New Google policy could raise the price of Android phones


Android P has a similar swipe-based navigation system as the iPhone X, and it supports screen cutouts.
It's going to cost more to offer Android devices in the EU.
Graphic: Google

Google is being forced to start charging Android device makers a fee to use the software that previously came free with this operating system. It’s possible device makers will pass this cost along to phone buyers.

This only applies in Europe, though, as it’s a result of the EU ruling that Google used anti-competitive business practices. The company was also fined about $5 billion.

One reason Android phones compete so well against the iPhone is their relatively low cost. These devices are so cheap partially because the Android operating system and the bundled applications are free. This summer, the European Commission ruled that strategy to be anti-competitive.

Now that all Android software isn’t free,  only time will tell if device makers will ask consumers to cover the cost of licensing fees. 

Gmail, Google Maps, etc. aren’t free any more

The EU’s main problem with Google isn’t about Android specifically, but with the company’s dominance of search traffic. Android contributes to this, though, as phone makers who want access to Gmail, YouTube, and other related software have to include the Google Search App and the Chrome browser on their devices.

In response to the EU decision, Google will offer phone and tablet makers greater flexibility, and also start charging for its software. “Device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser,” wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google SVP for Platforms & Ecosystems, in a statement.  “We will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.”

There is no word yet on what the fees for this software will be. They are unlikely to be cheap for any company that wants the suite of applications but not the Google Search App.

The Android operating itself will remain free and open source. 

To be clear, this is only happening in the European Economic Area (EEA). In the rest of the world, the Google Search App will still be required on all devices that include the Google mobile application suite.