Report: Google isn’t happy with Samsung’s latest Android customizations, in talks about finding a middle ground

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After striking a 10-year deal to share each other’s patents, who knew Google and Samsung were getting so chummy? Their relationship has improved so much that Google doesn’t even feel weird about reaching out to Samsung about their extensive (and gratuitous) use of Android customizations in their smartphones and tablets. You know, because friends are more open about what bothers them.

These closed-door meetings come in the wake of CES, after Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy TabPro with the OEM’s all new Magazine UX, the latest version of TouchWiz for tablets. We got some hands-on time with the tablets, and while we found the UI somewhat useful, we did feel like it drastically changed the Android experience. So much, you had to learn how to use Android all over again.

So, exactly what are the details Google and Samsung are discussing? Well, that part is still unclear. Some are suggesting that Google could be asking Samsung to tone down their UI, dumping the new “Magazine UX” entirely in order to get Samsung devices more inline with the normal version of Android. Others think Google might be unhappy with their own services and apps taking a backseat to Samsung’s in their devices, and want Samsung to settle down with all their “me too” apps. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Of course, neither Samsung nor Google would comment on their close-door discussions.

Samsung did, however, release a more generic statement saying that the manufacturer would “continue to identify and provide differentiated and innovative service and content offerings on our mobile devices.” Does this mean we could see the Samsung Galaxy S5 adopt a more Motorola stance of offering a near stock Android with manufacture specific apps? I wouldn’t bet on it, Samsung really likes their Wiz. But hey, at least Google and Samsung are talking.

Thanks, Kev!

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  • AbbyZFresh

    Well screw Google. Samsung has the right to customize their UI anyway they like. That’s the beauty of Android.

    At least Google know how it feels to be copied and changed out of style just like how Jobs bashed them “diluting our product” all those years ago.

    • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

      There’s definitely 2 camps: Those that think Google should strong-arm OEMs into offering a more stock Android experience (without all the bloat).

      And those that think Google shouldn’t get involved, let OEMs do with Android as they wish. That is, afterall, the point of an open mobile OS.

      I’m kind in between, and I have a feeling Google will offer suggestions to Samsung (because they’re bffs now), but it’s ultimately up to Samsung to heed Google’s advice or not.

      • itmustbejj

        I think the problem for Google is that the changes that Samsung are making will limit Google’s ability to innovate and improve Android as a whole due to compatability. Samsung is a HUGE chunk of the Android ecosystem, they will have to ensure that any future changes to the Android base doesn’t break the Samsung custom experience.

        It’s likely Google is saying, “you can go this route, but it’s going to cause you a headache keeping it updated with new versions of Android”. If that prevents Samsung devices from getting updates on time or at all, Google will likely have an opinoin on that.

        • Fodografes

          Android updates the break OEM compatibility is the OEMs responsibility, not Google’s. So I disagree that it is a problem for Android, or even Google.

          • itmustbejj

            In general, I agree. I’m sure every update breaks something in OEM customizations, but Samsung’s new changes are about as dramatic we’ve seen. If this negatively impacts the Android experience for Samsung users, that is Google’s concern.

          • No_Nickname90

            I was thinking the same thing. A lot of people that don’t know much about Android assume Samsung and TouchWiz is pretty much what Android is.

          • Fodografes

            Actually, I’d say it’s more along the lines of if it isnt an iPhone, it’s an Android (regardless of TouchWiz, Sense, etc..) is peoples thinking.

          • mcl630

            It is a problem for Android. Samsung is a big piece of the market. If Samsung’s devices are stuck on older versions of Android because of difficulties in porting TouchWiz to newer versions of Android, it hurts the whole Android eco-system.

            Also as No_Nickname90 points out, a lot of people don’t know the difference between Android and TouchWiz. If TouchWiz stinks, in their minds Android stinks.

          • irishrally

            Sadly I’ve had a lot of conversations that go like this:

            Me: “Oh, you have an Android phone.”

            Typical consumer: “No, I have a Samsung.”

      • noiwillnotfixurpc

        I think OEMs should be able to adapt the OS as they wish, as long as they provide a Stock Rom on their site that consumers can download if they wish to enjoy a stock android experience without the bloat.
        I just bought a note 3 and I absolutely HATE the My Magazine app that is constantly popping up when I accidentally hit the home key twice. I really wish I could get rid of it, when I disabled it I would receive random error messages and I had to re-enable it.

    • itmustbejj

      You should really consult a doctor about that hurt butt of yours.

    • No_Nickname90

      Were you saying this about the Kindle?

