Samsung appears to be shifting its focus away from free themes in the Galaxy Themes Store in order to promote paid themes more aggressively, starting with Android 9 Pie, based on changes to the service noted in a system notification seen by AndroidHeadlines. Specifically, the notice seen below informs users that they will be able to use a 'free theme' for 14 days after it is applied once the change takes place. The system will count down that time, sending a total of two notices as the trial winds down – one a day in advance and another ten minutes before the period ends. Alongside the notifications changes, users will also have their free themes reverted to the out-of-the-box standard theme automatically after the allotted time is up. When that happens, Samsung users will also be presented with "recommended" themes to replace their old one.
Background: Samsung is no stranger to changing rules or opening features and opportunities with the apparent purpose of driving its revenue in an upward direction. One example of that can be found in the timed exclusivity that it partnered with Epic Games to deliver at the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. For clarity, that's the extended period following the launch of the developer's long-awaited Fortnite on Android. Following the unveiling, Fortnite effectively became a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 exclusive, being downloadable and playable only on that phablet flagship for around a month. That was followed by a second exclusivity period for some Galaxy S-series devices. It isn't necessarily likely that a huge number of gamers – mobile or otherwise – immediately went out and bought a new Galaxy Note 9 just for that one game. However, combined with other exclusive offers for things like exclusive Fortnite Galaxy skins, its popularity was likely enough to reinforce the purchase decision for some users who may have already been considering a new Galaxy-branded smartphone to some degree. Bearing in mind that smartphones almost never cost a company anywhere near the price they are selling for, the company also tends to go over the top with its other promotional offers during flagship launches. Those are common enough tactics for moving new flagships from store shelves into users' hands but Samsung often takes matters a bit further than other OEMs.
Impact: It's worth noting that the notification refers to the company's Android overlay as 'TouchWiz' rather than the more recently introduced Samsung Galaxy Experience. It isn't immediately clear what that might mean. It could indicate a device model or regional split in who will be affected by the change or have no such implications at all. At the same time, the Korean tech giant has not clarified whether users will be forced to wait through a buffer period or if there are any other changes in place with the update that might make relying solely on free themes more difficult. What is apparent here, however, is that this has more to do with getting users on board with paid themes than anything else. The company's notice explicitly says that the change in rules is being made in support of the designers who "continuously develop high-quality products" that are stable and easy to use. That seems to clearly indicate that the change is being made to ensure that those designers and theme developers are seeing a return for their efforts and investments.