Is Android vulnerable because of Samsung’s dominance?


Recent reports have indicated tensions could exist between Google and Samsung, but were downplayed by Google CFO and Senior Vice President Patrick Pichette as well as Samsung Mobile Chief JK Shin. Although their working relationship is probably amicable, I have to believe that there is a little uneasiness at Google. Consumers continue to buy Samsung Galaxy branded phones in droves. So much so that 40% of all Android phones sold are Samsung branded. In fact, Samsung has sold 200 million more phones than the next Android manufacturer.

On one hand, Google should be delighted in what Samsung has accomplished. Android is now a dominating mobile OS, and a big thanks has to go to Samsung for being a big part of that. On the other hand, it’s never a good idea for one entity to have such a large piece of the pie. Companies with too much power can dictate and give less choice to consumers. If Google had their choice, every manufacturer would be equally as successful, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

Now I am not about to tell you that Samsung will become a dictator and start demanding a bigger piece of the revenue from Google, but Samsung is a corporation and ultimately they will make decisions that give them the most profit. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s capitalism at its finest.

So how does Samsung’s dominance leave Google vulnerable? The bottomline is that 40% is a very powerful slice of the pie and represents a considerable amount of power. That power doesn’t mean they become the “Evil Empire”, but depending on what Samsung does in the future, it could have a major impact on Google and specifically Android. What would happen if Samsung were to leave Android? I know this idea has come up before and everyone assumes that since they are so successful with Android, they would never leave. It’s rather simple, corporations like to make more money, and if any Android manufacturer is in a position to leave, it’s Samsung.

Samsung has spent a considerable amount of money over the last few years creating a brand that is as powerful as Apple’s. At the same time, they have developed their own software features. All of these features are Samsung branded such as S Beam, AllShare, AirVIew, Smart Pause, and so on. I lost track, but I think Samsung unveiled at least 15 new features during the Galaxy S 4 event. Although Samsung phones utilize Android, you don’t see that word anywhere in their advertising. The only time you ever see “Android” is in press releases or when they need to tell you what version of Android a particular device is running. In fact, during the Galaxy S 4 Unpacked event, they only mentioned Android once for the entire 50 minutes. This is something that all Android manufacturers do because it’s their way of creating differentiation. By skinning Android, they make it “seem” like it’s their own OS. In Samsung’s case it’s TouchWiz that consumers know. Hardcore Android users know the difference, but do mainstream consumers? It’s unlikely that the average Galaxy S or Note buyer is concerned about Android or any other OS as long as the TouchWiz user experience is similar.

At the same time, TouchWiz is only the look. It’s the software features like S Beam, Smart Pause, etc. that are selling phones. The difference is Samsung does it better than anyone else. With all these proprietary features, they are able to create a brand similar to Apple’s. They even go so far as to make their own version of Google Translate. S Translate (unveiled last week) is actually inferior, but I guarantee you that the average consumer will soon know more about S Translate, and they are unlikely to ever know Google Translate is a better alternative.

So where does Samsung go if they leave Android? Well it certainly won’t be Windows Phone. Samsung won’t leave Android just to be in another situation where someone else is in control. All things point to Tizen for now, but it could be something entirely different. It’s no secret that Samsung will unveil their first Tizen-based phone this fall. The only issue Samsung has in leaving Android is app development, but at this point Samsung has the money to push development. They are already creating relationships with many top level developers from various contests they have held over the years. They even have their own branded app store that’s ready to go if needed.

The good news for Google is if Samsung were to leave, it won’t happen for a while. Additionally, since Google makes money with ads, it’s unlikely a Samsung departure would hurt them dramatically since Samsung would most likely continue to utilize some Google services other than the Play Store. Still, if Samsung were to take 40% of the Android user base with them, it would be a hard pill to swallow for Android as a whole. So what can Google do? They are already doing it actually. The purchase of Motorola last year was the first step in the process. It was never about the patents because Motorola was never all that successful with their patents against Apple. The second step was the poaching of Samsung’s VP of marketing, Brian Wallace because Google wants to build their brand and take back some control. They’re not looking to hurt other Android manufacturers, but at the same time, they don’t want to get hurt by other Android manufacturers. Google is just doing what every smart company does, and that is prepare for the worst. Samsung may never leave Android, but the strong possibility does exist, and it behooves Google to make moves that will lessen the blow if it ever happens. Should Google be wary of Samsung? You’re darn right they should. and I believe they are.

About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.

  • Saif

    I don’t understand why do they need to fork Android features and make them proprietary?

    S Beam, S Translate.. Weird Samsung,

  • M42

    Google better learn not to bit the hand that’s been feeding them.

