Google could charge some OEMs a measly $.75 per-device-fee for access to Google Play [UPDATE]

Google Play Store

It may come as a surprise to some that while the Android OS is open for the most part, Google’s apps are not, requiring certification in order for OEMs to pre-install them onto their devices. While Gmail and Google Calendar are all apps that would be sorely missed, it’s the Google Play Store and its hundreds of thousands of apps that are the real draw. Without it, manufacturers would be forced to give their users a crippled Android experience.

Android is free — Google services aren’t

While this alone isn’t “news” per se, a report from The Guardian is suggesting that — while you wont find it in any of Google’s accounting — the search giant could be charging some Android OEMs a $.75 per-device-fee to obtain a “Google Mobile Services” license in order to gain access to Google Play. With the millions of Android devices being activated everyday, if you tally up all the pocket change, GMS licensing could bring in Google around $100 million per quarter. This is a drop in the bucket when compared to the $13 billion in revenue Google typically makes every quarter (and barely a fraction of the $15 Microsoft reportedly charges to license out their OS).

The struggle

It’s reported that — despite Google’s hippy open-love vibe — the company doesn’t hand out licenses to just anyone. More than often, this means smaller manufacturers might find themselves left out in the cold. While installing the Play Store without Google’s consent is very much illegal, it’s said that many times smaller OEMs are able to creep past Google’s radar. It’s because of this that many a times it’s left to larger OEMs to do the policing for Google, pressuring retailers to remove illegal non-GMS licensed devices from store shelves whenever they’re found.

Although there aren’t any reports of Google putting the heat on retailers for carrying non-GMS licensed merchandise, you may remember back in 2010 when the low-priced Augen tablet was abruptly pulled from Kmart shelves after the manufacturer “forgot” to remove Google apps from their device. Wonder who could have been behind that?

Is Android really open?

For some, this challenges the belief that Android is as “free and open” a mobile OS as it’s made out to be. We don’t see it that way. It’s as open as it needs to be. Anyone can take the code, do with it as they wilst — no charge. When it comes to the Google Play Store (you know, Google’s primary method for monetizing Android), it only makes sense Google exercise some restraint in who is allowed to have access (and for how much). Thoughts?

UPDATE: Google has denied the claims that they charge any manufacturer a “Google Mobile Services fee.” It’s an entirely possible the fees The Guardian was given were in relation to something else, or could this be an attempt by Google to sweep things under the rug?

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  • Andr3ww

    Am I the only one who thought Google was charging A LOT more than $.75 per device?

    • Go Hawkeyes

      I figured it was more as well.

    • R_Fact

      It is not like Google wrote the apps in the store, except for a few, and frankly, those are not exactly special.

      • Jason Yuen

        Google never claimed that. Unlike Apple, they neither insinuate nor outright say that “they” update and create apps for the play store. Yes Apple has done that as shown when John McCain asked Tim Cook why he must update apps all the time. Tim Cook outright say that “we’re trying to make them better all the time”. Apple filters out apps and selectively decides what goes on the app store, but updating them? No.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/john-mccain-apple_n_3314325.html

    • malcmilli

      plus whatever else they have to pay to microsoft to license patents to mass produce android devices

    • bob

      If I was asked to speculate I would have said $5.

  • Jcastag

    I think that instead of charging for access, they should enforce an agreement that the oem must adhere to certain policies regarding timely updates for Android updates, performance, etc

    • Big_EZ

      Or give them an option. Keep it updated and don’t change these certain, basic, functions and we won’t charge for GMS. Don’t update your devices in a timely manner, and/or fork Android to much and pay the fee. If they did that they would need a contract with the OEM so if they change things after release (that would violate the minimum requirements) or don’t update it the OEM would be legally obligated to pay. That way the end user doesn’t suffer from having GMS pulled, since that is a feature that would essentially break the experience for most if removed.

    • Jason Yuen

      That’s a really Apple thing to do and it’s not right. Right now google play does it right by telling you if an app is compatible with your device or not. Whether you decide to install it is your problem.

  • David

    I am surprised that it is not more as well.

  • Stephen McGann

    So OEM’s are getting an amazing suite of apps for .75$ a phone. That’s a pretty sweet deal

    • jekyll919

      And yet nearly all of them insist on developing their own proprietary, and often inferior, versions of things like Calendar, Gallery, keyboards, etc.

