Why Samsung doesn’t want you to use Google Apps

Almost all Samsung users complain that Galaxy devices are full of pre-installed bloatware apps, some of which cannot even be removed. This is not a new problem; Samsung has been aware of this problem since the days of TouchWiz, the precursor to One UI.

But if so, why is the company refusing to address this issue? One word: Google. Although Samsung and Google share the same goal of beating Apple, the two companies have a long history of rivalry. Here’s why Samsung doesn’t want you to use Google apps.

Why Samsung and Google need each other

Samsung and Google have a symbiotic relationship. On the one hand, Google needs Samsung because it is the largest Android phone manufacturer in the world, and therefore also the largest Google service provider. In a way, Samsung is making sure that Google services actually reach people.

Without Samsung, many Android users would simply switch to the iPhone due to the lack of solid alternatives, which would make Google’s situation worse and prevent it from generating as much ad revenue.


Image credit: Yuri Samoilov/Flickr

On the other hand, Samsung needs Google because it owns Android and has better know-how in building apps and services. Google’s services make Android phones more attractive, thereby ensuring that Samsung users remain loyal and don’t switch to the iPhone.

Without Google, Samsung wouldn’t be able to compete with Apple’s ecosystem alone. In other words, Google is primarily a software company and Samsung is primarily a hardware company; the synergy between the two is necessary to compete with Apple.

This is where it gets interesting: Samsung hates its dependence on Google. If it were up to Samsung, Galaxy phones wouldn’t even run Android. In fact, in 2010, Samsung tried to replace Android by releasing its own mobile operating system called Bada. When that didn’t work, Samsung tried again in 2012 with Tizen, but to no avail.

Although Samsung has not succeeded in replacing Android, its attempts threaten Google. If Samsung somehow manages to create a competitive mobile OS in the future, it could theoretically impose its own services on its users. Google services and the Android operating system would then become irrelevant overnight.

So to retaliate, Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion in 2012. In a blog post, it said the Motorola purchase will “help protect the Android ecosystem” and “accelerate innovation and choice in mobile computing. Although the post didn’t mentions someone specifically, it’s fair to assume that this move was meant as a warning to Samsung.

Samsung logo on a building

If Samsung didn’t ‘behave’, Google could use Motorola as a way to directly compete with it. For example, Google could offer Motorola to be the first to get new Android updates and optimize its services to work exceptionally well on Motorola phones to make other brands less attractive.

Seeing this, Samsung finally agreed to tone down its bloatware apps, keep the overall look of Android, and make certain Google services the default setting on Galaxy phones. No wonder Google then sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014 for just $2.91 billion.

However, this rivalry is far from over. In 2017, Samsung launched Bixby, its own virtual assistant that was supposed to compete directly with Google Assistant, but as we already know, it didn’t work either. Bixby is a great assistant in its own right, but you’ll have a hard time convincing an Android user to say “Hey Bixby” instead of “Hey Google.”

Today, the partnership between Samsung and Google has become more civilized. As Google tries to expand and strengthen its Pixel product portfolio, it needs Samsung’s manufacturing facilities and hardware expertise to achieve this.

If the two companies work together, Samsung could secure Google as a major customer for its manufacturing business. In the meantime, Google can make sure Samsung doesn’t mess with Android, use WearOS on Galaxy Watches, and collaborate on future projects.


Google Tensor G2
Image credit: Google

In fact, the Tensor chipset found in Google Pixel phones is made by the Samsung Foundry. In October 2022, Samsung announced that it was expanding its partnership with Google to streamline its smart home ecosystems, namely SmartThings and Google Home. Some reports also suggest that the rumored Pixel Fold display is also made by Samsung.

For context, this partnership doesn’t mean Samsung has to stop developing its own apps and services. It just means that Samsung should prioritize Google services that are essential to the Android experience, such as the Google Play Store, Assistant, Search and more.

Why Samsung is getting better at software

While Samsung is clearly the king of hardware, it knows that software is the future. Why ? Because once the sale is completed, the company no longer has control over the product’s hardware, but the software is infinitely flexible and controllable, and therefore more profitable.

Basically, your phone is just a portal to your favorite apps, so as long as the hardware is good enough, it doesn’t technically matter what brand it’s from. And if you’ve noticed, that’s exactly why Samsung has started focusing so much on software over the past few years.

For example, we know that TouchWiz was already terrible when it launched in 2010, but One UI has remained one of the best Android skins on the market since its launch in 2018.


someone holding a samsung s21 ultra
Image credit: Lukmanazis/Shutterstock

Samsung phones now get four years of major OS updates — more than any other Android brand, including Google itself. The company is also working with various developers to optimize popular third-party apps like Snapchat and Instagram for Galaxy phones.

Samsung has partnered with Microsoft to bridge their ecosystems. That’s why when backing up your Galaxy phone, Samsung uses Microsoft OneDrive instead of Google Drive. That’s also why the Link for Windows app comes pre-installed on Galaxy devices, so you can instantly connect them to your Windows PC.

All these efforts are aimed at reducing Samsung’s dependence on Google. The problem is that many modern apps and services depend on Google Mobile Services (GMS). For example, WhatsApp uses Google Drive to back up your conversations, Uber uses Google Maps for navigation, and game developers need the Play Store to process your in-app purchases.

In other words, not using Google’s services just isn’t an option for most of us, so there’s not much Samsung can realistically do in this area at this point. Working with Microsoft is about maintaining as much control as possible in areas where Google is not such a strong rival, such as smart TVs, foldable phones, laptops, gaming consoles and more.

Samsung and Google will remain sworn enemies

The relationship between Samsung and Google is complicated, and while it’s more civil today, we can’t help but feel uneasy about the future, knowing how far both companies have gone these years to stay competitive in the industry.

What we do know is that things can change very quickly in the tech industry, and the two tech giants need each other as much as they repel each other. We’re still curious to see how the two brands develop and what the Android community has in store.

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