Even if Google has allowed handset makers to pre-install any app on the devices, preference of its apps is not going to change anytime soon, according to industry executives.
The reasons for the same can be attributed to strong consumer interest for Google apps, lack of awareness of Google apps’ alternatives, trust issues for the alternative apps, and absence of any differentiating features among majority of the alternatives.
Despite the independence in choosing the apps for pre-installing on the devices, these smartphone makers are not going to leave Google apps, given their fear of losing market share to competitors if they provide any other pre-installed apps on the phone which do not suit the consumers.
“Actually, the OEMs (original equipment makers) don’t have the key to decide which apps should go in the phone and which apps should be left. The key is always with the consumers and we have not finalised any thoughts on how we are going to do it,” an executive of a smartphone brand said, adding that consumer interest will be the priority while choosing the apps.
Last week, in compliance with Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) order, Google had introduced some changes to its Android policy in the country, like allowing users to choose their default search engine on Android-based smartphones, giving device makers the liberty to licence individual Google apps for pre-installation on their devices, option for alternative billing system, allowing partners to build forked operating system based on Android, and updates sideloading apps.
The company is yet to comply with certain other directives of CCI such as allowing un-installing of its own apps from the phones, no restrictions on apps to be distributed from its play stores, etc.
When it comes to competition from alternate apps, in the search engine the tech giant has a competition with DuckDuckGo, Microsoft Binge, Yahoo, etc. In its suite of Workspace apps such as Docs, Slides, Sheets etc, it has a strong competition with Microsoft 365 suite, similar solutions by Zoho, among other companies. Similarly, Google’s YouTube competes with apps like DailyMotion, Vimeo, etc. Its Maps competes with a similar product Mappls by Indian technology company MapmyIndia. Besides, its Play Store competes with many other play stores including India’s Indus App Bazaar.
“We may have alternatives but are those alternatives any different than what is being offered by Google. OEMs will have to be careful in choosing the alternative apps as people have been using Google apps for decades now,” said Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst at Techarc. According to Kawoosa, since now OEMs will have to pay Google for licensing its apps, the cost factors which will come up with new commercial arrangement will also be a focus area of OEMs.
“Google ecosystem is deeply integrated. It is expected that OEMs will retain the main Google apps and decouple may be a few apps from Google suite,” said Tarun Pathak, research director at Counterpoint. According to Pathak, a sense of awareness is required to be created among consumers regarding the changes with a strong focus on privacy and security.
Further, Pathak believes that these changes in Android with new set of apps/services might give an indirect advantage to Apple that has been riding on user privacy and data security. Currently, India has about 600 million smartphone devices and out of that 97% run on Android, while the remaining 3% on iOS.
While Google’s strong dominance in the Android market is expected to be strong in times to come, however, a section of experts feel that the regulatory directives will now bring more innovation in the apps space and technology.
“Assuming, if there are no alternatives today, now better alternatives will come up. Yes, in the beginning it will be slow but after a certain point it will pick pace, said Rohan Verma, CEO and executive director at MapmyIndia. “Now, consumers will start evaluating Google on merits,” Verma added. When asked about MapmyIndia’s strategy to pitch Mappls to the smartphone makers, Verma said, “We are exploring all options. First, we want Google to fully comply with the CCI order and let there be a level playing field”.
In its order in October, 2022, CCI had noted that Google abused its dominance in the licensing of operating system for smart mobile devices, app store market for Android smart mobile, general web search services, non-operating system specific mobile web browsers, and online video hosting platforms in the country.