Samsung has disabled Google local search function in an update to the international version of its flagship Galaxy S3 smartphone, following a patent dispute with Apple.
Once the software is installed the phones no longer search contacts, apps and other on-device material using software developed by Google.
Android Central, which revealed the news, noted that users were not told the update would disable the service.
It follows a similar move in the US.
Apple claims the innovation infringes its patent to a single search interface which it uses in its Siri app to collate results from a range of sources.
Apple had already managed to enforce a brief sales ban on another Samsung handset – the Galaxy Nexus – in the US because of the patent.
Samsung disables Galaxy S3 Google local search function following patent dispute with Apple
That dispute will be considered again by a Washington-based court on 20 August – but whatever the ruling, it would not have applied to the GT-i9300 (S3) model sold in the UK and other places outside the US.
A spokeswoman for Samsung was unable to provide more detail.
“Samsung may be doing this as a precautionary measure to prevent it having to pay damages on devices sold outside the US in case Apple prevails in the States and then pursues a similar suit elsewhere,” said Simon Clark, head of intellectual property at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.
“Generally speaking a multinational company like Apple will have patent protection in all its key countries, and the wording will be very similar in each area. Although patent law can vary across territories it’s quite likely that a ruling in one country will lead to similar decisions in others.”
The move marks the latest development in a long string of lawsuits between the two firms over the technologies and designs of their mobile devices.
Apple was defeated in a London court earlier this month when it tried to have Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets banned in the UK after it failed to convince a judge that the South Korean firm had copied the look of its iPad.
The California-based company was ordered to publish the fact that its competitor had not infringed its registered design on its website and in magazines as a consequence.
However, it was more successful in Germany on Tuesday when an appeals court in Dusseldorf extended a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 across the EU because of a related claim.
The two firms are set to clash again in the US on Monday when a jury will hear patent infringement suits filed by both companies against the other.
According to a court filing posted on the Foss Patents blog, Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in lost profits and royalty fees but is offering a fraction of that amount – half a cent in damages for each handset it has sold that uses its rival’s technologies – to settle Samsung’s countersuit.
Samsung later responded with its own filing, alleging that Apple was trying “to stifle legitimate competition and limit consumer choice to maintain its historically exorbitant profits”.
Customers who pre-ordered new smartphone Samsung Galaxy S3 face weeks of delays in receiving their handsets.
Samsung signalled that it had faced issues in manufacturing blue models of the Galaxy S3.
Vodafone added that it had also been advised of “shipping delays” to the 32GB version of the white version of the handset.
Available devices went on sale in 28 European and Middle Eastern countries earlier.
“Samsung’s Galaxy S3 Pebble Blue version comes with a newly invented blue colour and special hyperglaze material,” said a statement from Samsung.
“In order to meet the highest internal quality standards and to provide the best quality Galaxy S3 to customers, a short supply of [the] Pebble Blue version is expected in some regions in the next two to three weeks.”
Samsung signalled that it had faced issues in manufacturing blue models of the Galaxy S3
Vodafone – which has an exclusive deal to distribute white 32GB models in the UK for four weeks – noted that it might take up to that period for customers to receive the delayed models.
It added that “all customers who have pre-ordered the marble white 16GB version… should expect to receive their new phone on the UK launch date”.
O2, Everything Everywhere and Three also confirmed their customers would be affected by the “shortage of blue” models.
The Android-based phone is expected to prove highly popular. It features a 4.8 inch (12.2 cm) screen, a “natural language user interface” and can track users’ eye movements to ensure the screen does not dim while they are looking at it.
The success of its predecessor, the Galaxy S2, helped Samsung overtake Nokia as the world’s best-selling phone maker, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics.
Reviews have compared the device favorably with Apple’s smaller-screened iPhone.
The Verge declared it a “a technological triumph”, although Engadget suggested that HTC’s One X had a superior user-interface and design.
Samsung has said it expects the S3 to outsell the S2. It is scheduled for release in 145 countries by July.
Samsung has unveiled its Galaxy S3, the handset with a 4.8 inch (12.2 cm) screen, an increase on the 4.3 inch screen of its predecessor.
Samsung described Galaxy S3 as the “best in class” Android-based smartphone on the market.
Analysts say the popularity of the previous Galaxy – the S2 – was a major factor in Samsung overtaking Nokia to become the world’s best-selling mobile phone maker.
The firm said that the new Super AMOLED display was 22% larger than its predecessor, but the actual device was not much wider since it had shrunk the size of the bezel.
The development allows Samsung to boast it has a slightly larger screen than the 4.7 inch dimensions of the HTC One X, the top of the range model from its Taiwanese rival.
Samsung Galaxy S3 is also significantly bigger than the 3.5 inch display of Apple’s iPhone 4S and the 4.3 inch screen of Nokia’s Lumia 900.
It added that a mix of “intelligent camera features” and face recognition technology should offer owners a more natural experience.
For example, it said that the front camera would identify the user’s eyes and would not go dark or lock so long as they were looking at it.
Other features on the S3 include an 8 megapixel camera on the rear, and a 1.9 megapixel front camera for video calls.
Samsung Galaxy S3 will be available from the end of May in Europe
The phone also uses what is described as a “natural language user interface” dubbed S Voice. The South Korean company said it was a major improvement on the voice control features it included on earlier models.
“It is more like a good friend and listens intently and responds effectively to you,” a spokesman said at the launch event in London.
The facility can be used to command the phone to play songs, adjust the volume, send texts or emails and take photographs.
The function is likely to be compared to Apple’s Siri software.
Samsung Galaxy S3 will be available in two colors, pebble blue and marble white, and the firm says that other options will be available at a later date.
One analyst attending the launch event said that the advances Samsung had made should help Google’s Android continue to be the most used smartphone operating system.
“The importance of the Galaxy S3 to Samsung cannot be underestimated,” said Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum.
“The company has built its reputation on producing the <<must-have>> Android smartphone and in the process has become the poster child for the Android platform.
“However, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 not only needs to stand out amongst a plethora of other Android-based smartphones, it will also go head-to-head with the next iteration of Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone.”
Adam Leach added that Apple was not expected to release its new handset until much closer to the end of the year.
Samsung Galaxy S3 will be available from the end of May in Europe. Launches in Asia, the Middle East and Africa will follow.
A 4G version will go on sale in the US and South Korea in the summer.