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Google's Play Store will no longer be free to Android phone makers in Europe

Android is in for big policy changes in Europe.
Android is in for big policy changes in Europe.

Image: Getty Images/justin sullivan

Months after being hit with a record-setting $5 billion fine from the EU, Google is making major changes to its policies in Europe.

For the first time in its history, Google will charge Android phone makers that want to sell devices with the Google Play Store and other apps pre-installed. 

Under the new European rules, detailed by Google’s senior vice president of platforms Hiroshi Lockheimer, Android phone makers that want to sell devices with Google services pre-installed in Europe will need to pay a licensing fee to Google. 

This includes the Play Store and other apps (like Gmail and YouTube) but does not include Google Search or Chrome, both of which will remain available to OEMs for free. 

Additionally, Google will, for the first time, allow Android phone makers to ship devices with the Play Store pre-installed even if they are running “forked” versions of Android (custom versions of Android developed independently of Google). These variations of Android have long been popular outside of the U.S., but Google hasn’t typically allowed its services to ship on these “unofficial” variants, with Amazon’s FireOS being a notable exception. 

The changes come after European regulators fined Google more than $5 billion for antitrust violations related to Android. At issue was Google’s practice of requiring Android phone makers to pre-install Google Search, Chrome, and other services on handsets in return for being able to use the Android operating system for free. Regulators said this gave Google an unfair advantage over competitors.

In his statement, Lockheimer emphasized that Google remains committed to keeping Android “free and open source,” despite the new changes, and noted that the company is still appealing the E.U.’s  decision. 

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