Google allows users in India to choose the default search engine on Android phones

Google allows users in India to choose the default search engine on Android phones

After failing to get a court order to block an antitrust ruling, Google said on Wednesday it will allow users in India to choose the default search engine on Android-based smartphones.

As part of the major changes the tech giant will make to its platforms and operations in India following the landmark CCI judgment, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will be able to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices. Google is also updating Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants, the company said in its blog.

Last week, the Supreme Court refused a stay on a Competition Commission of India (CCI) order that fined Google Rs 1,337.76 crore for abusing its dominant position in the popular Android operating system, which powers 97 percent of around 60 crore smartphones in India.

The CCI imposed another penalty of Rs 936 million on the US tech giant in a case related to the Play Store guidelines.

“We take our commitment to comply with local laws and regulations in India very seriously. The CCI’s recent directives for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we have informed the CCI how we will comply with their directives.”, Google said in the blog.

The changes include giving original equipment manufacturers or smartphone manufacturers the freedom to license individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices.

“Android users have always been able to customize their devices to suit their preferences,” it said. “Indian users will now have the option to select their default search engine via a selection screen that will soon start appearing when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in India.”

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Google licenses its Android system to smartphone manufacturers, with conditions such as mandatory pre-installation of its own apps. This condition was seen as anti-competitive, but the company claims that such agreements help keep Android free.

In October last year, the CCI had said in its order that licensing of Google’s Play Store “shall not be linked to the requirement of pre-installation of” Google’s search services, Chrome browser, YouTube or other Google applications.

The order asked Google to allow the uninstallation of its apps such as Google Maps and YouTube, which currently cannot be deleted from Android phones once they are pre-installed.

“We are updating the Android compatibility requirements to introduce changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants,” Google said in the blog.

User-choice billing will be available for all apps and games starting next month, it said, adding through user-choice billing, developers can offer users the option to choose an alternative billing system alongside Google Play’s billing system while purchasing in-app digital content.

“Android has always supported installing apps from a variety of sources, including via sideloading, which involves app downloads directly from a developer’s website. We recently made changes to the Android installation flow and auto-update capability for sideloaded apps and app stores while ensuring users understand the the potential security risks,” it says.

Google said it is also expanding its online resources such as support articles and FAQs to provide more details about services provided by Google Play and how and when Google Play service fees apply.

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Google said it has been privileged to play a role in India’s embrace of technology to improve lives in three important ways. These include providing access to affordable devices, building useful and secure products to meet the changing needs of Indian users, and partnering with India’s vibrant developer community to grow and reach a global audience.

“We respectfully continue to appeal certain aspects of 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,” the blog post said.

However, Google said it is making some changes as required by the CCI’s directives. “Implementing these changes across the ecosystem will be a complex process and will require significant work on our end and, in many cases, significant effort from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and developers,” according to Google.

Google said its commitment to Indian users and the country’s digital transformation remains “undaunted”. Through Android, Google has made significant contributions to the mobile ecosystem by providing OEMs with unparalleled choice and flexibility, providing fundamental compatibility for developers that has enabled them to scale their services across devices, and ensuring a safe, secure and reliable platform for users in India and around the world, the blog pointed out.

“This has helped local developers build successful businesses and find global audiences for their apps and games, resulting in a 150 percent increase in time spent by users outside India in 2021 compared to 2019 on Google Play,” the company said.

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Google further said it believes technology can help open up opportunities in core areas of the Indian economy and added “we look forward to continuing to collaborate on this journey”.

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