No Android Phone Makers don’t Pay Licensing Fees to Google Apps

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 24 Jan 2014

Google has refuted a story that claims the company collects licensing fees from Android phone makers for crucial apps such as Gmail and Maps. The report, published by The Guardian, initially claimed that charges roughly 75 cents per phone that uses Mobile Services. Those services include the Play Store all-bred apps, including Play Music, Hangouts, and Drive. However, The Guardian has since amended its story, removing all references to the supposed licensing costs. Google also told 9to5 that the story was inaccurate. The Guardian still claims that Android isn’t as “free” as many believe, considering the testing costs involved with getting a Mobile Services license. Also, 9to5 noted that device makers could pay licensing fees to the search giant for settlements or other arrangements, but not for those essential apps.

Anxiety over Android OS Strong

It’s a bit of a touchy subject, as it slows down development on apps that are part of the Android Open Source Project.

As Ars Technica pointed out last October, it is gradually replacing these core apps with proprietary versions that are part of Mobile Services. For example, Android’s stock Music app looks the same as in 2010. While it has actively been developing Play Music instead. And while Keyboard continues to get new features such as gesture typing, the open source Android Keyboard has stagnated.

This shift from open source is, in some ways, suitable for users. It means they can update a more significant portion of the Android experience directly through the Play Store. Bypassing hardware makers and wireless carriers often take ages to update their devices. But it also discourages heavily-modified Android devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Since device makers would have to create more core apps from scratch.

If Google started charging license fees for Mobile Services, most device makers would have little choice but to pay. As the Play Store’s extensive catalog makes Android the most viable alternative to Apple’s iPhone. Fortunately, it is doing no such thing.