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A little controversial, but listen to me. Android is one of Google’s most valuable products. It operates billions of units across the globe. Via Android, Google’s other services like search, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, etc. have access to an unmatched user base. This is how it has basically shifted the user acquisition cost to you, the user. You buy the Android phone and you use its services. It just laughs its way to the bank with all that advertising and subscription revenue.
Google spends significant resources on updating Android every year. In recent years, we’ve seen the company improve the user interface, focus on improving privacy and security, and deliver features that make our lives easier. Android will remain an ongoing project as there is always room for improvement.
That said, it’s also true that Google has a clear advantage with Android. It has no true competitor other than iOS. This is the duopoly that governs the mobile landscape now. Neither of them threatens the other, and both exist in their own spheres. All other operating systems have been overcome.
Does it give Google a reason to be complacent? After all, there is no rival chasing in the heels. Android is the only option for companies that want to make a smartphone and happen not to be Apple. The ecosystem and developer support are so strong that it is simply an impossible task to try to push a new operating system against Android.
This complacency has manifested itself in more ways than one. Stock Android is devoid of many useful apps and features created by third-party Android OEMs. Even the interface enhancements that Google introduces every year tend to be overshadowed by the custom skins that almost all OEMs slam on their devices.
Stock Android has also become a relic of the past. OEMs who chose to ship devices with a malfunctioning version of Android have almost disappeared. Google’s own Pixel smartphones do not account for more than one rounding error on global smartphone shipping figures. OEM software customizations have clearly become a major draw for consumers.
This is something that Samsung has excelled in. Its custom Android skin, One UI as it is now called, has undergone a process of tremendous refinement over the years. The kind of features it now provides remain unsurpassed. Samsung has also been very effective in creating native apps that further expand the capabilities of its Galaxy devices.
Samsung has clearly taken the lead in promoting the case for Android, perhaps more so than Google itself. Then again, Samsung happens to be the largest global supplier of Android devices. It may rely on Google for the operating system, but there is no doubt that it is Google that needs Samsung and not the other way around.
It often feels like a light bulb goes out at Google every time it sees Samsung create a feature that Android should have had. Then there is no waste of time copying that feature. Here’s an example, and here’s another, and in DJ Khaled’s immortal words, yet another.
Let’s not forget that several Android 12 features have been copied from One UI and even from Samsung’s outdated TouchWiz UI !. Samsung’s One UI features will also be copied to Android 13. Today, Google went ahead and copied Samsung’s Smart Switch app.
It’s as if Google is sitting in an exam and looking the smart kid over the shoulder – it’s Samsung in this scenario – hoping to copy its work. Where it should have been Google that took the lead, it is Samsung that is influencing some of the key additions to Android.
Is it time for Google to accept the inevitable and leave it all to Samsung? The two companies are close partners. They have collaborated on new software experiences for foldable smartphones. Let’s not forget that it’s Samsung that has made Wear OS relevant again. Google’s portable OS was in purgatory before Samsung tore it out.
Maybe Google needs to show more impartiality when it comes to Android really. A Wear OS-like event for Android may not be welcomed by its other OEM partners. That is not to say that closer cooperation will not benefit everyone.
Samsung definitely has some great ideas on how to improve Android functionality. All Google has to do is accept it.