Samsung and Google. Google and Samsung… Although some might assume so, I wouldn’t say the two companies are in a “love-hate” relationship. I think it’s more of a ‘you need me, I don’t need you’ sort of an entanglement… But let’s get to it…
Then followed a few rocky years in the Samsung-Google relationship where Google started pushing towards taking full control of its phones with the Pixel, while Samsung struck back by strengthening its relationships with Microsoft (to this day Samsung phones come with pre-installed Microsoft Office apps), and Bixby – the company’s own voice assistant. Samsung also eventually started developing its very own ecosystem of home devices.
Samsung and Google: Mending a broken relationship and partnering up against the competition (but also against each other)
But last year things took a u-turn!
Or in other words, over ten years after Samsung and Google’s first collaborative projects, we got the Pixel 6, and Pixel 6 Pro. And despite the fact that they aren’t “made by Samsung”, the Pixel 6 series of phones feature Tensor – a chipset that Google co-developed with the South Korean company; a Samsung-made primary camera sensor; and Samsung-made displays, amongst other tiny parts that make a phone work.What we have now feels like a brand new chapter in the Samsung-Google story, and it looks like their strategic partnership is only about to get stronger from now on. What I mean is that the upcoming Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, as well as Pixel Watch, and possibly even devices like the Pixel Tablet and foldable Pixel Notepad are all expected to be using Samsung-made chips.
The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will bring the second generation of Tensor (once again, based on an Exynos chip, but with Google’s added ML cores) and as revealed in leaks, the Pixel Watch will use the Exynos 9110 SoC.
Will Samsung’s Exynos chips hold Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch back?
Furthermore, as discussed in my “Pixel 6 and Tensor after 7 months” story, the most remarkable thing about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro has been how the Samsung-made Tensor allowed Pixel to become the smartest phone in the world. That being said, I concluded that I didn’t find that Tensor (in combination with Android 12) managed to make Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro as reliable or as powerful as an iPhone or even a Galaxy flagship, which, of course, are the phones to beat.
Sure, Google made it clear that Tensor isn’t and won’t be chasing CPU and GPU records. However, the current version of Tensor is about 70% less powerful than the latest iPhone and about 15% less capable than the Galaxy S22 Ultra (according to Geekbench). Even worse, we just recently got to take a look at leaked benchmarks from Tensor 2, which indicated that the Pixel 7 Pro will likely lag behind the competition (once again).
All of this leads me to believe that despite the strategic Samsung alliance, there might be better alternatives for Google when it comes to chipsets, but also that a stronger Samoogle partnership might turn out to be rather harmful for Android as a whole. So, let’s talk about it all…
Is it too late for Google to move away from Samsung and can MediaTek be Google’s future chip partner for Pixel 8?
So, to reiterate, Google’s long-awaited original Tensor chip turned out to be not all that original, but also certainly not as powerful or as power-efficient as expected. Despite the fact that Samsung and Google’s first attempt doesn’t seem to have lived up to the expectations, we already know that Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will use another Samsung-transformed Exynos, which will end up being Tensor 2.
The thing is that after seemingly having shut the door to Qualcomm during the launch of Tensor (Google said that Qualcomm’s chips held the Pixel back), moving away from using Samsung as a chip supplier and abandoning the strategic alliance might turn out to be trickier than expected for Google… But there are options and one of them is called… MediaTek!
Now, sure… The Taiwanese chip maker doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to their past processors, but it seems like the times have changed now (more than ever)! MediaTek’s continuous push for improvement seems to finally be paying off…
Today, the company’s Dimensity series of chips deliver performance that’s as stable as the competition’s and often even better, at least according to benchmarks. The company’s latest original processors have been used in a number of phones with great reviews and reputation – and this is probably not something we would’ve been able to say five years ago, but here we are…
Some of the examples include the OnePlus Nord 2, OnePlus Nord 2T, Honor 70 and Honor 70 Pro, and of course, Vivo’s X70 and X80 series of phones, which also happen to dominate the market when it comes to photography (which should appeal to Google). In fact, we’ve even heard rumors of future Samsung flagships, including the upcoming Galaxy S22 FE that might switch to using MediaTek-made chips instead of Samsung’s own Exynos processors.
