How Google’s Android tweaks might play out

How Google’s Android tweaks might play out

Tech News

In a surprising move, Google said it is going to change some of its policies specifically for India in order to abide by the directives issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Mint examines the changes:

What has Google committed to do?

The key changes include allowing handset makers to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices; providing Indian users with the option to choose their default search engine on Android phones; updating Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes that will allow partners to build non-compatible or ‘forked’ variants of its Android operating system. Google is also extending ‘user choice billing’, piloted since last September, to all users. It means all app developers will be able to use third-party payment methods while distributing apps through Play Store.

Google is to comply with which CCI orders?

The CCI, in two different orders issued in October last year, fined Google 1,337.76 crore and 936 crore respectively—the first for abusing dominance in the Android marketplace through agreements that limit access to its competitors, and the second for abusing dominance with its Play Store policies, which required developers to use Google’s built-in payment systems to sell services and digital items through the Play Store, and pay a commission. Through the two orders, CCI asked Google to allow third party payment systems and change licensing agreements with device makers and developers.

Do the changes comply with the directives of CCI?

Competition lawyers said the changes do comply with CCI’s orders to an extent, but the company has itself said it will continue appealing against some directives. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal is set to hear Google’s appeal soon. Lawyers said this case could go on for over a year, and hence it might be too early to say the changes are permanent.

Are there concerns about these changes?

Concerns include a lack of clarity on how these new changes will be enforced. For instance, while Google has unbundled its own apps from Android, it’s unclear how the company will charge for these services and whether they will be uninstallable. Also, it is not clear how security updates will be delivered to forked versions of Android. Startup founders pointed out that although Google offers third-party payments now, the charges the company levies on the use of third party billing methods is still a concern.

What does this mean for users?

In the EU, an antitrust fine led Google to start putting a “choice screen” on Android phones, allowing users to pick their default search engines and browsers. The same is expected in India. The operating system may also show new warning messages when users install apps from outside Play Store, as Android will now flag malicious apps, even those not downloaded from the default store. Devices from manufacturers with their own mobile operating systems, may also choose to replace some Google apps with their own.

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