    • B Azar

      I’m sure they won’t stop at one phone… if they know the OS could take off, they’d spin off a series of their own, similar to the Galaxy … You mention WP8 and BB and their lack of decent apps… what about Apple? 5 versions of the same phone, plus some tablets, all on a proprietary OS, and their quantity of apps is about the same as Android (I don’t know the numbers right now)… It’s possible, very possible, to get devs to build an app for a proprietaryOS… just gotta make it easy to dev for, and the ability to make money off it.

    • Richard Yarrell

      Developers will make much more money to develop apps for Samsung than they do now for Google app store. Don’t be fooled that’s happenning right now as we speak. Samsung knows exactly what they are doing.

      • squiddy20

        And you know this because… you’re a developer? Please. You can’t even get basic facts right about what rooting is or that high (not low) frequencies are the worst at building penetration.

  • RTWright

    You know, this always gets brought up here, but….. Google is by far a much stronger company than Samsung. Google has more power, more money and far more control than anyone wants to admit to. They have so much control over everything we do across the net, both from desktop to wireless use. There is NOTHING you do online that does not go through Google at some point or another. You would even be shocked to find out just how much information Google has on you, your business, personal aspects and much more. They are a monster of a company, but they downplay themselves a lot. Samsung is a monster as well, but they do not hide it, they flaunt it all the time. There is no denying that.

    Google purchased Motorola for one reason, to set up the path of them taking a huge chunk of the OEM business. No, they can’t do that in the first year of ownership. First step as pointed out here is correct, even the second step. When they reach the final step, it will be a direct blow to all OEM’s because they’re putting the pieces of the puzzle that they themselves have designed, together. Having their own OEM company, gives them that much more power. All they have to do is not screw up when they do finally launch their devices and make sure they do EXACTLY how Samsung has done it. If they can pull that off, then if Samsung does decide to leave? Then it will only be Samsung hurting, not Google.

    To leave Android to go to a new OS that even if they are the ones who made it, is a HUGE risk. Why? Well first of all Contracts….. A large percentage of users are being held by contracts that would keep them from upgrading. So they’d have to depend on totally new accounts and with the market already overly saturated, that will be a barrier that would even be hard for Samsung to overcome. Then there is the whole App Eco System. Everyone is already used to one of two, Android and iOS. How can you compete with those two if you don’t have an already larger than life offering to give to new users? That one will be another tough battle. Because everyone is already used to the other two, they have money tied up in apps they’ve purchased and time vested.

    The other thing is, Samsung is not always known for their quality of their software either. Yeah they put it in their devices, but not all of it is top notch, some of it is pretty lame. Yes, the average user would never notice it till A: They got to see it on another device it was done right on or B: they start trying out different software variations of like apps. I own a GSIII and let me say, their software some of it is real good, a lot of it is poorly coded and crap. All OEM’s are like that though, they all try and make you feel like the OS on THEIR device was created by them. When all it is, is just another launcher with a different look and feel. As for their software being proprietary, it’s no different than Google with Photosphere only on the Nexus devices. It’s also no different than what other OEM’s do. They all do it.

    Personally I wish they’d just get away from TouchWiz, Sense, Motoblur and all that crap. Just put the basic ICS, JB or whatever that version of Android comes with and just add their looks to that, not create the crappy launchers they all do. Most of them are bloated, offer little to no control over it’s looks and really do not take advantage of the larger screens they offer ( Especially true in TouchWiz’s case ). Back to the point of Samsung and Google, I think everyone needs to keep a closer eye out on Google, because they’re up to a lot of stuff that even has me thinking they’re looking to pull a Microsoft on the entire wireless / internet world…. They even have their own ISP service coming along so keep Google in mind when you talk power-plays from corporate giants.

    • Richard Yarrell

      Bottomline GOOGLE needs to focus more on the platform instead of placing their hand inside of the cookie jar as they have done with it’s purchase of Motorola. It wasn’t good enough to have your NEXUS LINE of devices now you had to go out and purchase Motorola AGAINST your partners which basically makes no kind of sense what so ever. Okay yeah they say the patents was the reason but we all knew Motorola and their patents was extremely weak in the first place. So what was the real reason for GOOGLE’S purchase of Motorola….Nothing but GREED…..Samsung has every right to protect their business interest and product and will not bow down to Google just because of their services. It’s GOOGLE’S FAULT why HTC has gone down to the garbage can in the first place. Trying to force manufacturers to create more devices without sdcard slots and removable batteries SAMSUNG REFUSES to listen to what GOOGLE wants. They are trying to force that crappy CHROME BROWSER on all android devices SAMSUNG say’s NO we will use the standard web browser. Bottomline SAMSUNG will not allow GOOGLE to dictate how their device are made period and that shows they cater to the needs of their customers something GOOGLE has seriously forgotten. Android was founded on these overall principles sdcards, removable batteries not that silly cloud storage garbage and lack of sdcards and non removable batteries. If that is what’s about to happen to Motorola rest assured whatever sad sales they had before the purchase of Moto prepare for even poorer sales in the future. Fact remains SAMSUNG is android plain and simple without Samsung the entire android platform is a waste.

