The past couple of years have seen Google under scrutiny for being anti-competitive. Now, a third-party app store by the name of Aptoide is asking Google to “Play Fair” with third-party app stores on Android and open up user choice.

Aptoide is a Portugal-based app store for Android users that recently made headlines for its potential deal with Huawei. The app store has been available to Android users for quite some time, and Aptoide has made it clear over the years that it takes issue with how Google handles parts of Android, even taking part in the EU’s antitrust case which slapped Google with a massive fine.

Now, Aptoide is starting the “Google, Play Fair!” campaign to state its case and also accuse Google of “preventing users” from choosing their own app store.

The obvious reason for this campaign is how Google is actively pushing Aptoide off of devices. About a year ago, Google Play Protect, which covers the vast majority of Android devices, deemed Aptoide as unsafe and started prompting users to uninstall it as well as hiding it on the phone. While that comes down a customer’s choice, such a prompt would have a clear effect on any app’s popularity.

Since Summer 2018, Google Play Protect flags Aptoide as a harmful app, hiding it in users’ Android devices and requesting them to uninstall it. Google Play Protect is Google’s built-in malware protection software for Android, but we believe the way it works damages users’ rights.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Aptoide’s CEO revealed some numbers on how Google has affected the marketplace. Apparently, the company estimates that 15-20% of its user base has disappeared since 2018.

Several studies have pegged Aptoide as a safe marketplace for users, so it’s a bit strange that Google flags the app store as unsafe on Android when others such as the Amazon Appstore aren’t treated the same. It certainly doesn’t help Google’s look of being anti-competitive, especially with the US preparing an antitrust investigation. Google has yet to explain why Aptoide is marked as unsafe. The number of pirated apps is probably a pretty big reason why.

In an effort to let users keep using Aptoide, the company provides steps to get around Google’s notifications. However, these involve completely turning off Google Play Protect. It cannot be stressed enough that that is a bad idea. Even if Aptoide is as safe as the Play Store when it comes to downloading apps, turning off Play Protect is not something users should be doing when their device is open to “unknown source” installations, something Aptoide still requires.

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Ben Schoon

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