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Samsung can't dump Google for Bing as the default search engine on its phones

It is bound by the requirements of Google's Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA).

Published onApril 18, 2023

samsung galaxy s23 ultra display
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • Samsung can’t replace Google with Microsoft’s Bing as the default search engine on its phones, at least in markets like the US.
  • Google’s Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) requires all Android OEMs to pre-install Google Search and use it as default.
  • However, regions like Europe and India have their own version of the MADA, where Google could face some trouble now that Bing has become a real threat thanks to its AI prowess.

The Alphabet stock plummeted as much as 4% on Monday following news that Samsung is considering dumping Google and opting for Microsoft’s Bing as the default search engine on its phones. It seems the market’s nervousness is somewhat unwarranted, though. As it stands today, Samsung cannot drop Google as its preferred default search engine, at least not in markets like the US.

As pointed out by Andreas Proschofsky on Twitter, all Android OEMs, including Samsung, have to sign a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) if they want to put the Google Play Store and other Google apps on their phones. This agreement has specific rules that OEMs need to adhere to. One of these rules in MADA requires Android phone makers to make Google Search the default search engine on their phones and satisfy certain placement obligations.

It’s breathtaking how many news sites, based on original reporting by the @nytimes, have now reported on Samsung pondering to drop Google as a a default search engine and not a *single* one of them asking the question if this would even be possible. It’s not. 🧵
— Andreas Proschofsky (@suka_hiroaki) April 17, 2023

So if Samsung wants the Google Play Store on its phones, it will have to provide Google Search by default. It cannot arbitrarily switch to Microsoft Bing as the main search engine on its devices.

The fine print

That said, MADA rules are not all the same everywhere. For instance, Google changed the MADA rules in Europe back in 2018 after incurring a $5 billion antitrust fine. At the time, the company unbundled Google Search and Chrome from the required suite of Google apps for OEMs selling Android phones in the European region.

Similarly, India is implementing its own version of the agreement, wherein the only Google app required to be pre-installed would be the Google Play Store. Users in the country will be able to choose the default search engine via a ballot screen.

I don’t understand – you don’t think Google is worried about OEMs replacing Google Search with Bing (as default home screen search widget provider/preload) in the EEA/Turkey/India/etc?
In fact I think that’s where they’d be the most worried, because OEMs can credibly say they’re…
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 17, 2023

So even if Samsung cannot switch to Bing as the default search engine on its phones everywhere in the world, the threat to Google’s search dominance is still very much there. Google would literally have to pay Android OEMs to keep Google Search in countries that have their own versions of MADA. In these places, Samsung and other Android phone makers could easily provide Bing as an optional default search engine without even listing Google as one of the choices.

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