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Is Google bullying Android phone manufacturers - and if it is, is that so bad?
Hardware Samsung HTC 3 min read 7 comments

Is Google bullying Android phone manufacturers - and if it is, is that so bad?

Google gives Android to manufacturers for free, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pay in other ways. As you may recall, the European Commission is investigating Google with regards to the demands placed upon device manufacturers in order to use Android. It seems that even when it comes to a request for information from a EC probe, Google isn't exactly fighting fairly.

google hostage new format
Is Google tying the hands of Android OEMs? / © ChameleonsEye/shutterstock/Google/ANDROIDPIT

For phone companies, one of the big selling points of Android is that it’s free - but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a price. “Terrified” manufacturers are keeping quiet about the demands that Google makes on them, which may include a ban on making rival devices and on installing Google application bundles.

That’s what The Register says anyway, reporting that the European Commission’s Director General of Competition is investigating “the all-or-nothing bundling of Google mobile services, exclusivity requirements that may prohibit manufacturers from producing rival, non-Google phones, and details of pressure from Google to delay or cancel these non-Googly devices.” The EC is tired of the silent treatment and is now imposing fines on OEMs that refuse to talk.

As our very own Kris Carlon wrote recently, “If hardware partners want the latest version of Android for their devices, they have to agree to installing a certain number of Google apps… If evidence is found that indicates Google is guilty of forcing hardware partners to install Google apps and services rather than their own services and apps, then Google could be facing a full-blown antitrust investigation”.

ignore no more teaser
Google doesn't want the Android experience to be annoying. / © shutterstock/Guryanov Andrey

Two key questions

There are two key issues here. The first is whether Google really is forcing manufacturers to install its products instead of their own and delay or drop non-Android devices. And the second is: who cares?

The answer to the first one is probably yes. We know Google was concerned about fragmentation, and that it has tried to get manufacturers to deliver as pure an Android experience as possible. We don’t know for sure what tactics it’s been using, but it isn’t hard to imagine Google saying “nice phone business you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if something terrible happened to it.”

The second question - who cares? - really depends on who you are. If you’re an OEM trying to differentiate your smartphones from your rivals, then Google’s apparent lock on what you can and can’t do is a problem. If you’re concerned that Google has too much corporate power, it doesn’t look too good either. But if you’re an ordinary Android user, a lack of fragmentation and the knowledge that you’ll get, say, Google Drive rather than PhoneFirm SuperMagicDrivePlus Lite is surely a good thing rather than a problem - and if you’ve ever fumed at your handset manufacturer’s slow rolling out of Android updates, you might think the less control manufacturers have the better.

What do you think? Is Google breaking its “don’t be evil” pledge here, or is it on the customer’s side?

Source: The Register


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  • Google doesn't care what happens to the OEM's as it wants the phone hardware to be as cheap as possible and this is part of the reason why only Samsung makes any money in the Android camp. Android users may not care until their favorite OEM abandons the phone market. Look at how many make tablets anymore...

  • My1 Oct 1, 2014 Link to comment

    but I dont think that google forbids non android phones from Android manufacturers, I have seen HTC AND Samsung WinPhones, so...

  • I'm surprised more firms don't fork AOSP. It's really just Amazon among the big players, isn't it?

    •   16
      Deactivated Account Oct 1, 2014 Link to comment

      No, all manufacturers fork AOSP since the beginning. That's why you have Samsung's Touchwiz and HTC Sense and all the other variations from other manufacturers, which are also not open source. For example, if I remember correctly, Sony forks the code and adds support to their ATRAC proprietary media format which is not supported by Android and in the Android 2.x days, dealing with some Sony changes to the source code was a nightmare.

  •   16
    Deactivated Account Oct 1, 2014 Link to comment

    Android is free and open source. The Google Experience is not, and both should not be mixed. One thing is being able to ship a phone with Android, another thing is being able to ship a phone with the Play Store and the apps from the whole "Google Experience". That's why some companies have their own store and replacements for Google apps, so that they don't have to pay for the fee of redistributing the Play Store. The first examples that come to my mind are Amazon and probably all Chinese manufacturers. That's the same reason why you have to install the Play Store separately from a CyanogenMod ROM.