Google changes policy: How Android now gives consumers more power?
After being accused of anticompetitive actions by India’s antitrust regulator, Google modified its Android mobile operating system.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined Google $162 million in October of last year for abusing its dominant position in several regions within the Android mobile device ecosystem.
For the longest time, Google was the only entity with the authority to decide how it wanted to run Android in India, the country with the second-largest smartphone market in the world. Even app creators have to follow Google’s guidelines, not just users.
Everything changed this week. Google changed its policies for the Android platform in India on Wednesday after suffering a significant defeat last week while attempting to have an antitrust judgment blocked by the Indian Supreme Court. As New Delhi gradually holds platforms like Google to account for the level of influence they exercise in the IT sector, these significant reforms are the outcome.
Here are four significant changes that Android will bring about in India.
With Android phones, the option to select the default search engine. As they set up a new smartphone, Google will now ask Android users in India to select their search engine.
Android users may now choose a different search engine, but they must look for the option in the settings menu.
When setting up the device, the new option will enable everyone to use the search engine of their choosing, such as Bing or DuckDuckGo. Following a European Commission antitrust ruling, Google made comparable modifications in Europe.
Google had stated at the time that search engines that wanted to be featured had to be eligible to take part in the decision screen.
Google has not yet said if it would allow competing search engines in India, as it did in Europe. Because India lacks Google rivals, this is vital.
Additional assistance for forked operating system variations
A significant shift that could increase competition in the market for mobile operating systems is that smartphone makers will now have the possibility to create certified, forked versions of Android.
This action opens the door for BharOS, a locally made mobile operating system created by a startup supported by the state-owned IIT-Madras, to coexist successfully with Android OS.
Google has already come under fire for limiting Android forks. The South Korean government penalized Google 207.4 billion Won (about $177 million) in 2021 for preventing phone manufacturers from using altered versions of Android.
The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) alleged that Google had entered into anti-fragmentation agreements (AFA) with manufacturers that forbade them from altering the operating system.
Even though Android is an open-source operating system, if a phone manufacturer signs an AFA, it is required to follow Google’s guidelines.
That prevents a company like Samsung from offering a forked version of Android, even if they wanted to do so in smartphone series other than the Galaxy.
Manufacturers of smartphones may now license certain Google applications
Although it doesn’t have much of an impact on customers, Indian phone manufacturers will now be able to individually license Google apps.
That is a significant break from the business’s previous practice of choosing Google Mobile Services, which grants permission for Gmail, Google Maps, and the Google Play store to be installed on smartphones sold in the nation.
Google claims to allow smartphone manufacturers to “license particular Google applications” for pre-installation on their products.
When Xiaomi releases a smartphone, it can choose to include only the Google Search app, which will help keep the price of the device low.
Due to the elimination of the GMS surcharge, businesses may now be able to offer Android handsets for less than Rs 3,000, creating a new market for extremely cheap phones in India.
These new regulations may also entice local players to return to the smartphone market and sell gadgets for incredibly low costs.
Since manufacturers will still pay Google a licensing fee to access its mobile services, Google will continue to profit. Google has nothing to lose because every service it offers is built around its search engine.
Application side loading and third-party billing
On the Android operating system, installing apps from places other than the Google Play Store has always been possible.
However, users will now be able to automatically update sideloaded programs, and independent app shops will be able to do so like that of the Play Store.
Google cautions users, however, that before enabling the function, they must first recognize the security risks of letting third-party sources install updates automatically.
In addition, Google is allowing Indian customers who make in-app purchases to select a payment method other than Google Play, which may be advantageous to the app and game creators who would receive a greater cut of the revenue.
In a test program that was revealed by Google last year, Spotify will be able to use its payment methods for Android instead of the usual Google Play billing, for which Google will still charge a service fee.