Samsung and Google are teaming up to escalate their war on the iPhone with the Galaxy S20

galaxy s20 vs iphone 11 pro

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

  • Samsung's new Galaxy S20 comes with Google's video-chat app, Duo, baked directly into the phone's calling app.
  • It's a subtle addition, but one that gives both Samsung and Google important advantages in competing against the iPhone.
  • For Samsung, it gives its latest flagship phones a viable alternative to Apple's FaceTime, a feature that Samsung's Galaxy S phones have previously lacked.
  • And putting its video-calling app in the Galaxy S20's phone app by default could help Google gain more traction with Duo, especially after some of its other messaging products have flopped.
  • Bringing its services to third-party phone makers like Samsung could also help Google make its Android software feel more consistent like the iPhone.
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Samsung is undoubtedly Apple's biggest competitor in the smartphone market, and its recently announced Galaxy S20 illustrates how it's teaming up with Google to further compete against the iPhone.

Samsung's Galaxy S20 comes with Google's video-chat service, Duo, integrated directly into its phone app. That may not sound like a big deal, but it gives Samsung's newest phones a feature its previous Galaxy devices have lacked: a true alternative to Apple's FaceTime.

It also gives Google an opportunity to distribute its video-calling app on new devices made by one of the world's biggest phone makers. Such an edge could save the app from flopping like some of Google's other messaging products, while also helping the search giant establish more continuity across the Android software experience.

Of course, Samsung device owners have always had a variety of video-calling apps, like Skype and Facebook Messenger, at their disposal in Google's Play Store. But now on the Galaxy S20 lineup, users will be able to launch a video call through Duo directly from an acquaintance's contact page without having to switch apps. Apple similarly has buttons for launching FaceTime calls located on contact profiles and in the iPhone's dialer.

The Duo integration may not sound like one of the Galaxy S20's most exciting features, especially alongside the Ultra version's flashy 108-megapixel camera. But if Samsung wants to win over Apple devotees, it needs to make sure it at the very least has every feature Apple offers. Adding a viable alternative to FaceTime is one way it can further that effort.

Still, the new integration is probably even more meaningful for Google than it is for Samsung. Although Google is responsible for running the most widely-used smartphone operating system in the world with its Android software, Google's Pixel smartphones make up but a small fraction of the global smartphone market.

Major players like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo dominated the space as of the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the International Data Corporation. Just 28.7% of global shipments came from phone makers outside of those five companies. That leaves little room for relative newcomers to the market like Google, which only launched its first self-branded Pixel phone in 2016, to break ground.

Google may not care all that much about dominating the smartphone market. After all, most of the company's revenue comes from advertising, not hardware sales. But it probably does want to establish more continuity among Android devices and kill the ongoing perception that the Android ecosystem is fragmented, a notion that has long been viewed as one of Android's disadvantages compared to the iPhone.

Making its services more widely-used across non-Pixel phones is one way Google could make the experience feel more consistent across Android devices. However, it will have to be careful with the ways in which it chooses to do so, especially as tech giants are coming under increasing scrutiny over antitrust concerns. Back in 2018, the European Commission fined Google $5 billion for breaching antitrust rules over its requirement that manufacturers pre-install Google Search and Chrome on their phones, for example.

Regardless, Google's Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Chrome apps are already popular among both Android and iOS device users, as App Annie reports that these apps all rank within the iPhone's top 50 free apps. Yet communication and social apps are two areas in which Google has historically struggled.

Google shuttered its intelligent messaging app Allo in 2019 after the app failed to gain the level of traction the search giant had hoped for. It also closed down its Google Plus social network because it had "low usage and engagement," and phased out the classic version of its "Hangouts" chat app for G Suite users last October.

But Google's partnership with Samsung gives Duo distribution on the newest smartphone from one of the most popular mobile device makers in the world, an advantage that could prevent the video-chatting app from meeting the same fate as Allo and Google Plus.

Duo's appearance in the Galaxy S20's phone app may feel like a relatively small new feature. But it still gives Samsung and Google an important piece of leverage to wield against the iPhone that they didn't have before.

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