For the first time Google has announced plans to charge European Android phone manufacturers a fee if they want to include a range of Google apps on their handsets.
This means that Android phone makers will now have to pay Google for installing the Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, Maps and Chrome. Up until now they have been considered to be core parts of the Android operating system. But they are now actually redefined as Google services.
Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with other apps helped us to 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.- Google: Google Blog Post
The decision by Google follows this summer’s ruling by the European Commission after it hit Google with a record $5 billion fine for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating systems and hindering their competitors.
At the time Google’s strategy of asking device manufacturers to pre-install a suite of apps was deemed illegal as it unfairly blocked competitors from reaching consumers. Google is, at present, appealing against the fine.
Google is now complying with the new licensing scheme for Android devices which will be launched after 29 October in the European Economic Area, which includes all 28 EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
There will be two types of paid licenses. One with the Play Store and Google apps but excluding the Google search engine and Chrome Browser and a second that includes all.
Commentators have said it looks likely the first license could be more expensive than the second, as Google’s search engine and Chrome Browser generally generate more revenue for the tech giant.
There is a danger that not getting the Play Store app as well as others for free could well have an impact on the price of smartphones if the Android phone manufacturers decide to pass on the new licensing fees to their customers. But at present, no device maker has addressed this and it is still unclear how much Google will charge for the licensing fees.