MediaTek’s Dimensity chips can outperform their Samsung, Qualcomm, and Apple (!) counterparts when it comes to sustained loads
So, let’s talk about performance!
Take the 4nm Dimensity 9000 chip, for example. According to Geekbench, it outperforms the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 by some 15-20% when it comes to raw CPU power, and Antutu says the two chips are on par when it comes to GPU performance. But benchmarks aren’t everything., right?
To conclude the performance part of this section, I simply want to say that I wouldn’t take any of what MediaTek’s managed to achieve lightly! In fact, when you think about it, this is a monumental moment for smartphones and Android in particular! Another chip has managed to finally surpass Apple’s flagship processor when it comes to heavy-duty tasks? Aha.
And if you think things couldn’t get any better, MediaTek just debuted the Dimensity 9000+ (quite literally as I was working on this story). The chip promises more than a 5% boost in CPU performance and more than 10% improvement in the GPU department. This isn’t a new generation chip, but just a minor upgrade to the Dimensity 9000, which as we’ve come to see it’s already extremely capable. So, MediaTek’s future looks… quite bright!
And quickly going back to the Vivo X80 Pro series that I mentioned earlier, this device manages to integrate Vivo’s V1+ in-house image processing chip (for handling immediate image processing tasks), alongside the Dimensity 9000 (the phone also has a Snapdragon version).
The combination of Vivo’s imaging expertise and the Dimensity 9000 allow the X80 Pro to be one of the best phones for taking photos available today. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong if I said that the X80 Pro appears to be the current HDR and ultra-wide-angle camera champ on the market, and it’s not even close (take a look at this story if you want to see a photo comparison).
Interestingly, the Vivo X80 Pro’s primary camera uses what the company calls the GNV sensor. If it sounds familiar, that’s because this is a Vivo-exclusive variant of the Samsung-made GN1 sensor – also found in the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. No getting rid of Samsung, huh?
In the end: The Samsung-Google strategic partnership goes way beyond Tensor, but could this be a threat to Android as a whole?
If I’m going to make the argument for MediaTek’s chips in more Android phones, including the Pixel, I can’t skip to mention that MediaTek’s flagship chips are also believed to be cheaper to get, compared to Qualcomm’s (and possibly Samsung’s). But is it worth the trade-off? That’s the question.
Furthermore, whether it’s because of the significantly improved relationship with Google, Galaxy software updates now arrive much quicker than they used to (which is great). To add to that, Samsung’s also transitioning its Tizen OS smartwatches into WearOS watches. Of course, Google can only win from all that…
Google needs samsung
Remember – Google is a service provider and a data collector in the first place. Quite literally, 99% of Google’s revenue comes from services and the cloud, including Android apps and services and their ability to make use of (our) data to help Google sell more… ads.
So, the fact that Android’s biggest manufacturer is now ready to embrace Google’s apps and services stronger than ever and strengthen their once shaky relationship, is massive for Sundara Pichai & Co and could be the main reason why Google might continue outsourcing hardware from Samsung, even if there are better alternatives out there.
Samsung needs Google
Android apps heavily rely on Google’s core services to work because a large number of developers use Google’s humongous data collection to make them function. For instance, Uber uses data from Google Maps, and WhatsApp uses Google Drive to let you backup your chat history. A ton of banking apps also rely on Google’s core services to work. As you can see, we aren’t talking about simple photo editing apps or games here.
So, both Samsung and Google are currently extremely codependent on each other’s presence, and I’d argue that this is dangerous and might stifle innovation as far as Google’s upcoming flagships are concerned. What if MediaTek really is a better alternative as a Pixel chip supplier but Samsung is a better friend to have?
Google aside, this strategic alliance could turn out to be a threat for Android as a whole. Imagine if Samsung and Google decide that only Samsung phones will ever be able to get 4-5 years of software updates; that the first and only phone that gets an Android update after Pixel is the Galaxy, or that owning a Samsung phone is the only way to get a 4-month YouTube Premium trial for free (which is exactly what’s happening right now).
Anyway, I stay cautiously optimistic, but I’d keep my eye on that Samoogle love story. The smartphone world already has a big fruity monopoly – we don’t need a duopoly too. And, hey… Perhaps Google is planning to go full Apple and make its own processor and ditch Samsung entirely? Who knows…