Indian Android Users Can Finally Use Alternative Search and Payment Methods

A photo of an Android figurine

Android users in India are about to have a few more choices on their default search engine.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Android users in India will soon have more control over their devices, thanks to a court ruling. From next month, Indian Android users will be able to choose a different billing system when paying for apps and in-app smartphone purchases rather than going by default through the Play Store. Google will also allow Indian users to select a different search engine as their default right when setting up a new device, which could have implications for upcoming EU regulations.

The decision comes after a decision Last week by the Supreme Court of India. The lawsuit began late last year when the Competition Commission of India (ICC) a fine Google $161 million for imposing restrictions on its manufacturing partners. Google attempted to challenge the order, arguing that this kind of practice would be stall the Android ecosystem and that “no other jurisdiction has ever demanded such profound changes”.

Google lost that fight. Indian Android users will now have the option to choose a default search engine from the initial setup screen for smartphones and tablets running Android. And they’ll also be able to select a different billing service for apps and games to bypass Google’s charges, though developers can still offer the option to use Google Play.

Google will also no longer be able to require the installation of its branded applications to grant the license to run the Android operating system. From now on, device makers in India will be able to license “individual Google apps” as they wish for pre-installation rather than having to bundle the whole kit and caboodle together. Google is also updating Android compatibility requirements for its OEM partners to “build unsupported or forked variants.”

Google is still considering appealing “certain aspects of the ICC’s decisions”, although it clearly isn’t too happy about it. Of Blog:

Implementing these changes to the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work on our side and, in many cases, significant effort from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.

India is one of the dominant markets for the Android platform, so it will be interesting to see how users in the country fare with this legislation. Of particular note is how youthe servants go react to being able choose to buy apps and other in-app purchases through the Play Store, where Google takes a 30% discount on every transaction, or through an alternative billing service like JIO silver or Payment— or even Amazon Pay, available in India.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Google has already been in hot water for trying to keep transactions in its Play Store. Remember the Fortnite debacle between Epic Games and Google (and Apple)? Epic sued because Google said allowing the company to sell in-game currency directly through its website violated Play Store app store policy because it meant Google only received not a percentage of the sale.

What’s happening in India could very well be a story of what’s to come for Google with the other antitrust cases it’s juggling. Google is embroiled in a similar battle with the EUwhere he has already been fined 8.24 billion dollars anti-competitive practices. The initial charges accused Google of forcing phone makers to install its Chrome mobile browser and search tools on its devices, even offering financial incentives to put the apps on the phones. And for companies that didn’t comply, Google would have cut off access to the Google Play Store, the app store that powers the entire ecosystem.

The United States Department of Justice is also suing Google’s parent company, Alphabet, for the second time. this week for practices within its digital advertising business, alleging that the company “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad-tech industry” to bolster its monopoly.