  • mlss

    Samsung has one foot out of the Android door as it is. As soon as they figure out how to expand there app store they will be gone!

    • Henri Weich Conradie

      Good luck with app access and development, in that case. Going away from Android will seriously jeopardise their profits and ability to provide phones that have good apps.

    • No_Nickname90

      Expand their appstore? There is *nothing* in the Samsung appstore that I want. Pay for a calculator? They outta line.

  • Matthew Toomey

    Wonder when Windows will tell Samsung to tone down their Magazine UX.

  • MK2

    I wish they’d keep their customization’s optional. Not too keen on the Metro look. Maybe offer it as a widget or optional launcher, that’s fine. There’s a reason I’m dead set against WP, and Metro is it.

  • Ryan O’Neill

    Hopefully they go the optional-customization route, and separate the bloat into individual apps separate from the System UI. That’s what they should have done all along.

  • spicymeatball

    I don’t think that Google needs to worry about this. I think the market will punish them on it’s own. A big enough change will appear as a new OS and people will not warm up to the concept. If they go through with this we know their next step would be to release their own Tizen OS that will look amazingly the same. You can let them go on there own but at some point they will not be the Apple alternative because they will appear just like Apple. Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives today.

  • http://www.xrks.com/ intangible

    I just wish Samsung would wake up and realize that Touchwiz isn’t why people buy their phones… It is why some people won’t buy their phones tho.
    They should only do customizations required to enable their custom hardware changes, no need to replace the settings menu with a Touchwiz one… If they want a different user experience, why can’t they just do a pre-installed launcher (letting people disable or use the Vanilla one if they wish)?
    Their custom apps aren’t really better than the default ones, why are they changing everything just for the sake of change? Not to mention the apps change between each phone and Touchwiz version anyway, and old ones languish without updates…. Yuck.

    • New_Guy777

      The camera and the S-Beam features are both lightyears ahead of Google’s, and their notification widgets and keyboard are on par with what Google offers. Not every facet of TouchWiz is junk

      • BD1971

        No there not all junk except for the lagginess they cause and the fact that they use up 8 gigs of your internal memory.

        • New_Guy777

          No lag or missed presses, and more than 12gigs available on a 16gig phone (meaning they took less than 3gigs for the ROM) on a non-rooted stock SGSIII. Just sayin’…

          • BD1971

            SGSlll is from two years ago. Since then Samsung has added 5 more gigs of useless bloat. No one is talking about a phone from 2 years ago. SGS 4 is notoriously laggy. It lives up to that reputation. My son has one.

          • New_Guy777

            Disagreed. My mom has the s4, and the only impression I got from it was that it was slick. Also, the partition for system memory on hers is only about 5, which is a far cry from 8. What’s your son been doing to his phone?

          • PRHdroid

            Just saying, I went from an S4 to a Nexus after trying Cyanogenmod 11 and up until I tried CM11 I would have agreed with you. However, after using that phone and then going to a Nexus, laggy isn’t a full definition, but slower and clunkier is absolutely true. The S4 with its bloat is not even close to the phone it could be with a more stock experience. If it had that I might have stayed with the S4, now I have the Nexus 5 and it kills the stock S4, especially once you add ART runtime to it.

    • moises1204

      i love everything Samsung have to offer speak for your self.

  • earth

    I could understand Google’s concern that Samsung takes away from Google services but the only real thing that should matter to consumers is that any device that says it runs “Android” should run nearly all Android apps, no different than a Windows PC. A common reference platform should be Google’s goal, and common hardware APIs, not micro managing services added to the OS. If someone doesn’t like Samsung experience, they can get a different Android device, or add their own favorite launcher, etc. You don’t even have to be rooted to change the launcher.

  • moises1204

    relax Google.

  • phinn

    I wouldn’t buy an Android device that didn’t have a stock or near stock Android UI. (e.g. Nexus 5, 7 or Moto X)

  • 1ofdakoolkidz

    It’s happening all over again. Does anyone remember when Google told Samsung before to tone it down because they were becoming dangerously close to how apple phones looked. Now Samsung is looking like a Windows Phone and Google is warning them again.

  • namesib

    Yaaay, even less differentiation in device manufacturers. Don’t you just love the customisability and openness of Android?

    /s

  • sonisoe

    its fine and naturally google may have a say, but in the end google cant stop oems from doing whatever they want with android…its supposed to be open-source right?

  • MOTO G FANBOY

    Google Play Edition is a good answer

    • ludist210

      Some people don’t have $650 to spend on a phone though…