India recently ruled that Google couldn’t force device manufacturers to ship a collection of its apps on devices by default as this was anti-competitive. Google is now required to make changes to the way Android is distributed in India to comply with the regulations.
Google needs to allow manufacturers selling Android phones in India to choose whether they want to ship devices with Google apps pre-installed. As India’s leading smartphone vendor, Samsung will get the option as well, but it’s unlikely that the company will remove the apps.
Samsung will keep doing Google a solid
Kuba Wojciechowski, who has a track record of many accurate Google leaks, has dug up information about how Google now plans to proceed in India. Manufacturers will no longer be forced to pre-installed apps like Chrome, Drive, Gmail, YouTube, Google Photos, Meet, and others. Only the Play Store will come pre-installed for obvious reasons.
This change is being implemented through a new Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) written up specifically for India. The MADA requires device manufacturers to meet certain conditions for their Android devices. The MADA for India, called IMADA, joins other regional MADAs for Europe, Turkey, Russia, and Belarus.
IMADA is unique in that it doesn’t even let Google force manufacturers to ship a Google search widget, a separate Google folder with its app, and add the Play Store app at the bottom of the home screen. If a manufacturer wants to add the Google search app, a screen will appear during the setup that lets users choose their preferred search engine. Those who sign the IMADA will be given a bounty by Google for pre-installing its apps and adding them to its home screen.
There is a restriction, though. Manufacturers who choose IMADA will not be to sell the same phones with the exact same software outside India. So they either create different software releases for the phones released in India and other markets or sign Google’s global MADA that requires them to pre-install its apps.
Most device manufacturers will possibly still choose the global MADA as it would be a hassle and an added cost to support different software versions in different markets. Google would prefer that. India is a massive market for Android phones and each phone brings users for its various services.
Samsung could take advantage of the IMADA but it probably won’t. Its relationship with Google has never been as close as it has been in recent years. Google’s top executives regularly share the stage at Samsung’s Unpacked events, most recently during the Galaxy S23 launch earlier this month. Samsung and Google also work closely together on software for foldable phones as well as for Wear OS smartwatches.
So even if fans would prefer having fewer pre-installed apps, particularly on low-end and mid-range phones, it doesn’t seem likely that Samsung would choose the IMADA option, thereby ensuring Google apps come installed on the tens of millions of devices it sells in India every year.
Second element is the reduction of required user-facing apps.
In normal MADA there are currently 11 required apps, as listed below. In IMADA the only required app is the Play Store, but OEMs can decide to preload any combination they want. pic.twitter.com/GI64PXscFu
— Kuba Wojciechowski 🌺 (@Za_Raczke) February 18, 2023