Google and Samsung have a rather unique relationship that borders on being described as “frenemies”. Samsung has on more than one occasion expressed its desire to eventually be free of Google’s influence while it continues to be one of if not the biggest Android device maker in the world for years. Things have been less turbulent recently, with Samsung playing the role of a better Android partner. Now it seems that the two are ready to take their relationship to the next level that could see Samsung yield more ground to Google Search as well as Google Assistant.
Samsung has made it no secret that it wants to build and control its own ecosystem of devices and services, just like Apple, even while practically living under Google’s roof when it comes to mobile. It has its own suite of apps and even its own app store to rival Google’s but it still has to follow Google’s rules to certify its phones. In practice, that means it has to pre-install Google Play Store and apps, Google Chrome, and Google Search on its Android devices.
That is pretty much just to comply with Google’s requirements for certified Android devices but now it may be in the middle of striking a deal that goes beyond that. Bloomberg reports that the two companies are negotiating a deal that would see Google Search and Google Play Store take a more prominent and primary role on Samsung’s phones. That also means Samsung’s equivalents, particularly Bixby, would be pushed to the sidelines or even pushed out of service.
Samsung isn’t doing it for free, of course. In fact, the entire reason for this rather unexpected deal is to add another source of revenue as its smartphone sales slowly decline, mostly due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It won’t be a small exchange either as Google is reportedly paying Apple billions just to make Google Search the default on Safari on iPhones.
Neither company is confirming the report, naturally, and Google is emphasizing how Android phone makers like Samsung are always free to have their own app stores and digital assistants. In other words, Google is implying that it isn’t twisting Samsung’s arm in any way to gain a monopoly, something the search giant was accused and found guilty of in the European Union. Google, along with Apple, are currently in the middle of an antitrust investigation exactly over their role in the mobile market, making this sort of negotiation a rather fragile one.