The European Union now has not one but two antitrust cases against Google. There's its ongoing concerns with Google search, and now the mobile giant has been hit with a Statement of Objections about the way it handles Android.
The complaints stem from the fact that Google's apps come preloaded on most Android phones and that while manufacturers aren't forced to do this Google takes an all or nothing approach. So if a manufacturer wants any Google apps or services it needs to take them all.
This is a big deal for Google, with the potential to cost it billions of dollars in fines, but it could also be a big deal for hardware manufacturers and users of Android. Here are five ways this could have a major, lasting effect.
1. Google services could become a smaller part of Android
Google could be forced to stop pre-installing apps on phones, which means the network of Google services, from Chrome to Gmail, that we've all become so reliant on could start to feel less essential. Users would have to choose to install them and may be more likely to opt for alternative services.
2. Fewer duplicate apps
With Google separating its apps from Android we may find fewer duplicate apps on phones. No longer would handsets ship with both Chrome and a third party browser, both Gmail and another email app or both Hangouts and another text messaging service.
However you feel about Google's apps this could be a good thing, as it would lead to less bloat on handsets and if you want the Google options you'd still be able to download them.
3. Even more fragmented
Android is already far more fragmented than iOS, with many phones running older versions and manufacturers adding their own UIs to it.
But without the suite of Google apps and services built in it could start to feel even more fragmented, with the selection of pre-loaded apps potentially varying enormously between handsets.
4. More expensive phones
At the moment Android is free for manufacturers to use and Google instead makes its money through revenue from its apps and services.
If manufacturers no longer have to include these apps and services Google may be forced to find other ways to make money, such as charging for a licence to use Android. This in turn could potentially push handset costs up.
5. Google could lose market share
If Android phones become more expensive this could hurt Google's market share, particularly at the low end of the market where buyers are used to being able to get a handset for very little outlay.
At the moment Android has by far the biggest market share and it's unlikely to be overtaken, but it could see a dip. Costs going up could also push manufacturers away from Android and towards alternatives. Ubuntu anyone?
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