In “huge change”, Samsung to scale back its Android customizations, at Google’s request – report

by: Bogdan PetrovanJanuary 29, 2014

Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2

Samsung has reportedly agreed to scale back its Android customizations and to give Google’s media offerings a central place on its devices, as part of “broad agreements” between the two giants.

According to Re/code’s Liz Gannes and Ina Fried, Google and Samsung have begun discussing an agreement back at CES, following the launch of the Galaxy NotePRO and Galaxy TabPRO tablets, loaded with Magazine UX, a tile-based homescreen replacement. Google’s execs were reportedly “dismayed” by how radically Samsung departed from Google’s vision of Android with Magazine UX.

Check out Magazine UX in our hands-on from CES. The differences between it and the UI of stock Android are obvious:

Citing “multiple sources familiar with the companies’ thinking”, the report says Google coaxed Samsung to “consider dumping or altering the Magazine UX interface” for upcoming devices. It’s not known yet what Google had to concede in order for the Korean company to accept such a radical change of strategy. Update: The concession is probably offloading Motorola.

While details of the pact are fuzzy for now, its magnitude is reportedly momentous. One Re/code source calls it “a huge change, a sea change”.

“A huge change, a sea change”

Not only will Samsung give up promoting Magazine UX, but the company is also said to be culling some of its own media hubs and apps in favor of Google’s services. In other words, instead of duplicating Google’s offerings, Samsung will embrace Google’s apps and put them in the spotlight on its upcoming phones.

This is another change whose significance cannot be overstated – Samsung has long worked to give users alternatives to virtually all of Google’s main apps, from the app store, to the media apps, to stuff like S Voice and S Translate. While many users simply ignored them, Samsung insisted on stuffing its devices with these apps, which many industry watchers perceived as a way to hedge bets against an eventual fracture with Google. Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo highlighted the lengths Samsung went to do this in a piece last year, which included this infographic:

samsung apps google

Google, in turn, had reasons to fear Samsung, which controls a majority of the Android ecosystem, to the point that users are more familiar with the Galaxy brand than with Android.

Now the mutual apprehension seems to have been put aside. So, what changed? It’s hard to know for sure, but this report, along with the sweeping patent deal announced earlier this week, suggests the two companies will become closer than ever.

The world’s largest internet company and the world’s largest consumer electronics company have joined forces long term, and the fruits of this alliance will shape the world for at least the next decade.


  • htcLOLZ

    Good news.

    • MasterMuffin

      Most delightful tidings indeed

      • polo Sam

        Gusta indeed.

      • Jaun Lombard

        but but…android suck on Tablets and Samsung made Android look cool on TabPro series…now every phone will have a boring Android UI with dead colours…yeah you can put a launcher on the phone, but if I buy a phone I want it to be perfect out of the box!

        love Samsung’s email app more than Gmail! their music app is simpler to use and their calendar and S Voice is great on my Tablet!

        • MasterMuffin

          It’s not like they’re going 100% stock. I don’t know if this is good for tablets, but for phones it is! They will keep some of their own apps

        • Brendon Brown

          s voice is shit – Fact

        • Kevin

          Disagree… nexus 7 is awesome and none of the samsungs apps come anywhere near googles offerings.

        • JT

          Ya i hate stock android. I didn’t pay all that money to have a phone with no features. I never use a custom cyranogen rom, it’s worthless. Then kill features of the S Pen that you paid for?? Icons are plain as hell and mostly blue?? It’s like going from a galaxy note 3 to a flip phone. Cause what else can you do but look it?? No features, can’t show it off cause it looks plain as hell.

      • smokebomb

        Huzzahs are in order.

        • MasterMuffin


    • Roberto Tomás

      yeah its good news. what promted the change is likely the agreement of google to share its entire patent portfolio with samsung for 10 years in return for a fraction of samsung’s own.

    • Jesus


  • dandroid13

    Wow that’s some big news, I just wonder if we’ll see changes already happening with the S5. And I hope Samsung doesn’t kill the external sdcard a la Google.

  • Brian Shieh

    Wonder if this will apply to other OEMs with heavy skins. I know Samsung has apps that try to overdo the google stock apps

    • frhow

      The only other OEM with a heavy skin is LG
      who pretty much replicated Samsung Ui. So by Samsung changing let’s hope LG follows suit but keep the functionality intact.

  • ray

    Just and excuse for the NSA to spy on use through Google

    • ray


    • dextersgenius

      But… Everything is an excuse for the NSA! Even your comment!

  • ikeeDx

    Why not give the consumers an option to have stock droid or TW? I would love to have vanilla on my Note 3

    • Richard Sequeira

      This question has been asked for ages. They will not. It is not in their interests to give the customers a dual experience. Google prefers them to use TouchWiz than the radically different Magazine UI.

  • apianist16

    Samsung would be wise to do this; one of the major complaints against them is their buggy/laggy software. I, for one, would be more interested if they ditched or seriously optimized Touchwiz.

    • Zacisblack

      Touchwiz is not that bad. It’s all of the included apps using a ton of system resources which is causing the system to slow down. Just by that graphics alone Samsung may be removing 14 of its own apps and replacing them with Google’s so that alone should help tremendously.

      • Jesus

        I just hope they don’t get rid of multi-window. That’s the most useful Samsung app…

        • Acaa Aca

          +1 and sd card support.

          • Jesus

            + removable battery

    • Jesus


      They were doing pretty well by doing their own thing.

      Meanwhile, …well look at say Motorola and the Nexus line.

      • apianist16

        Yeah, but you don’t stay on top by being complacent.

  • Cal Rankin

    Wonder what it will look like. Will it be anything like the leaked images?
    If so, I won’t be mad. I like the new design.

