Android, the Google-backed operating system running on most tablets and smart phones around the world, is supposed to be an open platform on which different, competing applications can be run. But that’s not exactly true, says Yandex, Russia’s biggest online search provider.
Yandex is suing Google over the way it handles the apps that are loaded onto Android phones by default.
Google requires Russian smart phone manufacturers to preload the full suite of Google apps onto Android phones before they’re sold, and to set Google – rather than Yandex – as the default search engine. If manufacturers don’t want to install a particular Google app – YouTube, for example – they can’t install any of them. Users can later opt to change their search engine to Yandex or another provider, but the company says Google has an unfair advantage because it’s enabled by default on all Android smart phones.
Last year, Google blocked three Russian smart phone manufacturers from preloading Yandex software on their devices. The three companies, Prestigio, Fly, and Explay, said they weren’t allowed to preload Yandex software on their Android phones before selling them to consumers. Yandex’s contention is that Google’s practices hurt competitors as well as consumers, who are funneled toward Google apps unless they make a conscientious choice to install alternative software. In its lawsuit, Yandex argues that services such as search and e-mail shouldn’t be tied to a phone’s operating system – they should be allowed to compete on their own merits with services from rival companies.
Yandex filed its complaint with the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia, alleging that Google may be violating Russian antitrust law by requiring that its own apps be preloaded on Android device, and by disallowing device manufacturers from preloading software from Yandex and other competitors. About 86 percent of the smart phones in Russia are Android devices.
This sort of complaint is nothing new for Google. In 2014, it faced a lawsuit from consumer rights law firm Hagens Berman, which said that Google was illegally monopolizing the mobile market by requiring that its apps be preloaded on all Android devices. The substance of Hagens Berman’s argument is the same as Yandex’s: that device manufacturers shouldn’t be required to preload the entire suite of Google apps, but should be allowed to choose services from different companies if they want to. The lawsuit, which was filed in a California court, hasn’t been resolved yet.
Google hasn’t responded to Yandex’s complaint yet, but the company is likely to argue that it has kept its promise to maintain Android as an open platform. After all, manufacturers are free not to preload any Google apps on their Android devices – but if they want any of Google’s services enabled by default, they must enable them all.