29
Jan
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AllThingsD spinoff Re/code is reporting this morning that Google and Samsung have reached a series of "broad agreements" regarding the latter's modifications to the Android OS, and it may be music to the ears of Android enthusiasts everywhere.

According to an unnamed source (of course!), Google wasn't exactly happy with the direction the Korean OEM had been moving with the OS, particularly in the way it had been promoting its own content services on devices. The source claims that, as a part of the agreement, Samsung will scale back promotion of its content hubs in favor of promoting Google's own Play offerings. Additionally, the source claims Samsung will consider "dumping or altering" the new Magazine UX interface in future products.

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Magazine UX is easily Samsung's furthest departure from standard Android UI paradigms to date, and perhaps this has Google a bit worried. While Samsung is far from, say, Amazon in the extent to which it modifies the OS, there is a real possibility the world's largest shipper of smartphones by volume could "fork" Android without actually breaking any of Google's compatibility rules.

The greater the differences between using a Samsung smartphone and a Motorola smartphone become, it's plausible that users of the Samsung device will become less likely to jump ship to another OEM's handset. At the least, a consumer is likely to have a harder time making the switch - something that goes against principles of the Open Handset Alliance. In that open ecosystem, Samsung has rapidly ascended as the dominant subspecies of the greater Android population, so much that it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the company is defining the consumer Android experience more than Google is at this point. This presents a problem: Samsung's Android could become the Android if competing handset makers continue to be marginalized in the marketplace.

As such, the potential for Samsung to abuse this position of power only increases with its market share. Using software updates to disable certain 3rd party accessories, for example. Essentially, the more Samsung can do to lock consumers into its own vision of Android, the less attractive it becomes to other OEMs, and that presents a real problem for Google, as those manufacturers might start looking into competing ecosystems like Windows Phone. When OEMs start looking into other ecosystems, Play Store content channels could see revenue drop, and the overall attractiveness of the Play Store platform to consumers would be significantly reduced if it were limited to a single, or a very small few, OEM[s]. At that point, Samsung could potentially make the leap to a full-on forking and ditch Google altogether, though I still see that as a highly unlikely eventuality.

While details on the deals made are scant, Re/code's source indicated that there has been "a huge change, a sea change" in relations between Samsung and Google since the talks occurred earlier this month at CES. I guess we'll have to wait and see what comes of all this - maybe in the Galaxy S5 (or whatever it's called).

Re/code

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Punit Thakkar

    I guess the UI will have to be re/coded.

    • Helen Nichols

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      • Punit Thakkar

        Give your neighbor's mother my warmest regards, Helen.

      • Spasillium

        WAT. Oh wait... you're a spambot.

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  • Keagan van den Heuvel

    I must say that I am not happy with this. Google wants to promote their own Play Services which half of them aren't even available here in South Africa. Yet Samsung services are. So why do you want to take it away? Unless you bring all the Play Services to South Africa.

    • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

      Nobody said they were taking them away. It's a matter of promotion. Google wants their services promoted on android devices. Personally I like this, but I also don't like removing a companies ability to promote their own products. I'm torn

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      They're not taking anything away, the apps will still be available on the Play Store, they just won't be pre-installed.

  • http://www.geordienorman.com/ George Byers

    Wonder how much Google paid then for that to happen, or is it another "no money exchanged hands" ;-)

    • AGWednesday

      More like Google sold Motorola Mobility, establishing that they wouldn't directly compete with Samsung in the mobile space. Now that Samsung has far less to worry about, they don't have to push away from Google Android so hard.

  • dreadfall

    I dont understand why S-Planner,S-voice,S-Translate and all S--Shit exist... most google services are far better than the samsung ones. samsung should cut down on all these bloatwares

    • Arthur Dent

      What are you talking about? Samsung's S-apps are a S-hit!

      • Ford Prefect

        One of the things I have had always found
        hardest to understand about humans was your habit of continually
        stating and repeating the very very obvious.

        • David Sousa

          So, what are your quirks that aliens do that we humans don't understand?

          • frafri

            Think in reverse? ??

        • Crispin Swickard

          And they just refuse to keep a towel with them.. Its just horrible.

    • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

      that's debatable. S-planner and a lot of the functions that The S-pen uses don't have an AOSP counterpart which makes Samsung the better choice. The reason all those other apps exist is simply to make an ecosystem that would be consistent across all Samsung's products. Remember Android isn't their only OS (even though it seems like that sometimes)

      • Paul M

        I had a Note2 and I didn't use many of the samsung proprietary apps which only synchronised with Samsung's own services, as I didn't want to get locked in.
        With the Note3 region-lock fiasco I upgraded to a Sony phone. Had I put all my data into Samsung's services it'd all be locked away. Maybe it's possible to export data from Samsung's devices in a useful way?

    • North

      I actually preferred the samsung calendar to googles version because it actually showed the appointment name on calendar view and not just a coloured bar.

    • Aki I.

      I personally like the s planner more than the google/aosp calendars.

    • Ramsey

      I also like the s-planner a lot.

    • hot_spare

      Then google should remove it's own bloat as well -- Chrome (the worst app ever produced).
      What's the point of Google Now outside 1st world countries like US/UK? it just sucks battery, that's all it does in my phone.

  • fzammetti

    Ok, so, I may totally be in the minority here, but I actually DO NOT like the way Google is trying to homogenize Android.

    Put aside whatever you may think about what Samsung has done, whether you like TouchWiz or their hubs or the magazine crap or whatever else... just put that opinion aside... trying to get OEMs to be more "stock", in a sense, really means Android is moving closer to the Apple model and I'm not onboard with that.

    People like to bitch and moan about "fragmentation this" or "it's not stock that"... and hey, I DEFINITELY want there to be stock Android options available... but one of the greatest strengths of Android, in my mind, is the very variety that's slowly being trimmed away. I LOVE that I can go into a store, look at 5 different Android phones and they may all be quite vastly different. Yes, that raises the possibility of some software not working on one device versus another, and one device having capabilities others do not, and the UI being different on one versus another... but you know, if I didn't love that I'd just get an iPhone and be done with it.

    So no, put me down as at least one who isn't thrilled with this Android convergence that's slowly but surely been happening. As an app developer, I hate fragmentation... as a consumer, I wouldn't want it any other way.

    • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

      I guess that Google is finally realizing that Android can soon reach the "point-of-no-return" with all these various OS versions still out there (even some new devices like HP's Slate 7 with Tegra 4 comes with 4.2.2 - AP has an article about it) and at this point it's almost impossible to balance out the devices that get dropped by OEMs (and Carriers) and the new Android versions by any other mean other than slowly leading the system to having one single form on ALL devices - which is AOSP (e.g. no skin a-la Sense or TouchWiz and so on).

      The saddest thing is that Google has to do such a thing because it can't force the OEMs to release updates for their devices in time (because of the profit margins and the $$$ from income gotten from sales of new devices) and neither the OEMs wasnt to just make everybody happy by letting the users have something like dual-boot or just release AOSP builds for their devices OFFICIALLY so that the users wouldn't have to void warrnties and mess with custom ROMs, just because a "Device X" does not get "Android Version Y" in time after it's released for Nexus devices and the GPE program participants

      And since the stock Android framework does not allow OEMs to implement UI-specific elements like HTC's BlinkFeed or Samsung's S-*featurename* it leaves no options for OEMs as well...

      So the situation is pretty bad overall...

    • PhineasJW

      I think you're mistaking OEM customizability with end-user customizability.

      Imagine if Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, and HP all had completely different skins and interfaces on top of Windows. All that choice isn't so wonderful any more.

      Not to mention the way it slows down updates.

      There are better ways to get consumer choice -- Samsung could put their launcher and other items on the Play Store, for example.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Desktop OS updates aren't that frequent as Android updates are, besides not everybody rushes down to newest systems, I, for example, am still staying with Win7 and not going upgrade because the 7 works fine

        • Kansja

          Desktop OS updates come monthly

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            I mean big upgrades like WinXP -> Win7 -> Win8, not the small patches that Microsoft releases once in a while

      • fzammetti

        I don't so much agree with the Dell, HP analogy because I'm not sure I'd consider that a bad situation either, but I *DO* agree that it would be better for Samsung to put the apps in the store and make it a non-issue either way. The more customization can be pushed to the end-user level, the better, no question about that. In the absence of that though I'd rather they all do their own thing and let the chips fall where they may... give us as many "unique" products as they want and let the market sort it out. Then again, I realize I'm in the minority here (and so are you I'd bet) in that most consumers really don't want so many choices and I think that's what's driving Google now (and what's made Apple so successful, at least in part).

