Android One was recently launched in India, and it marks a major shift in the way that Google does things. Google is slowly regaining control of an OS that once seemed wild and sometimes unrecognizable. Earlier on, I mentioned that Google wanted Android to become more like Android Wear, and Android One is more evidence than we’ll ever need. A recent report from The Information also states that Google is tightening the string of major Android OEMs; all in an effort to have a more unified user experience.
If you’re new to Android, you may wonder why I used the term ‘regaining control’ of Android. Here’s why; often times, the question is posed, “Is Samsung bigger than Google or vice versa (with regards to Android ie)?” To be honest, there is no clear cut answer to this question. Some will say that Google is bigger, while many will argue that Samsung holds sway. It’s all a matter of opinion and I will share mine eventually, but let’s first examine the facts.
History — Samsung
If we were to reflect on the history of the two, let’s say back about 10 years or so, it might give us a better perspective on things. Prior to Samsung’s rise to prominence via Android, they were in the mobile market, but weren’t the super power that they are today. Nokia was a much bigger player in the arena, and HTC, like Samsung, rubbed shoulders closely with Microsoft.
One of Samsung’s most notable offerings came in the form of the BlackJack, a 2006 smartphone that featured a BlackBerry-like qwerty keyboard as was the style of the day. Several more devices followed, until the launch of the Galaxy S in March 2010. This moment, a little over four years ago, marks the beginning of the mobile juggernaut that we know Samsung to be. The rest, as they say, is pretty much history, but we cannot forget that, prior to the launch of the Galaxy S and Android, Samsung was just another Windows Mobile player, and nothing more.
History — Google
Prior to Android (which technically runs all the way back to 2005), Google was a major player on the internet, controlling a significant portion of search traffic. Gmail had been launched a year before in 2004 (although it was private), and the company itself went public in 2004 as well. It’s fair to say that Google had been enjoying relative success in those days; the internet was beginning to change as speeds increased, and the 2006 acquisition of YouTube put Google in charge of the two largest search engines (if you consider YouTube a search engine) on the planet.
In 2008, the first Android phone, the G1, was launched. It marked the beginning of Google’s foray into the mobile market with it’s own OS. Fast forward 6 years later, and Android’s global market share is around the 80% mark; but herein lies the source of contention.
Who’s The Real Android Boss?
The source of contention here lies in who the success of Android is attributed to. Some say Google, others say Samsung. Samsung is the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world, and sell the lion’s share of Google’s Android devices, while making most of the money as well. Samsung covers the high end, mid range and low end spectrum of all markets. They sell devices in China, India, the USA and all other leading and non-leading markets. Samsung is a giant and their Android phones helped to put Google on the mobile map.
In that time, Google has continued to provide support and guidelines to OEMs, although many desire their own appearance of Android at times. Each successive version of Android has gotten better performance, new interfaces, and projects like Volta and Butter along with Material Design has seen Android win UX of the year for two years running. Google holds sway with its suite of apps. No other company comes close to possessing so many well designed, useful and widely used applications. The Play Store, also owned by Google, has well over a million applications and is the biggest application store to date.
Let’s get to the meat of the matter though. Which of these two technology giants owes the other a huge thanks? I say Samsung owes Google, and here’s why. Prior to the launch of the Galaxy S and the SII, HTC and Motorola were having a ‘grand old time’. The G1 and the Milestone or Droid as Verizon called it, were hugely successful phones. HTC’s Hero and Desire were craved by Android heads of all ages, much like some of Samsung’s devices are now.
You might agree with my view but, the point is that, were it not for Samsung’s advertising power and their ability to churn out phones at a rapid rate, another Android OEM would have taken their place as top dog. Android was always going to conquer the mobile world, it was inevitable, we just didn’t know which OEM would come out on top. Samsung, without Google’s Android, would have made an operating system, like, um, Tizen. Google, without Samsung, would have had HTC, or Motorola, or Sony, or OnePlus as their top OEM and would have gone on to conquer the market anyway. In my view, it’s clear that Google is in charge here. They make the rules, and OEMs abide by them. If someone decides to exit the gates, someone else will take their place. Samsung, though not in charge as some may think, is still the greatest contributor to Android’s success, and for this I say thanks.
In part two. I will examine how Google further exerts their dominance and how Samsung is fighting back.
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