Google India will soon make a slew of changes as to how it operates its Android mobile operating system and Google Play app store in India. The company was slapped with heavy penalties in October 2022 after India's antitrust watchdog, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), observed Google's dominant position in several areas in the smartphone market. India has a massive Android smartphone market, nearly 97 per cent share, and the latest policy changes may provide relief to Android app developers and give more options to users. Some of the key changes include the user-option to select the default web browser and alternative payment methods for app developers rather than using the Google payment system.
In a press release, Google announced that it is committed to complying with local laws and regulations in India, but the CCI directives will require significant work for implementation. Firstly, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can now license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices. Earlier, Google-developed apps such as YouTube, Meet, and Gmail were pre-installed from the beginning as a part of the Android licensing agreement.
Secondly, Indian users will now have the option to choose their default search engine via a choice screen that will soon start to appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India. This will also provide the option to many customers to explore more search engines in the market, such as Microsoft Bing or privacy-focused DuckDuckGo.
In the release, Google said it is also updating the Android "compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants."
As mentioned, Google says, it will offer more billing choices. With user-choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play's billing system when purchasing in-app digital content. Developers have complained that payments routed through Google's billing system automatically lead to sharing commissions, which reduces app developers' overall revenue.
Lastly, users can continue to sideload apps, meaning download them from different sources other than Google Play. Google says this offers users more options, but also poses a risk of downloading corrupt or malicious apps.
Most of these policy changes should roll out in the next few months, but Google says that it needs to work with several partners. The company highlights, "Implementation of these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work at our end and, in many cases, significant efforts from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers." Google will still need to pay at least a portion of the fines (a total fine of roughly Rs 2,273 crore) imposed by CCI in October 2022.
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