Google lets Android devs test third-party payment options (unlike Apple)

Google lets Android devs test third-party payment options (unlike Apple)

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Google tests third-party payments on Android
Spotify will be first to offer its own billing method.
Image: Google

Google on Thursday confirmed that it will give “a small number of participating developers” the ability to implement third-party payment methods in their Android apps as part of a pilot program called User Choice Billing.

Spotify, first to take advantage of the change, will offer Google Play’s billing system as well as its own. The move puts even more pressure on Apple, which has been fighting hard to block third-party payment systems on iOS.

Google will allow alternative payment systems

While Apple continues that battle against developers and regulators, its biggest rivals are slowly turning their backs. Microsoft was first to confirm it will implement sweeping changes that allow third-party payments on Windows.

Now Google looks to be eyeing a similar move. Its more relaxed approach is far from being offered to every Android developer yet, but it has at least begun testing new payment rules — and that’s a big step in the right direction.

Google wants to enable ‘user choice’

The test will allow select developers — starting with Spotify — the ability to offer their own payment systems alongside Google’s. Users will be able to choose whether they pay Spotify directly, or use Google Play.

The pilot is “designed to help us explore ways to offer this choice to users, while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem,” said Google’s Sameer Samat. “This is a significant milestone and the first on any major app store — whether on mobile, desktop, or game consoles.”

It’s totally different to Apple’s approach. Even when forced to allow third-party payment options, like in the Netherlands, Apple makes it incredibly difficult for developers to do so. It demands they build new apps that use alternative billing options exclusively. They cannot offer these alongside App Store payments.

And even after all that, Cupertino still demands a 27% cut of the profits.

Spotify billing coming to all

“Over the coming months, Spotify will work with Google’s product and engineering teams to build this new experience, and we’ll roll out in countries around the world,” the music streaming service confirmed on its own blog.

“Working together, the companies will test and learn, jointly exploring product innovations across the Android platform. We anticipate launching the first iteration of User Choice Billing later this year.”

It’s not yet clear when or which Android developers will join the User Choice Billing program in the future. But even in its testing stages, the program will increase the intense criticism Apple is already facing for refusing to work with devs on alternative payment methods and fairer App Store rules.

So far, Cupertino has done everything within its power to block any changes.