According to a new report from The Information, Google is once again changing the terms of its licensing agreements with Android device manufacturers using Google Mobile Services, the program that allows them to offer Google Play services and Google branded apps like Maps and Gmail. Among the changes, Google is reportedly requiring manufacturers to include more Google apps displayed prominently on the device in addition to making Google Search more visible:
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Confidential documents viewed by The Information show Google has been adding requirements for dozens of manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and HTC that want to build devices powered by Android. Among the new requirements for many partners: increasing the number of Google apps that must be pre-installed on the device to as many as 20, placing more Google apps on the home screen or in a prominent icon folder and making Google Search more prominent.
The rest of the report details specific changes in the contracts related to the placement of apps, icons, and Google branding on devices, but the report notes some contracts might only apply to certain companies.
The report also points out that these new changes in the contracts differ from those that were highlighted in a report earlier this year. In January, The Guardian reported that Google started charging manufacturers a new per device fee to have access to Google Mobile Services. Google later debunked the report and told us it does not charge licensing fees for Android’s Google Mobile Services. Other reports surfaced in February claiming additional changes in the licensing agreement not unlike those reported today by The Information.
While Android is technically available for anyone to use through the Android Open Source Project, manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and all others must agree to the terms of the closed Google Mobile Services license in order to offer Google’s own apps and services like the Google Play Store.