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Leveling the smartphone playing field

Google feels that Samsung is getting too powerful, while Europe's telecoms operators feel the same way about Google and Apple.

business Updated: Feb 27, 2013 12:46 IST

Google feels that Samsung is getting too powerful, while Europe's telecoms operators feel the same way about Google and Apple.

In an article entitled "Samsung sparks Anxiety at Google," the Wall Street Journal claims that Google is concerned about the levels of success the South Korean handset maker is having with the Android operating system and could be pulling too far ahead of other competing manufacturers. Samsung currently accounts for almost 40 percent of all smartphones sales worldwide and there is a real fear that if the company is to extend its lead any further Samsung could be in a position to start making demands of Google as to the future of Android or, worse still, create a ‘forked' or adapted version of the system (like Amazon did for its Kindle Fire tablets) and head out on its own.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this fear was one of the motivations behind Google's acquisition of Motorola, a decision Android head Andy Rubin reportedly called "a hedge" that could help stopping Samsung from increasing its foothold.

A game-changer with a Google X-Phone?

Google is widely expected to launch its own premium Android handset, the X-Phone, in May which is expected to redress the balance. Developed in partnership with Motorola it is rumored to showcase features and functionality never before seen in a handset.

Meanwhile at the Mobile World Congress, which kicked off on Monday, Europe's leading telecoms operators are having very similar conversations about Google and Apple and have vowed to "break the monopolies" enjoyed by the two technology companies in the global smartphone market. In particular, Vodafone (UK), Telefónica (Spain) and Telecom Italia (Italy) called for a single unified market across Europe to lower operating costs and to strengthen their position when negotiating with manufacturers about handset subsidies. In fact, they claim to have invested more in buying handsets over recent years than in developing their networks. This revelation is one of the reasons why the open source Firefox operating system is being welcomed with open arms by Telefónica in particular.

"This internet is dominated by a small number of players that restrict customers' choice. We support open ecosystems to break monopolies and give greater choice and flexibility to consumers. Firefox represents a way to bring balance back to the sector," said Telefónica chief executive and chairman, César Alierta, according to The Guardian.

Europe's leading network providers also lamented the levels of competition in Europe and called for more consolidation within territories as well as across the continent. And while such a move would lead to economies of scale for the companies, it could be bad news for consumers. Thanks to the levels of competition in the UK, which is served by four different providers, handset prices and data plans are currently among the lowest in all mature mobile markets.