    • namesib

      Exactly. I don't want everything to simply be a Nexus clone. If I like Magazine UX I'll buy from Samsung. If I don't, I'll buy from another manufacturer. I want the CHOICE, and this limits it. Same with hardware options.

      • didibus

        I agree, though maybe it was done in a wrong way. I think Google needs to make Android Stock even more customizable, to the point where OEMs can sell a pre-customized device. One that you can easily transform back to anything you want. Imagine being able to have a Samsung phone and run HTC's UX on it by simply removing an app and installing the HTC apps instead.

        To me, that's the ideal scenario. Manufacturers still differentiate themselves and promote their vision and content by bundling the phone pre configured. But users ultimately always have the power and choice over their phone.

    • digigenocide

      I agree with you 150% and I'm kind of an android purest. Fragmentation has been one of androids biggest strengths. Seriously, most people cannot tell the differences between a phone running 4.1 and 4.4. Most just care if their favorite apps work.

  • Dude!

    That Murtazin rumour and this one (http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20140127PD202.html) sound a smidge more plausable with this rumour/the recent patent deal. I get it why google and samsung are getting cozy, but I'm curious about where does Motorola fit in a renewed software/hardware google/samsung partnership.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Aw come on, as soon as there's possibility for Samsung to evolve from TouchWiz into something new they just HAD to shoot themselves in the foot... What about Tab/NotePRO line, then? You mean to tell me that 12" tablets will still have a strecthed PhoneUI!?

  • TechWings

    I, for one, think it's a good idea to have Samsung pump the breaks. There's something to be said for uniformity in something like the settings menu. I shouldn't have to struggle to help my mom with her phone because Samsung has changed things so much that I have to pull up YouTube videos to see where the have situated things.

    • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

      What's worse is trying to find stuff in the settings on a HTC device. At least Samsung is logical and the settings make sense but on HTC all I can think is what were they smoking.

      • TechWings

        The settings should be consistent across the board. I'm all for individuation, as far as icons, wallpapers, and even the lock screen, but the notification bar and especially the settings should have minimal skinning.

        • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

          I agree.

  • roberto

    What I will never understand is why Google let OEMs change settings menu. This should be the same in every device with a subcategory 'device specific' settings like in custom roms.

    • bungadudu

      For cohesion.

    • Ramsey

      Google should theme the Settings to make it look better. It isn't that nice. I prefer Samsung's separation with tabs but I like Sony's and LG's theme for the settings.

    • Cory Wilson

      I don't understand why kitkat didn't bring about a "holo white" settings menu. Instead they've just emphasized white a little bit more. And I mean a little bit more. Basically the way Google nows settings menu looks is how the system settings should look imo

    • hot_spare

      What s the point of so-called open source platform if you can't even change a damn menu? What sort of hypocrisy will be that?
      In any case, calling Android open is more of fashion that anything else at this time.

  • Deeco

    Although I have Samsung Touchwiz UI and bloatware, you've got to admit the create great innovative apps and features. They should use this and base it on core Android.

  • TheLastAngel

    Tow the line Samsung, or you'll end up like Hank!

  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Samsung already put Back button on the right to Home button, how much more can they maim Android UX?

  • Bob Hart

    Well in Samsung's home country a new law commencing in April stating that " all bloatware on mobile devices except for four necessary items related to Wi-Fi connectivity,
    near-field communication (NFC), the customer service center and the app
    store.must be deletable"will go into effect.
    http://www.zdnet.com/south-korea-rules-pre-installed-phone-bloatware-must-be-deletable-7000025533/

  • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

    thank god as that UI sucked.

  • Cory Wilson

    Please please please drop the god damn menu button already!

  • Toboe

    Yay for less Fragmentation,
    No! for a monolithic Android.

    Lets hope Cyanogen manages to challenge Google. (A company that isn't challenged is a BIG problem for the customers)

  • digigenocide

    Seriously magazine ui is the best tablet interface I've seen for android