Samsung was forced to sell new products by Google

During the development of the first Galaxy Fold interface, Samsung and Google met to discuss the launch of Android 12L. The Mountain View firm then asked the Seoul firm for a big commitment: one smartphone a year.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in hand // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

Let’s go back in time to the beginning of Samsung’s adventure with foldable smartphones. Between 2014 and 2019, the release date of the first Galaxy Fold, the Seoul firm worked hard on its prototypes, and the UI department responsible for the interface had only one goal: not to confuse future users at all costs. smartphone with tablet.

In this hot pursuit, Samsung met with Google as the Android manager to present a prototype. Yoojin Hong, vice president and general manager of Samsung and head of the UX team of Samsung Electronics’ Mobile experience business, told us. During a roundtable with international media at IFA 2022, the manager told us about these first conversations between the two giants. These partly explain why Samsung struggles to release foldable smartphones every year.

“Are you going to continue every year? »

“Every time we have a new form factor, we have to work with Google”, asks the manager. At first, exchanges are primarily about passion. “With the product team at Google and the product team at Samsung, managers, software developers, etc. I remember our first conversation with Everyone around the table started talking about this project very enthusiastically. And as a developer, it was a great feeling, full of passion, full of “wow this is awesome”. It was exciting because then we felt we were working on a real innovation. »

Then, according to Yoojin Hong, Google asked Samsung for a huge commitment. “From Google’s point of view, it was a huge investment. Providing all the APIs, the maintenance, the whole partnership itself is a cost, right? So they really wanted to have Samsung’s commitment. »

And let me tell you, when Google asks for a commitment, it’s no joke: “Are we going to continue to make this phone every year? That was their question. Obviously, answering them was very complicated, we are talking about technology. We didn’t know what was going to happen the year we shipped the device, something crazy could happen, anything was possible. But we are fully determined, we have decided that we will overcome these difficulties and overcome them. That’s why we said we will do it. In this meeting, we made a commitment. “Yes, we will!” it felt good to say. »dismissed the engineer with a laugh.

Asked about other brands around the table, Yoojin Hong gets in touch: “Ask Google”, he says, still joking. A serious Samsung vice-president insists “As first movers, we were able to implement important planning decisions. »

What can be interpreted from Google’s query

We have had a good exchange of experiences here. Google asks Samsung to produce a Fold a year (the Flip wasn’t even on the table at the time), in exchange for Samsung getting what was the beginning of Android 12L. While there are certainly other factors that lead Samsung to release a Fold every year (its first-to-market position and the desire to impose itself on the future strategic market, or the principle of annual renewal of “a series”, we understand in the light of this statement that without the insistence of another actor, the story might have been completely different, no more than Google, no less.

Samsung releasing a Fold a year makes one wonder what has changed for Google. Perhaps Mountain View wanted to use Samsung as a locomotive in this market. Who better positioned than the number one smartphone vendor? Another option could be that, like the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5, which served as a trial balloon for Wear OS 3, Google wants to make sure Samsung gets the plaster off before launching its own. announced. Some may also see this as a sign of a monopoly player (other than Apple) having the power to make such a decision.

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