Samsung is believed to be facing challenges with its differentiation plans for its next generation of Android smartphones due to restrictions stemming from a 2014 pact with Google.

The Google and Samsung deal saw the companies cross-licensing patents. However, it was also positioned as a deeper alignment between the two, which included Samsung supporting Google’s products and services.

Samsung may have dabbled in the creation of its own apps and services, but the strategy is far from being an unqualified success. The company also struggled to create a strong ecosystem to support its Tizen device platform, which to date enjoys only limited adoption among Samsung’s own portfolio.

The vendor instead leant on Google’s portfolio, focusing its own business on hardware – a strategy that is not without its drawbacks, particularly as rivals gain ground in this competitive market.

Firstly, it is Google which is largely defining the user experience for Samsung smartphone owners, whose day-to-day interaction with online services is centred on products from the search giant. Secondly, the approach limits Samsung’s ability to differentiate.

It is the latter point which is currently in the spotlight. With the company needing a strong comeback from the Galaxy Note 7 debacle, several reports state Samsung is readying its own virtual assistant technology, having made a recent acquisition to support this work (Viv Labs).

However, the approach conflicts with Google’s own efforts to promote Google Assistant, which the company is positioning front-and-centre as it looks to move to an “AI-first” world. While this is a relatively new product, it may still fall into the scope of the 2014 Samsung deal.

Industry analyst Richard Windsor said the likelihood Google Assistant will be the default “leaves Viv out in the cold”.

Windsor added: “Viv has been demonstrated as a very clever assistant that understands complex multipart questions as well as context but Samsung will be unable to do anything meaningful with this functionality on Android devices.”