What's the Difference Between Samsung and Android Phones? – MUO – MakeUseOf

The world of smartphones can be confusing. If you’re not sure what the difference is between a Samsung and Android phone, we’re here to help.
When it comes time to buy a new smartphone, it's easy to get confused. There are so many smartphones available—different operating systems, manufacturers, variants, specifications, and so on. If you don't keep up to date with technology, how are you meant to know what's what?
One common point of confusion is between Samsung and Android. Often, people ask whether Samsung phones are the same as Android phones. In a way, yes, but the answer is more complex than that.
In this article, we'll help you understand the difference between Samsung and Android devices.
Android is a mobile operating system. It's the system that powers the phone to run apps and manage resources. You're probably familiar with Windows and macOS. These are computer operating systems and work much the same way.
Similar to desktop and laptop computers, which can run a variety of operating systems, so can smartphones. For example, Apple's iPhone exclusively uses iOS. Along with Android, these are the two main operating systems in the smartphone space.
That said, other smartphone operating systems do exist, some of which are defunct and no longer developed. Examples include Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS, and Tizen.
Android doesn't manufacturer smartphones. Instead, manufacturers use the Android operating system to power their phones. They often integrate Google Mobile Services (GMS) alongside this, which provides Google-licensed interfaces and applications like Google Search and Google Chrome.
However, Android and GMS aren't intrinsically linked; a phone could run Android, but use proprietary interfaces and applications.
Google own and develop Android, but the system is free and open-source for other developers to adapt. More on that soon.
We've established that Android is an operating system. How does Samsung fit into this?
Samsung is a global electronics company that produces equipment like monitors, smart home appliances, and TVs. It also manufactures and sells smartphones.
Samsung sells its smartphones under the brand name of Galaxy, which splits out into product lines like Galaxy Z (foldable devices) and Galaxy S (top tier, high-performance devices).
Though Samsung has dabbled with other mobile operating systems, all Samsung Galaxy smartphones use the Android operating system.
Simply put: Android is the operating system, Samsung is the manufacturer.
Samsung is just one manufacturer that uses Android. Others include Sony, Motorola, LG, OnePlus, and Huawei. But while all of these manufacturers use Android on their phones, that doesn't mean the experience is the same on all of them.
This goes back to the open-source nature of Android. The core, unaltered Android experience developed by Google is known as "stock Android". It used to be rare to find a phone that would offer the stock Android experience. Nowadays, it's slightly more common, especially with Google's Pixel phones.
Related: What Is Stock Android? Reasons to Use It on Your Next Phone
However, more often than not, manufacturers will develop their own versions of Android. These can vary from slight reskins (focusing on aesthetics) to deeper functionality changes.
In Samsung's case, it has a software overlay called One UI (formerly called Samsung Experience and TouchWiz). Simply put, One UI layers over Android to tweak the system's design and provide additional features.
One UI makes use of Google Mobile Services and is considered one of the best Android interfaces. In fact, many of Samsung's software innovations have been adopted into the core Android experience.
Android is an evolving operating system. A new version releases every year. For a long time, Android named its versions after sweet treats (Nougat, Oreo, Pie), but now sticks to numerical naming like Android 11 and Android 12.
As Android evolves, so does Samsung's One UI. Generally, a new main version of One UI releases for each major Android upgrade, but One UI does release minor updates within that cycle.
Related: What Version of Android Do I Have? Here's How to Tell
Your Samsung phone won't receive Android or One UI updates indefinitely. Samsung typically supports its devices with these major updates for a few years after release. After that, your phone will only receive critical security updates, though even those will stop eventually.
You also won't receive these updates at the same time as everyone else. It depends on your location and phone carrier.
You should now understand the difference between Android and Samsung. Let's recap:
So, should you buy a Samsung phone that uses Android? That's down to personal preference, though there's a good reason that the majority of Android phones sold are from Samsung. According to Statcounter, Samsung held 26.93% smartphone market share in 2021, second only to Apple.
There are plenty of Samsung phones for every budget; if you can afford it, stretch for the Galaxy S line to benefit from the best hardware, though the Galaxy A line is still decent.
But you might decide that although you like Android, One UI isn't for you. In which case, you should check out other manufacturers. Google's Pixel, with its stock Android experience, might be up your street.
Alternatively, sack Android entirely and go for an iPhone—Apple develops both the hardware and software, with all the quality you'd expect from the company.
Related: iPhone vs. Samsung Phones: Which Is Better?
The Galaxy S series was born in 2010, with the first phone in the series selling over 20 million units. Though Samsung stumbled at the halfway point, the company has pulled the brand back and is never shy to innovate. Curved screens, biometric authentication, or wireless charging—its phones have offered it all.
Next time you're hunting for your next phone, you're now armed with the knowledge to help you decide which will be best for you. Who knows, perhaps it'll be a Samsung phone running on Android.
Joe is a Deputy Editor at MUO. He has a BA (Hons) in Business and over a decade of professional writing and editing experience.
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