Samsung’s long-awaited Galaxy S22 launch event was a certified success. Not only did Samsung improve on the standards it set with last year’s S21-series phones, but it launched a Galaxy Note replacement, much to the excitement of its customers. Still, there’s one aspect of this launch event that won’t receive the attention it deserves—Google’s involvement.
Recent advancements in the Android market, including the rebirth of Wear OS and the launch of Google’s custom Tensor processor, will be remembered as some of the most important moments in mobile technology. These advancements wouldn’t be possible if not for a new partnership between Google and Samsung. And with the 2022 Unpacked event, these companies have all but confirmed that they will continue to push the envelope and strengthen the Android brand together.
Samsung is the largest Android smartphone brand (outside of China, at least). So, it only makes sense for Google to partner with the company. The two brands have worked together in sporadic bursts since Samsung launched the (terribly named) Samsung GT-I7500 Galaxy, one of the first Android phones after the HTC Dream.
A few years after Samsung adopted Android, it worked with Google to create one of the companies’ most celebrated phones, the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus debuted several Android technologies and was one of the only phones to feature Google Wallet, the precursor to Android Pay. (Coincidentally, Samsung used the Galaxy S22 launch event to announce Samsung Wallet, an app that can hold IDs and other cards that Samsung Pay can’t.)
Google and Samsung have had their fair share of disagreements, of course. Google has never been a fan of rival services, especially those that challenge the Play Store. Court documents allege that Google tried to kill the Samsung Galaxy Store by paying off app developers and Samsung.
The companies also fought over smartwatches back in 2014. Google thought that Samsung’s proprietary Tizen OS would fracture the smartwatch market and make competing with Apple more difficult.
Clearly, Google was right. That’s why Samsung abandoned its Tizen smartwatch software and joined with Google to develop a new, more demanding version of Wear OS. This operating system debuted in the Galaxy Watch 4 and, in the long term, may force Android smartwatch manufacturers to step up their game.
And oddly enough, Google tapped Samsung for help with the Pixel 6’s Tensor chipset. Tensor marks a new generation of Google hardware development that’s free from the constraints of Qualcomm Snapdragon, and it could lead a trend among other smartphone manufacturers looking to optimize their hardware and software.
It’s rare to see Google hype up a rival company’s phone. But at 10 AM EST, when Samsung kicked off its S22 launch event, Google published a list of all the features it helped bring to the S22. And yeah, some of these features are currently exclusive to the S22 and Tab S8 lineup.
The big new feature that customers may immediately notice is YouTube previews in the Messages app. When someone texts you a YouTube link, you can preview or watch the video without leaving your conversation. (I really hope other Android devices get this feature.)
Samsung also built Google’s Voice Access technology into the S22 and Tab S8. Just say “Hey Google, Voice Access” and a prompt will open for you to scroll, tap, and navigate your device using only voice commands.
Other new features include the ability to share YouTube videos or Maps within Google Duo video chats, plus Material You theming support. And of course, Google is offering four months of YouTube Premium with all S22 and Tab S8 purchases.
Google is supposedly working on its own smartwatch, but for now, the company is working with Samsung to improve the Galaxy Watch 4. The company announced some upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 features during Samsung’s Unpacked event, and yeah, these new features rock.
In the coming months, Google will launch Google Assistant for the Galaxy Watch 4. It’s a long-overdue addition. In our review of the Galaxy Watch 4, the lack of Google Assistant was one of our only complaints—nobody should be forced to use Bixby.
And next month, the Google Play Store will offer to bulk-install apps when you set up a Galaxy Watch. The apps that Play Store recommends won’t be random. Instead, they’re based on the apps you already use on your phone.
Google is also expanding YouTube Music support on Wear OS. Galaxy Watch 4 owners can already download content from YouTube Music for offline listening, but they can’t stream songs without a phone. Soon, Google will let Wear OS devices stream YouTube Music over Wi-Fi and LTE.
The newly-strengthened partnership between Google and Samsung is interesting, to say the least. These companies are technically rivals, but they’re now working together to build compelling devices, set new trends, and fortify the Android brand.
We don’t know what Google and Samsung are planning for the future. But leaks indicate some unexpected strategies over the coming years. Notably, Google’s first smartwatch could run on a Samsung-made Exynos chip, rather than a Snapdragon processor or Google’s own Tensor chipset.
And like Google, which worked for years to get Snapdragon chips out of its smartphones, Samsung could soon switch all of its devices to in-house Exynos processors. Since Samsung helped with Tensor development, Google could return the favor by better optimizing its software (including the Android OS) for a future Tensor chipset.
Samsung sells all of its flagship phones with Exynos chipsets in select regions, so naturally, this rumor has floated around for a very long time. But recent moves from Samsung indicate that the company is rushing to ditch Qualcomm hardware. Notably, the new Exynos 2200 features AMD graphics with ray-tracing, something you won’t find in any other mobile chipset.
Also, Samsung really went through leaps and bounds to avoid mentioning Snapdragon during its 2022 Unpacked event. All S22 marketing materials refer to a “4nm chipset,” which is quite odd, as the company usually brags that its phones run on the latest Snapdragon hardware.
You could argue that the average customer doesn’t care about smartphone chips, which may be true. Samsung may simply want to avoid the “some regions get Snapdragon, others get Exynos” conversation, as it’s confusing. (I think that this particular argument is moot, as Samsung spent about five minutes talking about thermal paste during Unpacked.)
Needless to say, we’re excited about the things that Google and Samsung have accomplished through their partnership. We didn’t expect to see a genuinely good Android smartwatch or a custom-made Google processor in 2021, and we hope that Samsung and Google can continue to surprise us in the future.