Samsung makes some great mobile hardware, but its software is a little more debatable. While most of its smartphones and tablets run a version of Google’s Android operating system, it has often been modified and tinkered with by Samsung to the point that it strays far from Google’s original vision.
According to Re/code, “Multiple sources familiar with the companies’ thinking say the two technology giants began hammering out a series of broad agreements at CES that would bring Samsung’s view of Android in line with Google’s own.”
A bit more specifically, this means that Samsung is already thinking about changing its new Magazine UX – a heavy new Android skin that debuted on the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) and will appear on the company’s upcoming tablets – or throwing it out completely. What’s more, Samsung might abandon some if its homegrown apps in favor of Google’s preexisting suite.
It isn’t clear why Samsung would take this dramatic shift in strategy. Re/code suggests the company might have struck a deal with Google to work on a new Nexus device (it should be noted, though, that this didn’t change anything in the past.) Maybe other concessions were made. Either way, one source describes Samsung and Google as having gone through “a sea change” over the last few weeks. And to that end, Samsung and Google did just announce a major cross-licensing agreement involving thousands of patents between the companies. Perhaps this was part of the deal?
If Samsung does make the switch to a purer form of Android, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of some of its own apps, like ChatON and WatchON. It’s also unclear if this means that Samsung won’t preload other third-party apps onto its devices, such as Dropbox and Flipboard.
While proprietary apps and Android skins help manufacturers set their devices apart from the competition, there’s no question that Samsung tends to overdo it.
But as much as I dislike Android skins, I think a world without them would be pretty boring. If Google has its way, you’ll already be able to buy a Google Play edition of many flagship devices if you dig the hardware but can’t put up with the overlay. So if Samsung is going to pursue this new route, I hope that means we’ll continue to some interesting new interface elements, like those rumored for the Galaxy S5, but without all of the extra bloat thrown in.