Google will start charging Android smartphone makers to use its apps

Google is to start charging Android manufacturers for the right to pre-install its mobile applications in Europe as it seeks to comply with an EU antitrust ruling it is in the process of appealing.

Android is the world’s dominant mobile operating system, accounting for more than 85 per cent of the global smartphone market, but in July this year, the EU concluded the negative aspects of Google’s dominance and its licensing practices were difficult to ignore.

It said the requirement that some manufacturers preinstall Google applications as a condition for licensing the Google Play store, as well as the payments made to other, larger phone makers and operators for pre-installing the Google search app on devices were helping to cement the company’s search leadership.

Google Android

This resulted in the EU issueing a €4.3 billion fine to Google and demanded it ended these practices within 90 days. Google has now filed an appeal against the ruling, continuing to argue that Android helps competition rather than hinder it.

Its new measures will see Android manufacturers build ‘forked’ versions of their devices for European markets while still being able to use Google’s applications.

The second course of action will see Google offer licensing agreements to Android manufacturers for its apps, search app and Chrome browser.

“Device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of platform and ecosystems at Google. 

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source.”

“These new licensing options will come into effect on October 29, 2018, for all new smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA. We’ll be working closely with our Android partners in the coming weeks and months to transition to the new agreements. And of course, we remain deeply committed to continued innovation for the Android ecosystem.”

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.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.