Android phones in India might look different with updated licensing terms

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It looks like in the coming months, we will see fewer Google apps on Android devices. It is likely to swing into action in Q2 2023 according to Kuba Wojciechowski who mentioned the incoming change in Android’s licensing terms in a country such as India in this case.

Google signs a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) with OEMs for smartphones that arrive with Android OS onboard. The agreement is called IMADA (adding Indian as the prefix) which makes it mandatory for smartphones to list various Google apps on their devices. 

As of now, Google made it mandatory for smartphones sold in India to have 11 pre-installed apps along with a Google app folder and search bar. With the changes in the licensing terms in the works, OEMs are required to install Google Play Store only while all other apps will become optional if the OEMs want to pre-install it. 

If that’s not all, the Indian smartphone market will see a switch from using Google Search as the default engine to whatever the users might choose. Starting as early as Q2 2023, users will be able to choose their default search engine during the setup process much like their European counterparts.

These changes are a result of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) according to whom, Google was using the MADA to put manufacturers in a state where they should pre-install certain apps on their devices. It included Gmail, YouTube, Play Store, and Search, among others. With the colossal change in the licensing terms, OEMs can simply install Google Play Store and that’s all. 

CCI tagged that Google has been dominating the Android market and with its app taking the predominant position on Android devices, apps from the competition had to undergo a highly-resistive entry barrier giving Google apps an edge.

As per the changes in IMADA in India, smartphones starting as early as Q2 2023 (tentative timeline) will be shipped with Google Play Store as pre-installed apps while others will be optional. It includes the Google Search bar and Google apps folder on the home screen as well. It will ensure fair competition between parties bidding for their position on Android handsets in the country.

To give a context into how big the smartphone market is in India, 152 million units of smartphones were sold in 2022 after reporting a 9% YoY decline. 

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