Report: Google Wants More Control of Samsung’s Handsets

Posted on July 29, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google, Mobile with 36 Comments

A blockbuster report in Bloomberg claims that Google is negotiating with Samsung to obtain more control over the Samsung handset experience.

Google apparently would like for its own app store, Google Play Store, and its own digital assistant, Google Assistant, to take precedent over Samsung’s own entries, Bixby and Galaxy Store. The move would put Google’s offerings front and center on the 300 million handsets that Samsung sells each year—it is the world’s biggest seller of smartphones—and would be a major capitulation for Samsung, which has been pushing its Google alternatives for years.

The question, of course, is why.

And while Bloomberg doesn’t offer any theories about that, I have two ideas.

The first concerns Apple. Today, the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are going to face a US Congressional antitrust hearing and try and explain away their regular abuses of market power. One of the problems facing Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is that Google is actively trying to preserve its dominance of Internet search by paying Apple an incredible $7 billion or more per year to be the default search engines on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. That traffic is worth about $25 billion per year.

Obviously, paying the owner of a rival platform looks bad. But if Google could convince its biggest partner and the market leader, Samsung, to ensure the top spot on its own platform, Google wouldn’t need Apple. Nor would it need to explain away that massive payment.

The second theory is related to the first: What if Google would like to use Samsung to promote Android and its own services? That is, what if Google is prepping to kill off the Pixel hardware family and line up with Samsung instead?

This makes a lot of sense to me: Pixel is a failure and it has never generated profits or market share of any kind. If Google can convince the world’s best-selling smartphone maker to adopt its products and services instead of its own, it wouldn’t need Pixel anymore.

Neither Google nor Samsung has any comment about the story.

“Like all Android device makers, Samsung is free to create its own app store and digital assistant,” a Google statement explains. “That’s one of the great features of the Android platform. And while we regularly talk with partners about ways to improve the user experience, we have no plans to change that.”

“Samsung remains committed to our own ecosystem and services,” a Samsung statement reads. “At the same time, Samsung closely works with Google and other partners to offer the best mobile experiences for our users.”

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