Google and Android app developers go head-to-head

Epic Games’ legal battles with Apple and Google over in-app purchases in Fortnite have been going on since August 2020. Over the past few months, other companies have fought back against Google, which has impacted how people can (or can’t) spend money on Android apps.

Google requires all Android apps on the Play Store to use the company’s own Play Billing billing system if an app or game wanted to offer in-app purchases – such as in-game cosmetic items. The Play Billing billing system is available in over 135 countries and supports many different payment methods, but Google takes a small portion of each transaction to cover its running costs. Service fees used to be 30% of each transaction, but last year Google started reducing them to 15% for most apps.

For many years, Google has technically required apps to use the Play Billing billing system instead of other payment methods (for example, the app itself stores your credit card numbers), but the company doesn’t. started enforcing this rule only on June 1, 2022. After that date, apps will no longer be able to process payment details themselves, which could increase profits for developers – everything will have to go through Google.

Why is all this important? Well, some apps and services are changing the way they work on Android to comply with Google’s rules, while others might be kicked out of the Play Store entirely.

Match Group, which owns dating apps Tinder, OkCupid and Match, filed a lawsuit against Google last month over “anti-competitive tactics” over payments. The legal battle is still ongoing, but Google later agreed to keep Tinder and other apps on the Play Store until a deal is reached. Kakao, a popular messaging app in South Korea, has been blocked from updating its Android app until it complies with payment rules – the company finally said on July 14 that it would scrap payments external.

So far, no high-profile apps or games have been pulled from the Play Store due to these new rules, except Fortnite. However, some popular apps have already been updated to comply with the rules. Barnes & Noble and Audible have removed the ability to purchase books through their Android apps, rather than giving Google a cut.

Google is making an exception to the new rules for certain apps, called “User Choice Billing”, but Spotify is the only partner at the moment. Whether you think Google’s position is right or not, the changes have already caused some inconvenience for smartphone owners, and it could get worse over time.

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