Google is ending a controversial practice in Europe where it requires smartphone makers seeking to pre-install Google’s app store to also add other Google apps, such as search and Chrome.
Instead, Google will allow device manufacturers to pre-install the Google Play Store on a stand-alone basis, and offer the option to pre-install Google’s other proprietary apps for an extra, unspecified fee.
The company’s announcement Tuesday came ahead of an Oct. 29 deadline to comply with a European Union antitrust decision, which saw regulators slap the company with a $5 billion fine for bundling its apps in an allegedly anticompetitive manner.
Google is fighting the order but is working to meet its terms, because not doing so by the deadline could risk further penalties.
In making their decision, antitrust officials in Europe had said that Google’s practice of tying the apps together could harm competition by giving Google a built-in advantage over new apps struggling to attract an audience. Regulators said 95 percent of Android users around the world were using their device’s default search engine — Google Search — rather than choosing an alternative.
The result, critics said, has given Google immense staying power and a massive core audience whose personal data Google uses to maintain its dominant position in online advertising.
Google’s solution to the E.U. order puts more distance between its mobile app store, through which millions of Android users may discover and install new apps, and the many sister apps that help sustain Google’s deep relationships with customers.
“We’ll be working closely with our Android partners in the coming weeks and months to transition to the new agreements,” wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of platforms, in a blog post. “And of course, we remain deeply committed to continued innovation for the Android ecosystem.”