Google announced today that it will pay $700 million as a part of a settlement with the U.S. attorney general for a lawsuit over Google Play Store. Along with that, the company has also agreed to take certain measures related to Google Play billing, sideloading and how sideloaded apps are updated.
Here’s a list of changes Google has agreed to implement. All these clauses will be applied from the date when the settlement becomes effective.
Third-party app stores and side-loading
- For at least seven years, Google will support app installs on Android outside of Google Play through different ways, including third-party app stores.
- Google won’t force developers to launch their apps at the same time or earlier on Google Play for at least four years. This also includes not entering an agreement with developers to offer a version with more features on Google Play.
- For four years, Google will let third-party companies use APIs to automatically update apps, use “split features” to have a part of an app downloaded on demand and support a consent mechanism to stop apps from updating while an app is in use.
- Google should also allow preinstalled apps or third-party app stores to maintain “exclusive” rights to update an app unless the user chooses to do it from another source. However, developers can opt out of the functionality of letting users update the app from a different source.
- Currently, Google shows a warning screen when you are trying to install apps from alternative sources. Then users have to tap on the settings button to allow installing apps from other sources. For at least five years, Google will have to combine both these screens into one with the following message: “Your phone currently isn’t configured to install apps from this source. Granting this source permission to install apps could place your phone and data at risk.”
- For at least five years, Google will have to let developers offer alternative billing mechanisms for in-app purchases. Plus, it can’t force developers to offer the best prices through Google Play billing.
- Google can only collect minimal required data from the developer if a consumer chooses another billing option. Plus, the company can’t use this data to compete with the apps.
- Google will have to allow developers to contact users outside of the app — with info collected from outside or inside the app with consent — for promotions related to pricing and billing for at least six years.
- Developers can offer discounts to promote other billing systems and show them in the app. Plus, Google can’t stop them from displaying fees linked with Google Play or Google Play’s billing system.
- For six years, Google will let developers display information about other purchasing options, such as saying “Available on our website for $9.99,” without any link.
- Google can’t enter a deal with phone makers to have Google Play as the exclusive app store on devices to place Google Play on the home screen for at least five years.
- For the same period, device makers won’t have to ask for “consent” from Google to preload a third-party app store.
- For at least four years, Google will have to grant preloaded apps by OEM installer rights.
While these changes look like a lot, they might be small changes for Google. As we found out during the Epic v Google trial, the 4% discount Google offers on user choice billing might not be enough for developers to make a switch to another payment processor if costs exceed the savings. Plus, other app stores need to provide enough incentives and a large audience for developers so they can make more money through these app stores.