  • lona808

    Only $.75? Where’s my copy?!

    • setspeed

      Erm, on your Android device?

  • Squeak

    Seems like Google would want it on as many devices as possible. People buy apps, music, and video on the play store and Google advertises in the Gmail app now. I don’t think the 75 cents it a big deal or unreasonable, to me it just seems counterintuitive to the android mindset.

  • Corey0928

    So $.75 per omate smart watch that I still haven’t received

  • Brian

    Google Play nor any of the other closed-source Google applications part of AOSP Android.
    This makes perfect sense that they’d remove unlicensed products from shelves.

  • steveb944

    No wonder Amazon decided to make their own market. I wonder how much Amazon charges for theirs out of the box. I ‘think’ I saw a phone/tablet non Amazon manufactured that had their market exclusively, no Play Store.

    • cooldoods

      I don’t think Amazon went with creating their own market because of the Google certification fees. Amazon forked Android and so would be unable to get certification anyway.

    • bob

      What? Amazon didn’t use good play services because they created their own unique marketplace and OS experience. Amazon devices were never meant to be anything but an Amazon experience that happened to be built on an Android foundation.

  • J Cav the Great

    okay so let’s to the math:

    1.5 million activations per day X .75 = $1,125,000 per day…X 365 = $410,625,000 potentially per year in revenue from acces to Play store = NOT BAD at all.

    • maysider

      and Microsoft have 15 millions per day through “patent” intimidating
      so Google should charge them like Microsoft = 10 $

  • Max

    on a somewhat related tangent- I think google and any manufacturers want to, should create some sort of advertising on lockscreen/homescreen type functionality like amazon does. Then reduce phone prices to compensate > and like amazon you can pay the difference of the discount if you want to remove ads. it would give the manufacturers and google another revenue source and further drive down phone costs. with google doing it natively it would also have minimal impact on battery life and data usage.

    • Big_EZ

      I love the idea of ads as a subsidy, but only if it’s optional. I really think you have a good idea there, and there could even be push notification ads (if kept to a minimum). This way if someone wants a top tier device bit can’t afford it they have an option. I really think video games should have an option for ads on the splash screens and loading screens. They could still charge $60 for the ad free version and $30-40 for the ad supported version. With an option to upgrade to ad free. This is kinda scary though, because as an option it isn’t bad, but what if manufacturers make so much based on ads they no longer offer an ad free version.

      • bob

        Video games already have tons of advertising in them and they still get $60±

        • Big_EZ

          Are you talking about inadvertent ads hidden in the game, or the logos of the company’s who made the game and engine? Other than a few games that have hidden ads in the game I’ve never seen ads in my games.

          • AD1980

            Sports games are often jammed pack with them.

          • Big_EZ

            Ah, I don’t really play sports games. Sport games are already a ripoff. They should release a game every 2-3 years when they have some new features, and not just a rooster update and gimmicks. In the off years they should have a rooster update DLC for $15.

          • Joshua McDonald

            EA shooters, too. They conveniently place plenty of billboards in “city” type areas, and actually sell those spaces for ads. I never noticed till a billboard i was using as a reference “the coke billboard” was no longer a coke billboard…

          • Big_EZ

            Those are hidden ads, and don’t really have an affect on game play, just our subconscious. I wish that resulted in cheaper games for us but I can kinda justify why it doesn’t, it doesn’t affect game play. However ads on the splash screen and loading screens would have an affect on how we experience the game, even though it’s minimal.

          • Jason Yuen

            The key difference is that advertising is inherently a huge part of sporting events. You can’t watch any part of a sporting event without seeing an ad. In this case ads would be acceptable in the game as it simply makes the game more authentic and realistic.

          • AD1980

            While I largely agree, there are times when it’s been over the top even for a sports game. Snickers and Madden come to mind. Then again, I’m one of those people for which product placement in television shows completely breaks the immersion.

          • bob

            Nope… I’m talking about real time streaming ads. Sometimes in the form of scrolling at the bottom of the screen or plugs at the beginning of scenarios. Most if not all sports games have them.

