EU ruling could improve your next Android phone


The European Union's competition commissioner has announced it will be charging Google over unfair business practices relating to the Android operating system.

The charges refer to the Google apps that are preloaded on most Android phones, such as Chrome, Gmail and the Search app, raising big question marks as to whether they can be pre-installed at all in the future.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said: "It seems like you are abusing your dominant position by imposing restrictions on Andriod [sic] device makers."

Google quickly responded – and not surprisingly it refutes claims its practices are anti-competitive. Kent Walker, Senior Vice President & General Counsel said: "Android has helped foster a remarkable – and, importantly, sustainable – ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation.

"We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate that Android is good for competition and good for consumers."

12 weeks to go

The accusations suggest Google is forcing Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers – the people who built phones for it) to include services on the phone which it benefits from.

Google has 12 weeks to respond to the charges. It may mean that eventually Google will allow manufacturers to decide what Google services it includes on versions of its phones within Europe.

A blog post from Google further clarifies its position: "Our partner agreements are entirely voluntary – anyone can use Android without Google. Try it – you can download the entire operating system for free, modify it how you want, and build a phone. And major companies like Amazon do just that."

Google claims it isn't breaking any competition laws, as it allows manufacturers to use the Android platform as open source software, and you don't need to include Google services at all.

The European Union doesn't agree, as manufacturers that do decide to include Google services apps then have to include every service, rather than picking and choosing.

It means that Samsung, for example, will have to load on Google Chrome if it wants to use any Google services at all – but Chrome will then compete with Samsung's own web browser.

This is likely to mean some big changes for how Google and Android act within Europe in the next few months – and it may mean your next Android phone won't come with the full Google suite of applications pre-installed.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.