Google's Android Apps Are No Longer Free for European Smartphone Makers

Google to charge for apps on Android phones in Europe

In response to the record-setting $US5 ($7) billion fine recently levied against Google by the European Union, the search giant is making some changes.

The EU's main problem with Google isn't about Android specifically, but with the company's dominance of search traffic.

A 3D-printed Android mascot Bugdroid is seen in front of a Google logo in this illustration taken July 9, 2017. The last time we saw an MADA document (back in 2014), it had an "anti-fragmentation" clause, which said that any company signing the agreement has to be all-in on Google's Android.

In addition, device manufacturers will now pay an unspecified license fee to have access to Google applications - such as Gmail or YouTube - that will come separately to the dominant Google Search App or the Chrome browser. For years, Google's Android license has been an all-or-nothing deal. The biggie here is the Google Play Store, something we expect many device makers will want to keep on their devices.

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The company's announcement Tuesday came ahead of an October 29 deadline to comply with a European Union antitrust decision, which saw regulators slap the company with a $5 billion fine for bundling its apps in an allegedly anticompetitive manner.

Google's competitors in the search and browser market will hope to benefit from the changes - if they are permanent - while mobile operators will welcome any move to curb the power of online platforms. Android itself will remain free, as will Chrome as it is bundled with the Google Search app, but everything else will be chargeable. In exchange, the hardware companies no longer have to install Google search and the Google Chrome browser, though they can do so for free if they want to.

Another illegal tactic included paying manufacturers to pre-install only Google Search and preventing them from using rival Android systems. As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours. Even a company as big as Microsoft has found it incredibly hard to compete with Google's search engine.

"The big challenge for phone-makers is to try to replicate the success that Apple has had with monetising its devices after they have been bought, which it has done by selling services such as iCloud storage and Apple Music". The app store free-for-all in China means several companies already have experience building a forked Google ecosystem, and it's possible we could see Chinese OEMs like Xiaomi, Huawei, and more launch Google-free devices in the EU.

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