Is Android’s app store anti-competitive?

The European Union, which is working on finishing up its investigation of Google’s Search business in Europe, may soon look into Google’s Android app store-related business practices, GigaOm reveals. Portugal’s Aptoide, an alternative Android app source that houses more than 200,000 titles and has more than 6 million active users, met with the European Commissions last week in preparation for its complaint submission.

I am not entirely sympathetic to the complaint here. When I first to install “outside” software, I get a notice that I need to change a setting and then directed to the setting I need to change.

I am, obviously, not the typical customer, but I have three different app stores on my phone (Google’s, Amazon’s, and Samsung’s) with very minor inconvenience. More tellingly, I think I could explain what to do with my father, and I could probably walk Mom through it.

I am quasi-sympathetic to the next complaint, which are the requirements of Google apps being installed. The oddest thing about this is the redundancy in some programs. It’s one thing to have redundancy when you download an alternative application, but it’s weird when it comes with the redundancy. Even there, you can sorta say “Well, Google will have one and Samsung will have one”… except that Google itself often has two. Gallery and Photos, Browser and Chrome, and so on.

But that’s less a question of Google abusing its position and more a question of Google being kind of dumb.

With the exception of Google Maps and Google Search, though, almost all of the apps are pretty easy to ignore.

I know that Android isn’t as open as its advocated claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s still the most open of the three. Without rooting or jailbreaking, I can install apps of almost any type. There is no prohibition on dual functionality. I’m not sure that prohibiting you from installing your own video player would be anti-competitive, but installing their own apps doesn’t seem like too much of an imposition.

More than that, in the US (and I suspect in Europe as well), having access to Google’s apps is one of the main reasons to install Official Android to begin with. Samsung may be the kind of android handset makers, but even they have to make concessions to Google because if Google were to pull out their apps, it would undermine Samsung’s phones. Only Amazon has gone its own way with Google-free Android, and their smartphone was a bust. Google doesn’t leverage the OS to force the installation of their apps. It’s the apps (specifically the Google Play app) that keeps makers using Google’s Android instead of forking their own.

Category: Market

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