New alternatives to pre-installed Google apps could hurt handset sales, Telecom News, ET Telecom

Smartphone brands are concerned that replacing a Google app with an alternative as a pre-installed app that doesn’t provide a better experience may be impacted mobile phone salesespecially at a time when overall demand is already low, industry executives and analysts said.

However, some added that the recent Competition Commission of India (CCI) verdict opens up the possibility of replacing high hardware costs with lower software costs, which could help lower device prices and bridge the gap between feature phones and smartphones.

Google has made changes to the Android operating system according to the CCI order, so that handset makers to pick and choose the Google apps they want pre-installed in their devices.

The US Major has also now allowed users to choose their default search engine when setting up a new Android device and made changes for partners to build non-compatible or forked variants. Google has further made changes to app side-loading — loading apps without using an app store — by adding automatic updates.

Handset brands are also now evaluating changes to make to their respective agreements with Google in light of the recent changes. “Google has now allowed OEMs (smartphone brands) to choose the Google apps they want. But that could have an impact on device sales,” said Tarun Pathak, research director at Counterpoint Research.

He added that users rely heavily on Google’s apps being tightly integrated into the operating system, which will be difficult for a third-party app to emulate at scale.

“Consumers in India, who make up 97% of the install base or 600 million users, are highly dependent and aware of the Google ecosystem, and any change in the ecosystem will have to be accepted by them,” said Pathak.

A senior executive at one of India’s leading smartphone brands supported Pathak, citing the example of Huawai’s fate.

New alternatives to pre-installed Google apps could hurt handset sales

Google said it takes seriously its commitment to complying with local laws and regulations in India. “The recent Competition Commission of India (CCI) guidelines for Android and Play require us to make significant changes for India, and today we briefed the CCI on how we will comply with their guidelines.”

Focus on consumer choices
Huawei smartphones that lost access to Google apps (following US sanctions against the company in 2019) saw their global market share drop almost immediately when users refused a smartphone without support from the US search giant,” the executive said. “This (Huawei) is a good indicator of how much influence the Google app ecosystem has on Android users.” should be counted while actually being replaced, given that users are “virtually addicted” to the ecosystem built by the US Major.

“From a manufacturing perspective, there’s flexibility now, which is a good thing. But from a consumer perspective, it remains to be seen how they’ll react to any change in the default apps,” said an executive quoted above. He added that monetization opportunities wouldn’t emerge until the experience is extremely good, better than what was offered by the Google apps.

Emails sent to Xiaomi, SamsungVivo, Oppo, Empire elicited a response only when it went to press.