      • squiddy20

        “So what was the real reason for GOOGLE’S purchase of Motorola….Nothing but GREED.” If you paid attention to ANY of the myriad of articles that were written all over the tech blogosphere, you’d know you’re spreading complete and total bullshit. The main reason Google purchased Motorola was to hopefully prevent patent trolls like Apple from going after Android itself. Check your facts stupid fanboy.

        “It’s GOOGLE’S FAULT why HTC has gone down to the garbage can in the first place.” So Google made all the decisions about what hardware HTC could/could not use? Google decided for HTC what parts of Android it could/could not change? Google made all the financial decisions on behalf of HTC? What utter crap. Again. Stupid fanboy nonsense.

        “Fact remains SAMSUNG is android plain and simple without Samsung the entire android platform is a waste.” And without Android, Samsung more than likely wouldn’t be making hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars off of the free OS Google provides. Without the OS, Samsung would have nothing.

        “They are trying to force that crappy CHROME BROWSER on all android devices” As if you can’t go to the Play Store, type in “browser” and get at least 50 different Internet browsers. You’re the only idiot here who thinks you’re “forced” to do anything with Android. -_-

  • Notorious One

    great article. I enjoyed every paragraph. I never took time to observe how Samsung’s dominance could hurt Google. I’ll keep my eyes out for more

  • Kary Krismer

    I’ve seen a lot of these stories, and I’m not buying it. Without Android, Samsung would not be selling so many phones, in part due to the apps problem. Also, I suspect at least one of the other phone makers will play catch up, making Samsung not so dominate going forward. If Samsung left, most of their Android market share would go to other makers.

    • Abdul Rahman

      Totally agree. Samsung= android= android apps. I don’t know anyone who downloads Samsung apps at all.

      • Richard Yarrell

        Jokes on all of you guys Samsung has a wonderful app store that just got even better on the Galaxy S4 and upcoming Galaxy Note 3. People with Samsung devices are very much aware of the Samsung app store they download many applications often. On my device I have the Android app store, Amazon app store, Samsung app store, and download from all markets very often.

    • Richard Yarrell

      If Samsung left their wouldn’t be and shares left to give to anyone.

      • squiddy20

        Wow. That has got to be the most stupid thing you’ve said. If Samsung ditched Android, that would leave HTC, Sony, LG, Motorola, Huawei, and all the other manufacturers to spring up in it’s place. This is common sense/logic, which you apparently fail to have… Sad.

  • Abdul Rahman

    I don’t think I agree with that. All of my friends moved from iPhone to Android, not Samsung. Just so happened that the premium and most popular Android device here is Samsung. Non of them know what touchWiz is. Only me, the one geek in the group. For regular Joe, Samsung is synonymous with Android.

    • Richard Yarrell

      The funny part is if you think your the only geek your going to find out that’s not true. Samsung sold 213 million

      • squiddy20

        “Samsung sold 213 million Galaxy S3’s and Galaxy Note 2’s in 2012” Wrong and Wrong. Samsung SHIPPED that many SMARTPHONES, not just Note 2’s and S3’s. There’s a huge difference between devices shipped, and devices sold. Maybe you should get a dictionary and stop changing words around to meet your childishly retarded fanboy “facts”.

        Here’s the article where you got your “facts” from: Take a look at the 8th paragraph and tell me where you see the words “sold”, “Galaxy S3”, or “Note 2”. Moron.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Bottom line here ”I have said it for years now and will continue to say that SAMSUNG is android period” Even GOOGLE and it’s own NEXUS LINE is a total JOKE compared to the GALAXY S LINE or GALAXY NOTE FAMILY of devices. You can take Motorola, Htc, Lg, Sony, and Hauwie and put them all together and they still couldn’t compare to Samsung as a whole in market share or customer desire and that say s alot. Samsung has the BEST software development and implementation of features on any handsets on the market period nothing compares. Samsung sold 213 million handsets in 2012 all Galaxy S3’s and Galaxy Note 2’s and you can rest assured that they will sell 250 million Galaxy S4’s and Galaxy Note 3’s in 2013.

  • Saurav Mahmud

    Writer has valid points. To general people there is galaxy only.