones leaked, showing a clear resemblance to what was announced on the Galaxy TabPRO and NotePRO devices. We have learned through our own sources that Samsung has been trying to rely less on Google’s own Play Services over the past few years, which may have lead to them losing preference in then Nexus program; LG has developed the last two Nexus smartphones, and the last product Samsung worked with Google on was the Nexus 10 in late 2012.

In addition to moving away from Google’s services, Samsung has also partnered with a number of startups like Evernote, Dropbox and TripAdvisor to bundle their apps on the company’s various smartphones and tablets. Because the Korean giant practically controls the Android market, and boasts the highest shipment numbers of any OEM, including Apple, Google likely doesn’t want to overstep its bounds — Android is open source, after all — but working with rather than butting heads with Samsung is in both companies’ best interests.

There has been “a sea change in the last few weeks” between the two companies, according to Re/code‘s source, culminating in a 10-year cross-licensing patent agreement reached a few days ago. It’s unclear whether Samsung will cut many of the gimmicky features from TouchWIZ in future versions in order to appease Google, but it does appear that its relationship with Google is the best it’s been in a long time.

SourceRe/code

 

  • nub

    Google to Samsung: “Take my hand; together we will rule the world!”

  • nub

    Google to Samsung: “Take my hand; together we can rule the world!”

  • grantdude

    If your custom UI is better than stock Android, fine. But TouchWIZ is a step down (or 2, or 5, or 10) from stock Android. I don’t understand why Samsung bothers putting in the time and effort to make a good UI worse.

    • Patrick Cuyegkeng

      Have you seen Tizen? It looks almost identical to TouchWiz on Android, only it’s not on Android. That’s why Samsung invests so much time and money on TouchWiz. They want to build a consistent look, feel, and ecosystem for Samsung devices. They want you to be able to move from a Tizen phone to a Galaxy and not skip a beat. But to do that, they need to push away from UI elements and UX that are inherently very Android-y.

      I don’t personally like TouchWiz, but I understand why it is there. It’s a double edged sword; It breeds brand loyalty to some, and brand disdain in others. They still sell like gangbusters, so clearly the strategy is largely working…

    • Nadefrenzy

      No, it isn’t.

      Android’s default call log app is a mess compared to TW’s counterpart.
      Also, the camera app is crap compared to Samsung’s offering.
      A lot of people also prefer TW’s toggles and custom auto-brightness settings.

      Also, quite a few useful features like smart-stay, S-Voice (best alternative to Siri atm–and no Google now isn’t an “alternative” as it’s command oriented not a virtual assistant), but most importantly, Multi-window and pen window (best invention on android since the notification menu).

  • Christopher Robert

    Is this the reason why Google is selling Motorola?

    • Plazmic Flame

      Your gonna go places, kid

  • cartfan88

    Well… Google with the help of Asus released the best Android tablet yet in the 2013 Nexus 7. I wonder what the story was behind no Nexus 10 for 2013/4 just useless rumours considering Samsung made the first one. Sort of left the larger tablet market wide open to Apple and the Air. I wonder if there was more acrimony behind the scenes with these two than we know about?

  • 5Fifty5

    In my opinion, stock Android is simply too boring. I prefer my Touchwiz on the Notes II and 3. Prior to that, I hated Touchwiz. My notes do not lag like so many Nexus fan boys claim, although they don’t own one. I don’t find the features gimmicky. In fact, I use a lot, if not all of them. I would much rather have a lot of options and features than a boring old plain “vanilla.” I could never go back to a Nexus again. Yawn. Nexus fan boys have become just as bad as, if not worse than, Apple fan boys.

    Every post on every article on every smart phone site is filled with the same old comments from the Nexus club. “I’d rather buy a Nexus.” “Nexus is better.” “stock Android as Google intended it to be” which we all know is a fallacy at best. Google created this open source operating system so it may be customized to your liking.

    I much prefer using a Touchwiz or Sense device. Or even whatever LG and Sony call theirs.

    • Patrick Cuyegkeng

      I’ve owned Nexus devices, and I’ve owned TouchWiz devices. Currently a Nexus 5 user, but I do see your point/agree with you in principle. Stock Android is simple, it’s clean, it’s pretty bare bones. That’s great for some people, but not for others.

