Samsung is reported to be equipping its upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship with all manner of technical marvels in its attempt to erase the Note 7 catastrophe from memory. However, Google may throw a wrench into the works by prohibiting Samsung from imbuing the phone with one of its most compelling features – its AI personal assistant.
Reports have suggested that Samsung planned to load the Galaxy S8 with Viv, a smartphone-based digital assistant similar to Apple's Siri and Google Assistant. Because of an ongoing non-compete pact between Samsung and Google, however, Samsung may be forced to exclude Viv from its upcoming flagship as would challenge Google's digital helper.
Viv is amongst the roster of new tech acquired through Samsung's purchase of Viv Labs in October, and is expected to find its way into upcoming Galaxy phones as well as Samsung wearables and home appliances. Integrating the AI into phones was no doubt one of the most appealing prospects for Samsung, as it would enable its phones to compete directly with Siri and Google Assistant.
According to Recode, the restriction forms part of a patent-sharing agreement Samsung signed with Google in 2014. While the pact will allow the two companies to put up a stronger, united front against Apple, it may hinder Samsung's ambitions for independence and its attempts to differentiate itself from the wider Android crowd.
Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, told Recode: "Viv has been demonstrated as a very clever assistant that understands complex multi-part questions as well as context, but Samsung will be unable to do anything meaningful with this functionality on Android devices.
"This leaves Viv out in the cold, and it appears that Samsung aims to use it as part of making search and discovery on the device more intelligent, which is something Google Assistant does not really do."
The Galaxy S8 will no doubt still bring a stellar line-up of features to get excited about. Still, it's a shame that it might not meet Samsung's own lofty ambitions. Particularly given that, by the sounds of it, Viv has something that Google Assistant lacks.
We're unlikely to find out for sure at MWC 2017, where the Galaxy S8 is expected to debut.