A rumor earlier this week claimed that Samsung is considering ditching Google Search as the default search engine for its Galaxy devices. And instead of Google's search engine, Samsung would enable Microsoft's Bing as the default solution. This rumor appears to have sparked a lot of heated debates online as to whether or not Samsung could even make such a move.
And it turns out that nobody truly knows with absolute certainty if and where Samsung might be able to pull this off. There is (or at the very least “was”) this thing called Google MADA (Mobile Application Distribution Agreement), which one Twitter user cited against the rumor that Samsung might switch its search engine.
However, Google's MADA is not that well documented. It is (or was) an agreement with OEMs, and it seems to vary depending on which OEM Google is (or was) dealing with. Some MADA documents signed more than a decade ago in 2011 leaked all the way back in 2014, revealing some strict rules that forced OEMs to always use Google services, like search, as the default ones. These old documents are now used by some to support the idea that it would be impossible for Samsung to switch to a different search provider other than Google. However, the truth in 2023 may not be as straightforward.
Samsung might be able to ditch Google Search in some markets but not others
Although GMS (Google Mobile Services) agreements with OEMs are likely designed to keep Google services at the forefront of the Android mobile experience, there's not a lot of actual publicly-available documentation on MADA. Some use GMS and MADA interchangeably, but as far as we can tell, even “MADA” may be an outdated term replaced in time by GMS agreements.
There's a document from 2009 on a MADA agreement between Google and Motorola archived on a governmental website, and there's also a leaked, confidential PDF titled “Samsung MADA” (direct download via Ben Edelman) signed in 2011, which leaked as it was used in a legal dispute years ago. It reads the following:
In reality, it's been so long since these MADA documents leaked that many things could've changed by now. The relationship between Samsung and Google certainly has. And Android is no longer what it was in 2011. Samsung surely has a bigger influence on Google than it did in 2011, and, come to think of it, the Android landscape would be nearly barren if not for Samsung Galaxy phones.
All that being said, it's not outlandish to argue that those old leaked MADA documents are not a strong foundation to stand on for discrediting the recent rumors that Samsung may be looking for a way out of Google's grasp and may want to use Microsoft Bing as the default search engine on Galaxy devices.
It could be argued that Samsung may have the possibility to use a different search engine as the default one for services such as Samsung Internet and Bixby, but obviously not for the Google Search home screen widget. Furthermore, perhaps Samsung might not have the option to do this in some countries, like the USA, but may be able to switch search engines, as MADA agreements seem to also vary by market (via @MishaalRahman). All in all, the situation in 2023 may not be as black and white as some of those ancient might suggest.