Google to start charging for Google Play

Isaac Cain
October 18, 2018

What we think of as a commercial "Android" device comes in two parts. In providing Android free to any device maker to use and modify, Google helped make the software available everywhere - in phones, tablets, cars and refrigerators.

Google will sell licenses to Europe-based consumer-electronic companies for a package that includes the Google Play app store, Gmail YouTube and Google Maps.

These changes will be brought into effect from 29 October, the deadline for Google's compliance with the EU's ruling. If an OEM made a decision to do this, Google will charge an additional fee per device because bundling Chrome and Search is a core part of Android's revenue model.

Until now, many manufactures have focused instead on adding their own "skins", which involves making user interface changes to Google's stock version of Android but not deeper alterations to the code that might cause some services to become incompatible. Chrome users were nonetheless alarmed, as this would theoretically make it far easier for Google to link browsing data to individual people. In other words, Google is likely going to incentivize OEMs purchasing the full suite of Google products, probably by offering discounts.

'Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the EEA, ' Lockheimer said. "Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser".

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Progressive Web Apps are a big priority for Google right now, and have also been seen as one of the ways for Microsoft to combat the shortage of apps on its store.

Google has in the past required phone manufacturers to include all the company's apps on Android devices, in order for them to include Play Store. That's right, OEMs now have to pay to access the Google apps, but Google doesn't say how much.

"Android will remain free and open-source". What would be really interesting is a forked device hitting the European Union market.

It has not stated how much the new fees will be or whether consumers should expect a significant rise to device prices as a effect. So forking Android is still really hard, but at least OEMs can try now, and, if they fail, they can still go back to Google.

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