During the development of the interface of the first Galaxy Fold, Samsung and Google met to discuss the debut of Android 12L. The Mountain View firm then asked the Seoul firm for a major commitment: one smartphone per year.
Let’s go back in time to the beginning of Samsung’s adventure with foldable smartphones. Between 2014 and 2019, release date of the first Galaxy Fold, the Seoul firm worked a lot on its prototypes and the UI department in charge of the interface had only one objective in mind: to seek at all costs that future users do not confuse smartphones with tablets.
In this ardent quest, Samsung met with Google, as the manager of Android, to present a prototype. So told us Yoojin Hong, Vice President and General Manager of Samsung and Head of UX Team of Mobile eXperience Business, Samsung Electronics. Met at IFA 2022 during a round table with international media, the leader told us about these first conversations between the two giants. These reveal part of 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, the exchanges are above all about enthusiasm. “I remember when we had our very first conversation with the product team at Google and the product team at Samsung, with managers, software developers, etc. everyone around the table started talking about this project with a lot of enthusiasm. And as a developer, it was a very nice feeling, it was full of passion, full of “wow this is awesome”. It was exciting, because it felt like to work on a real innovation at the time.”
Then, still according to Yoojin Hong, Google ended up asking Samsung for a very big commitment. “From Google’s perspective, it was a really big 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 as much to tell you that when Google asks for a commitment, it’s not a joke: “Are we going to continue to produce this phone every year? It was their question. It was obviously very complicated to answer it, we are talking about technology. We had no idea what was going to happen the year we ship the device, something crazy could happen, anything was possible. But we are fully committed, we have decided to say that we will go through and overcome these difficulties. So we thought we were going to do it. We made a commitment at this meeting. It was a nice feeling, you know, to say, ‘yes, we’re going to!’ »laughs the engineer.
Asked about the presence of other brands around the table, Yoojin Hong kicks in touch: “Ask Google”, she said, still joking. Getting serious, Samsung’s VP insists that “As the first to move, we were able to implement important planning decisions. »
What can be interpreted from Google’s request
We are here faced with an exchange of good practices. Google asks Samsung to produce one Fold per year (at the time, the Flip was not yet on the table), in exchange for which Samsung was able to get its hands on what was then the beginnings of Android 12L. While there are undoubtedly other factors that have led Samsung to release a Fold every year (its position as the first to arrive on the market and the desire to impose itself on a future strategic market or even the very principle of annual renewal of a range), we understand in the light of this testimony that the story could have been very different without the insistence of another actor, neither more nor less than Google.
We wonder what it changes for Google that Samsung releases a Fold a year. It is possible that the Mountain View company wanted to use Samsung as a locomotive in this market. Who was better placed than the first smartphone supplier? Another option could be that, like the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5, which served as trial balloons for Wear OS 3, Google wanted to make sure Samsung wiped the plaster off before launching its own. foldable, the Google Pixel NotePad, not yet announced. Some may also see it as the sign of a monopolistic player (excluding Apple) who can afford to impose this type of decision.
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