  • RanRu

    Seems to me like Samsung was planning a “bait and switch” type strategy.

    “Hey, look! A new Galaxy phone! What do you mean it’s different? Naaaah, it does all the same stuff. You’re used to it, right?”

    Perhaps the recent Note 3 KitKat fiasco was evidence enough that people wouldn’t really appreciate that.

  • A googler

    In other words, we at Google hate Touchwiz, we hate all the pointless bloat you shovel into your phone’s which gives android a bad name so cut it out or we will spank you thoroughly yes we will!

    • Netwern

      Pretty much sums it up.

  • Arnie Deznez

    “It’s not known yet what Google had to concede in order for the Korean company to accept such a radical change of strategy.”

    Um, Motorola?

    • Jesus

      …doesn’t make sense to me.

      Samsung never had any reasons to be threatened by Motorola. Even with the Moto G.

      • Arturo Raygoza

        no not yet but they made Motorola get on the right track and Samsung could see that if they didn’t interfere that eventually Google+moto could have been a lethal rival.

        • Jesus

          Um… I get your point but I disagree. A ‘lethal rival’??

          1. the Moto X, and Moto G, weren’t exactly ‘success’ stories. They were good, but like the HTC One, they sucked in sales.
          2. Google (with the Nexus line) were never a threat to Samsung. Samsung is like the driver of Android.
          3. Therefore, Google + Motorola = dud compared to Samsung (or even Apple… or even LG, Sony).

          Also, if Motorola got back on the ‘right track’ thanks to Google (despite poor sales), why would Google sell them at a HUGE loss?

          …still makes no sense to me.

    • Guest123

      yep, Google just partnered with Samsung for all things Android.

  • Dimitri Sevastis

    Lenovo buys Motorola and now this… I wonder how this will impact the GS5.

    • deepen915

      same here.. lets hope they give us a cleaner Android OS in the S5.

  • pitbu

    Yeah right, next time we’ll have Knox pre-installed in all stock Android (not that I mind, but still..)

  • Jayfeather787

    First, I am super happy about this. Second, I agree about the whole how people know the galaxy more than Android. Its always Apple vs. Samsung in my school, no one really knows about Android. They also think Android is a type of phone, not an OS, and when I ask them what phone they have, they say AT&T. I really hate that.

    • Matevz

      Are you serious? :D People here are a bit more familiar with this concept (EU)

      • Jayfeather787


      • smokebomb

        Not sure what kind of marketing you get over there, but we’re pretty much beaten over the head with advertising no matter what it is we’re doing.

    • JLIT99

      Wow, that’s pretty bad. Even the crazy Apple fanboys and girls that I know understand what Android is.

  • jack

    Thanks Google

  • jjredfish

    Why is Google creating a walled Garden?

    Why can’t people have a choice of Magazine UX if they want it?

    • John-Phillip Saayman

      I have to say I didn’t like the Magazine UI but still I heard many people like it, and so as long as you could’ve taken it away if you want to I don’t have a problem with magazine UI

      • Jesus

        I haven’t even seen Magazine UI but am interested.

  • namesib

    I don’t like only having the choice between stock Android and some buggy, limited ROM made by people on XDA. So much for openness and customisability.

    Soon the consumer won’t have much of a choice between anything. You are not happy until everything is a Nexus clone.

    • smokebomb

      I used CM exclusively for a long time because it offered a lot more than stock android. I switched back to stockstock so I could get the official kit Kat update and haven’t felt the need to switch back yet. I’m waiting for the CM kit Kat to be stable. By then I’ll probably have a new phone anyway.

  • Dhaval Mehta

    Win win situation for both. And probably the biggest winner is the buyer. This may further Android domination.

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    I also don’t like that my Samsung slows down but actually I don’t want a GPE type samsung phone. I like that it picks up my hand from a few millimeters and does multi window and other weird slightly useless stuff. But for the amount of money you pay it better be science fiction-y. But I agree in streamlining touchwiz for speed improvements as long as we don’t lose all samsung ‘features’.

  • Valtheus

    Now that “A Google company” will be removed from Motorola logo, don’t act surprised if you see that under the Samsung logo one day…

  • hoggleboggle

    to be honest the only two items I would love to see go on my Note 3 is Samsung’s internet browser, which was broken from day 1, not allowing you to turn read-aloud off, and S-voice which hampers the implementation of google now. I don’t mind if they insisted on keeping their media hub elements as it is always good to have alternative retail venues, but they should allow you to either ditch the samsung-ified google apps or at least choose which one you want to keep to free up some space.

  • VTVVr

    Magazine UX should be used instead for Tizen.

  • John

    Will Samsung be providing apps that are exclusive to the Samsung Apps Store on the Google Play store after the potential shut down of its own app store?

    For example, apps such as Samsung Music Hub, S Health, additional TTS language packs, Sketch for galaxy, story album etc…

  • Marci

    Bad move for Samsung! In my experience, partnership with google leads to loss in the long run. Samsung was doing well on it’s own… Such a shame.

  • Thank god they did this. A more vanilla experience on Samsung devices and you have my money.

  • tommylinsley

    I was very excited to see Magazine UI as a successor to Touchwiz. I was so looking forward to buying the 12.2 inch NotePro because of Magazine. Now Google has screwed that up; what an “apple” thing to do!

    Kindle created a fork off Android. Why shouldn’t Samsung be able to make its own improvements. I made the switch from iOS to Android because Apple has lost its innovation (although iOS still remains a more stable, less flawed OS). Now it seems as though Android is afraid of innovation. Perhaps Google should simply buy a license deal for Magazine from Samsung.

  • Gbox

    How about cutting out the Samsung Touchwiz bloat so they can support KitKat OS on their most popular model – SGS3 !!!??

  • Welp! so much for this rumor…