      • Jason Yuen

        I would buy a heavily subsidized top tier phone with ads every popping up every minute. Then I would flash another ROM on it. My wallet is happy, I’m happy, regular non flashing customers are not happy, and the OEM is not happy. That’s why they wouldn’t do that.

        • Big_EZ

          Ads every minute would push a some normal consumers to root to remove them. I thinking about an unobtrusive ad on the lock screen and a few ads a day. Like 4, 6, maybe up to 8 max. That’s one every 8, 6, or 4 hours. That’s not unreasonable, and wouldn’t push many normal consumers to root. Of course the one tenth of a percent of us (if we even account for that many) would root and rom, but that wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.

  • Markymarc18

    The Guardian article was demonstrated to be inaccurate, and Google has issued a response denying that it charges OEMs.

    http://9to5google.com/2014/01/23/google-we-do-not-charge-licensing-fees-for-androids-google-mobile-services/

    • antifud

      phandroid isnt’ exactly a fact checking website but it’s not terrible. However, it’s consistently Chavez who posts the pro microsoft anti-google stuff – he quotes regularly from fosspatents as well as makes posts about nokia phones and not the nokia android phones.

      I dont’ think phandroid realizes how far he pulls them down and how far away from phandroid. At this point he’s either a microsoft fanboy or paid by them because I can’t see how posting articles like this reflect on anything objective or even close to it. this isn’t him posting android news for an android site, it’s posting things to make people question google.

      • Kenneth Dunn

        Quoted directly from the article you claim proves this wrong.

        “Google told us that it does not charge licensing fees for Google Mobile Services but didn’t comment further on the situation. It’s possible the licensing fees referenced by The Guardian’s source are related to a settlement or other arrangement with Google, but the company does not charge OEMs specifically for access to Google Mobile Services.”

        Also, how can he be accused of being pro Microsoft when he specifically talks about how much more they charge as an example of what a deal Google’s charges are?

  • filaos

    Android is open source… but Google services are proprietary AND the apps and API used to access them. Every Android device features both open and closed code, even Nexus ones.

  • Dan

    The OS is open, however this clearly points out that an OS with absolutely no apps/programs is a boring, useless device.

    • uniquename72

      If only it were possible to install programs that didn’t ship with the OS …

      • Dan

        By all means, buy that $150 tablet that doesn’t come with a link to Google Play.

  • mlss

    So you just write articles without checking out the facts first?

    • miso_sori

      If you are going to throw an attack like that out there you should at least explain WTF you are talking about.

      • antifud

        read 5 comments below and you’ll see that this is 100% debunked, yet posted anyway. Where’s the correction/acknowledgement from Chris Chavez? Nowhere, because he always has an anti-google slant and is probably paid by microsoft.

        • miso_sori

          This is not an anti-google article nor is it a pro Microsoft article. In the title it says “measly $.75 per-device-fee” that word “measly” is the key word. This is an article showing that google(if they were actually charging $0.75/device) is much more generous than Microsoft who charges $10/device. Also, while it may not be accurate that they charge that fee for licensing it is not clear that they do not charge that fee for something else, straight from that article from 9to5google.com that supposedly debunks this story. To claim that Chris is anti-google and getting paid by Microsoft is asinine. Reading comprehension FTW.

  • piratesmvp04

    I currently use a Coby Kyros MID9742 9.7″ tablet. It comes with Android ICS, but it does not have the Google Play Store or any Google apps. While that limits some of the device’s usefulness, I am able to get 90% of the apps I want from the Amazon App Store and OneMobile Market. So, although workarounds are required, I wouldn’t exactly call it a “crippled” experience. You can still make Android quite useful if you know where to look. And, of course, you can also sideload APKs as a last resort.

    • No_Nickname90

      “Cut my life into pieces… this is my last resort.” *guitar strum*

  • No_Nickname90

    Brave Frontier. Facebook advertised that game to me and I actually like it. I’m playing it right now at work. LoL!!

    That game is pretty cool. It’s a turn-based game. I don’t know if you’d classify it as an RPG since you go through the same levels, though you can play with a huge assortment of characters. It’s a Free-To-Play where you can actually advance without paying. So it’s a great time passer. And when you do moves, they actually do moves and look cool. It’s not some flash or card game.

    This is just what I was looking for.