Android phones in India may be launched without pre-installed Google apps

Users are now likely to be able to choose their apps from Playstore

by Team PITCH
Published - February 23, 2023
3 minutes To Read
Android phones in India may be launched without pre-installed Google apps

Days after the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Competition Commission of India (CCI) order against Google India for allegedly misusing its dominant position and unfair trade practices, the search giant has now revised its controversial policy of ensuring android phones come into the market with pre-installed apps developed by Google itself.

Henceforth, Android smartphones in India may not come with the mandatory Google apps like Chrome, G Pay, Gmail and Maps. Instead, users will now be able to choose their apps from Playstore, the only app that will be pre-installed with Android.

“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India seriously. The Competition Commission of India (CCI)’s recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we’ve informed the CCI of how we will be complying with their directives,” the tech major said in a statement.

Google has further said that user choice billing will be available to all apps and games starting next month. Through user choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play’s billing system when purchasing in-app digital content.

In a recent blog post, Google said: “Indian users will now have the option to choose their default search engine via a choice screen that will soon start to appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India.

We’re updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants."

Google is yet to give a timeline for these changes.

The CCI had imposed Rs 1,350-crore penalty on Google in October 2022 for allegedly exploiting its dominant position in Android. It had also told the tech company to remove restrictions on device makers, including those related to the pre-installation of apps and ensuring exclusivity of its search.

The unbundling of the GMS suite of 11 Google apps is one of the directives issued by the regulator. These apps can now be licensed on an “a la carte” basis by phone makers under the new agreement.

The company, however, asserted that Android has always supported the installation of apps from a variety of sources, including via sideloading, which involves app downloads directly from a developer’s website.

Google has reportedly been forced to develop an India-centric Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (iMADA) that is shared with the company’s handset partners in India. The terms of this agreement highlight the changes Google has been ordered to make in India by the CCI.

Penalty row

Although Google India has made changes in the policy, it is yet to pay the penalty imposed by the CCI. The tech giant approached the apex court after NCLAT refused to vacate the CCI order.

On January 20, the SC asked NCLAT to decide on Google's challenge by March 31.

In an earlier statement, Google had said: “We continue to respectfully appeal certain aspects of the CCI’s decisions and will champion our core principles of openness, expanding user choice, providing transparency and maintaining safety and security that have served the interests of the larger ecosystem.”

Interestingly, Google is also setting up an ‘Indian Placement Agreement’, which pays companies to pre-install any of the 11 core Google apps and place them on the home screen by default. The pay outs are not mentioned, though.