Google warns Android may not stay free after $5 billion EU fine

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Google just got hit with a record-breaking €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine by the European Union (EU) for anti-competitive practices. However, it might be consumers who suffer the effects of the ruling if CEO Sundar Pichai’s response is any indication.

The issue at hand is the way Android works. The OS is free and open-source, so anyone can make a phone with the software. To earn revenue, Google bundles its own Search and Chrome apps with all these devices. The EU has a problem with this and is asking it to stop forcing manufacturers to include these applications.

Android Not Free Anymore?

The European Commission is also asking it to stop blocking OEMs from creating devices that have forked versions of Android. Google has 90 days to change its practices or face the consequences. This is where Pichai’s letter comes in since he’s implicating that doing so might force it to change Android’s business model from free to paid.

This could have a huge effect on the prices of smartphones. If Google makes manufacturers license Android, this would drive up costs. This, in turn, may result in more expensive devices. Consumers probably wouldn’t be happy about this, but this isn’t a guaranteed conclusion yet.

After all, even if Google does pull Chrome and Google Search as pre-installed apps, brands may still choose to include them. Moreover, both applications are very popular and people might just install them anyway.

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Pichai vigorously defends the current Android ecosystem in his blog post, pointing out that individuals can choose to uninstall any Google app they want and install a rival app in its place. Many phone makers install their own applications, giving users more choice.

Chrome and Search are important drivers of Google’s mobile ad revenue. The company probably doesn’t want anything affecting that, so it’s going to appeal the EU’s verdict. The case will probably drag on over an extended period of time, so you may not have to pay more for your Android phone for some time still.