In newly unredacted court documents from the Epic vs. Google case, a previously unknown program has come to light. Google’s “Premier Device Program” offered Android phone-makers an incentive to exclusively use the Play Store instead of third-party options.

Noted on pages 39-42 of the newly unredacted document, Google’s “Premier Device Program” is detailed. The program apparently started in 2019 and was an agreement between Google and the phone-maker over the use of Android and Google Mobile Services (Play Store, etc).

“Premier” devices were restricted to mandate “Google exclusivity and defaults for all key functions.” This includes blocking any app that had the ability to install APKs on the device, i.e., a third-party app store. The benefit of accepting these terms for Android phone makers, though, was boosted revenue from Google. The Search giant already provided 8% of search revenue earned on the device to its partners, but under the “Premier” agreement, that would be boosted to 12%.

Google began offering OEMs the chance to participate in its “Premier Device Program” beginning in 2019. Google’s own documents recognize that the “Premier” tier agreements mandate “Google exclusivity and defaults for all key functions: No apps with APK install rights” on Premier devices,
meaning that the OEM cannot install any apps with the ability to install other apps.

Apparently, Google further sweetened the deal here for some bigger Android partners. The court documents reveal that both LG and Motorola were a part of the Premier Device Program, but that Google has further agreed to share 3-6% of “Play spend,” revenue from the Play Store, to these companies. LG and Motorola apparently committed up to 98% of their devices to the program.

HMD Global, the seller of Nokia devices, is also named as a part of Google’s Premier Device program with a contract that started in December 2019 and continues through November 30, 2022. The brand apparently committed 100% of its devices to the program.

Other names mentioned as a part of Google’s Premier Device Program include Xiaomi, Sony, and Sharp. BBK Electronics and its brands — OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, etc — also participate with up to 70% of devices in the program. This, notably, lines up with a previous report that Google had blocked OnePlus and LG from putting the Epic Games Store on their devices.

Epic Games also points out in the document that this program was not previously publicly known and that a confidentiality agreement within prevented Android partners from discussing it without Google’s “written approval.”

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Ben Schoon

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