Why Samsung only cares about 'Android' and 'Google' when it's convenient

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015
Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 (Image credit: Android Central)

A question we hear every year is: why doesn't Samsung ever participate in Google's Android beta program while other companies like Xiaomi, which also has its own heavily reworked version of Android, do it?

Samsung is proud of its products. And it should be.

The obvious answer is that it just takes Samsung longer to build its own experiences atop the Android base. But there's also another reason: Samsung likes to hype itself instead of Google. That's not a bad thing considering how much work it takes to do what Samsung does, but it makes the relationship between the two companies seem strained at times.

At most Samsung events you'll barely hear the words 'Android' or 'Google'. Other times Samsung is quick to tell us how it worked with Google, or Microsoft, or Adobe, or whoever, to do something spectacular. This isn't an oversight or an accident; it's Samsung knowing how to play the right cards.

When we finally got to officially see the Galaxy Z Fold 2 Samsung told us just how closely it worked with Google to do the software magic of continuity between displays based on different hinge angles. That was to make sure we knew that this wasn't some sort of hack that a smart engineer at Samsung figured out — it helped make this "morphing" of apps part of Android. Samsung also told us how it then worked with Microsoft to make sure Office apps worked 100% the way it wanted them to work.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 standing

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

That gives the impression that Samsung was a key player in making all of this work and that it made sure everything was "Google-approved" so it didn't have to change something in the future. And that's 100% true, so it's the impression we should have after seeing and hearing it.

The Z Fold 2 is a Galaxy phone through and through. It also happens to be built on top of Android.

But in that same event, like so many others, there was little or no reference to the Fold 2 being an Android phone; instead, it's a Galaxy phone. Samsung rightfully, in my opinion, makes a distinction between the two.

When Samsung releases a new phone or when it updates the operating system, everything about it is "Galaxy" because they are unique. Only Samsung makes Galaxy phones and the software running on them, even though plenty of others try and emulate it. All one has to do is compare a Pixel phone or a phone running Android One to a Galaxy S20 and you can they aren't very similar.

Samsung does what it needs to do so everything built for Android, like apps, accessories, and interoperability with other products is good to go. Once that's done, Samsung builds an operating system around it. And things might have been rough in the beginning, but now Samsung does a fantastic job and I'm sure Google loves the company being its partner.

Google has its own Android beta program and Samsung has its own One UI beta program.

We probably won't see any Samsung phones that can enroll in Google's Android beta program, but we do see One UI beta programs with just as much fanfare surrounding it. Part of the reason is that Samsung does need more time to make things right, but part of it is also that Samsung wants to make its own thunder, not have Google steal it away. And does it really make any difference? Either way, you can have fun being a guinea pig Q&A tester and play with new software.

In any case, it's working. There is a reason that Samsung is the top phone maker in the world and no, it's not just marketing. The company has done just what Google intended with Android: used it as a base on which to build great software. Everyone has preferences and maybe One UI and Galaxy phones aren't for you. But for millions and millions of others, things are great.

You do you, Samsung. You're doing just fine.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.