      TouchWiz takes the opposite approach. It’s very feature-rich, it’s a little cluttered in spots, but man… so many options. That’s great for some people, but not for others.

      Everyone has personal preferences and different use cases. People who go off like this is a holy war of Stock vs. TouchWiz, Apple vs. Android, PS4 vs. XB1, Windows Vs. Mac, etc, are all just trying to justify their own personal biases.

      There is no one perfect device for all. There is only a perfect device for you.

    • 5Fifty5

      I agree with you. This is my first time posting about it out of fear of a flame war. I see so much anger on the by those who swear by stick Android practically preaching to everyone as if anything but stock is not worthy and of lower status.

      These people clearly do not have the ability to think outside what little box they enclosed themselves in. I see it everywhere. I love using my Note devices and their multitude of features. Some love using devices which don’t do much out of the box. My take is, whatever floats your boat. I don’t go around looking down on those who do not agree with my choice.

    • southerndinner

      Rational thinking? You must not be from here

    • Plazmic Flame

      TouchWiz makes my eyes bleed though. I look forward to this massive partnership. There are some features that are good like the S-pen functions, it would be good to see this functionality in stock Android. I’m also looking forward to a possible “Galaxy Note 4 – Google Play Edition” with S-Pen functionality.

    • Jim

      I have to agree with you. My first first Galaxy had issues, but know with my Note 3, Touchwiz is champion. When I first purchased my Note 3, I thought I’d root and rom right away. Definitely enjoy Touchwiz features

    • BD1971

      Yes your Notes do lag. My wife owns a laggy Note 2 and my son a laggy Galaxy S4.Try a Nexus 4 or 5 or even a G2 then go back to your Note and you’ll see what lag is.

    • jason

      Can’t agree with you more. I was so angry after buying the “latest and greatest” samsung phone. My heart sunk the first five minutes when I realized how ultra laggy it was. Its supposed to be the best right? Nope. And the real kicker, I installed Cyanogenmod and the thing is AS FAST as a nexus 4. Business models like this will kill a brand. RIP Samsung.

    • BD1971

      I use to love Samsung phones. I thought they were the best. I figured if I had this much lag or had to keep pulling my battery when they froze then other phones must be worce. Then I took a chance on the Nexus 4 and found no lag and its never froze on me. I just think they could be so much better if they toned down all the silly stuff they add to it because they do have some cool stuff to. When a phone is to bogged down it does end up hurting your overall experience in the long run

  • downhilldude

    Kind of worries me a bit… I know Samsung puts a lot of stuff into the phone that none of us use, but we all choose different bits to like, and different bits to label “bloatware”.

    I remember reading about 8 reviews of the GS4, when it came out, and every reviewer said the same thing, “I love this one new feature, but the rest of the new features are gimicky crap.” Funny enough, the one feature that each reviewer couldn’t live without was different for each of them, and the gimicky features included the favourites of the other reviewers. There’s a reason why Samsung includes the kitchen sink in their firmware…someone wants it. Maybe not you, but someone…

    • BD1971

      That’s true but the phones are new when they are reviewed. 6-8 months down the road they become laggy and your having to pull your battery because there freezing on you. I know because between me and my wife we’ve owned 4 Samsung phones.

  • Dirty_Harry2

    Good. I hate Touchwiz and Samsung. My SGS3 was my first Android. For months I have been saying “I hate Android”. But then I used some nexus and moto phones and realised Android is great. Samsung just ruined it for me.

    Touchwiz is laggy and ugly on all device. Walk into any store and flip through some pages on a Samsung phone or tablet. Lag lag lag while the Nexus, Moto, and Sony are smooth as butter. And touchwizes added features just kill battery.

    The best thing I ever did on my GS3 was disable all of Samsung’s apps and replace them with Google equivalents (calendar, hangout, etc).

    • jason

      Install Cyanogenmod. You won’t regret it.

  • jason

    Touchwiz is such junk. I bought my first Samsung phone and was like “wtf is this”. A nexus and a custom ROM later I can’t believe that anyone would actually pay real money to use their junk. I am completely reminded of how Vista was forced down customers throats on equipment that could never actually function with it installed. The same is with Touchwiz. Your mileage may vary.