During the development of the first Galaxy Fold’s user interface, Samsung and Google met to discuss the beginnings of Android 12L. The Mountain View company then asked the Seoul company 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, the release date of the first Galaxy Fold, the Seoul-based company worked hard on its prototypes, and the UI department responsible for the user interface had only one goal in mind: to try at all costs not to confuse future users Smartphone with a tablet.
In this passionate quest, Samsung met with Google as Android manager to present a prototype. That’s what Yoojin Hong, Vice President and General Manager of Samsung and Head of UX Team of Mobile eXperience Business, Samsung Electronics, told us. The manager, who met at IFA 2022 during a roundtable with international media, told us about these first talks between the two giants. These show in part why Samsung struggles to release foldable smartphones every year.
“Are you going to keep going every year? »
“Every time we have a new form factor, we have to work with Google”, asks the manager. The exchange is first and foremost about enthusiasm. “I remember our very first conversation with the Google product team and the Samsung product team, managers, software developers, etc. Everyone at the table started talking very enthusiastically about this project. And as a developer it was a very nice feeling, it was full of passion, full of “Wow, that’s great”. It was exciting because at the time we had the feeling that we were working on a real innovation. »
Then, still according to Yoojin Hong, Google asked Samsung for a very big commitment. “From Google’s point of view, this was a very large investment. There is a cost to deploying all the APIs, the maintenance, and the whole partnership itself, right? So they were keen to have Samsung’s involvement. »
And so much to tell you that when Google asks for a commitment, it’s no joke: “Are we going to keep making this phone every year? It was her question. It was obviously very complicated to answer them, we’re talking about technology. We didn’t know what would happen the year we shipped the device, something crazy could happen, anything was possible. But we are fully committed, we have decided to say that we will get through these difficulties and overcome them. So we said we’re going to do that. We made a commitment at that meeting. It was a nice feeling to say: ‘Yes, we’ll do it!’ »lose the engineer with a laugh.
When asked about the presence of other brands at the table, Yoojin Hong responded: “Ask Google”, she says, still joking. Seriously, the VP of Samsung insists “As the first move, we were able to implement important planning decisions. »
What can be interpreted from the request by Google
We are facing an exchange of best practices here. Google is asking Samsung to produce a Fold for a year (the Flip wasn’t on the table back then) in exchange for Samsung being able to get their hands on what was then the beginnings of Android 12L. While there are undoubtedly other factors that led Samsung to release a Fold every year (its position as a first-to-market product and desire to make its mark in a future strategic market, or the principle of updating a range annually), we understand in the light of this testimony that without the insistence of another player, neither more nor less than Google, the story could have been very different.
One wonders 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 positioned than the number one smartphone provider? Another option might be that as with the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5, which served as a test balloon for Wear OS 3, Google wanted to make sure Samsung dusted the plaster before launching its own collapsible Google Pixel NotePad, yet to be announced. Some might also see it as a sign of a monopolist (aside from Apple) that can afford to enforce that kind of decision.
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