Google will charge phone makers to access its apps on Android within EU

Search giant has compiled and separated the licensing for Android and its suite of apps to appease EC

Google Apps on phone

Following on from the European Commission's (EC) antitrust ruling, Google has changed the way it licenses its suite of Android apps meaning manufacturers in Europe will have to pay to access them.

For the first time, the tech giant will charge a licensing fee for the Play Store and other Google apps such as Gmail and Google Maps for device makers that wish to them on top of the base Android operating system.

Despite the changes, Google is still appealing against the 3.8 billion levied on it by the European Commission (EC) after it ruled that Android forced phone makers to use Google Search as a default search engine.

Google offers base Android, devoid of Google apps and services, for free as open source software which phone makers can use. 

To get access to the apps many would now consider native to Android, hardware makers need to sign licensing agreements that effectively have them use Google Search as the default search engine and Google Play as the default app store within Android. 

Google offered this all for free as it obtains significant revenues from the Play Store, in particular through the share it takes on the purchase of apps or of purchases within apps.

But come 29 October, and as a result of the EC's fine, Google will separate its apps from its search services and require separate license deals for them both. 

"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, Google's senior VP of platforms and ecosystems.

"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 European Economic Area (EEA)."

As a result, the base version of Android, known as the Android Open Source Project, will be free to access. But getting Google's apps on top of it will require hardware makers to pay a licensing fee. 

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Said fee provides access to Gmail and other Google apps but not Google Search; access to search services will be presented under a separate license. 

This means hardware firms like Samsung could create an Android phone with access to Google apps but use a separate default browser and search engine.  

Such a move means Google effectively aligns its Android licensing with the EC's antitrust rules and was a direct result of the EU's fine levied against Google. 

The EC said its decision to fine Google was designed to allow competing search and browser providers to compete on the merits with Google for pre-installation on Android devices, which should lead to greater choice for consumers. The tech giant has always stated that competing apps can be pre-installed alongside its own.

"It is Google's responsibility to comply with its obligations under the decision," said a spokesperson for the European Commission. "The Commission will closely monitor Google's compliance to ensure that the remedy is effective and respects the decision.

"It is for Google to decide exactly how to comply with the Commission's decision. The decision does not require Google to charge for any of its apps or for the Play Store."

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