Earlier today a report from The Guardian claimed that Google was charging manufacturers a per device fee to have access to Google Mobile Services (GMS). Android has long been split into two distinct pieces: The Android Open Source Project that allows OEMs to freely use Android on their devices, and the closed Google Mobile Services, which gives access to Google Play services and Google branded apps like Maps and Gmail for manufacturers that agree to various guidelines. While Google has always had certain steps for OEMs to take to get approved for Google Mobile Services, the company confirmed to us that The Guardian’s story is inaccurate.
The earlier report from The Guardian claimed that sources said Google was charging around 75 cents per device or $75k per 100,000 units for a GMS license and that licensing costs varied at Google’s discretion depending on the OEM. 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.
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Google has received some attention over the last year for steadily moving more important APIs and apps into the closed Google Mobile Services project. Some think it’s Google’s way of having control over OEMs and making it harder for companies like Amazon that build Android devices with services competitive to the Google Mobile Services. The idea is by moving more services under the Google Mobile Services banner and away from the Open Source project (the most recent being Calendar), Google can easier lock OEMs, developers, and in the end users to the Google ecosystem. If developers are using Google APIs that are under GMS, for example, their apps will only run on Google approved devices with access to GMS. Or, as another example, if OEMs want to provide access to Google Play, they will also be forced to take all the other apps and services under GMS and comply with other GMS related rules. While some are concerned Google will continue in the direction of moving more under GMS, we at least know now that the earlier report about it charging a licensing fee was inaccurate.