Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

New Google policy could raise the price of Android phones

New Google policy could raise the price of Android phones

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's head of Android, said the company would begin to offer the licenses October 26, but he didn't say what the pricing would be.

Google says it will start charging smartphone makers to pre-install apps like Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps on Android handsets sold in Europe, in response to a record $5 billion European Union antitrust fine. That led to the decision to offer them all for free, including the Play Store itself, but following the EC's ruling Google has now had to offer the apps and services as paid-for options instead. In another major change, per CNBC, Google will also end restrictions on phone makers selling forked versions of Android.

The upshot of all this is that while gadget slingers will be able to ship phones without Google Search and Chrome builtin, they'll have to pay to license Google's other mobile apps - and some will be regarded as non-negotiable by consumers (Gmail, Maps, and Google Play, for example). First, device makers had to include bundle of other official Google apps (Search, Chrome, Translate, Maps, etc.), and they had to agree not to ship unapproved forks (modifications) of the Android OS.

This is all because the European Commission fined the internet advertising giant €4.34bn ($5bn) in mid-July for breaking EU anti-trust laws.

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The European Commission said it is up to Google to decide how to comply with the July ruling and that the regulator will closely monitor the changes.

Since the revenue from including Search and Chrome helped fund development for Android, the exclusion of those two apps means that Google will now be charging a licensing fee for the Google app suite (which includes the Play Store and other Google services that define most Android devices). Google is also going to sell a separate license for Android device makers that want to use Google Search and Chrome but pair those with services from Google competitors. The company has not specified the amount of the licensing fees. It's possible device makers will pass this cost along to phone buyers.

Google has not announced what the fee structure will be, but it will only apply for devices that are intended for sale in the 31 member countries of the European Economic Area.

'Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the EEA, ' Lockheimer said. As well as the penalty, the commission gave Google 90 days to make amends, and those three months are now virtually up, hence these latest concessions.

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