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Google Takes On Apple Over Third-Party App Stores

In a rebuke to Apple, Google has pledged to make it easier for Android customers to use third-party app stores on future devices – but is not relaxing its policy on in-app purchases through its own Play Store.

While Apple’s iOS does not allow third-party app stores at all, the next version of Android will include additional support for app store ecosystems outside the Play Store, said Sameer Samat, Vice President, Product Management at Google.

“We will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place. We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future,” he said.

According to Samat, consumer choice has always been a core tenet of Android, with the platform supporting third-party app stores since the very beginning.

“In fact, most Android devices ship with at least two app stores preinstalled, and consumers are able to install additional app stores. Each store is able to decide its own business model and consumer features.

“This openness means that even if a developer and Google do not agree on business terms the developer can still distribute on the Android platform. This is why Fortnite, for example, is available directly from Epic’s store or from other app stores including Samsung’s Galaxy App store,” he said.

Google is not budging, however, on its policy of charging a service fee for Google Play’s billing system, and is stressing that all developers on Google Play who offer digital goods inside their apps must use that system.

Samat added that, of all developers with apps distributed through Play, only three per cent sold in-app goods over the past year, and of that three per cent, almost all of them already used Play’s billing system.

“We’ve always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods, and pay a service fee from a percentage of the purchase.

“We only collect a service fee if the developer charges users to download their app or they sell in-app digital items, and we think that is fair. Not only does this approach allow us to continuously reinvest in the platform, this business model aligns our success directly with the success of developers,” he said.

Google is giving app developers on Play who don’t already use its billing system a year to integrate it.

Epic Games, developer of Fortnite, is suing both Apple and Google over the service fees charged for in-app purchases through their first-party billing systems.

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