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  • Google has lost app exclusivity on new phones and will not be able to block apps from other companies being preinstalled.

    Google has lost app exclusivity on new phones and will not be able to block apps from other companies being preinstalled. | Photo: AFP

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The search engine giant buckled under pressure and agreed to be less controlling about what Android phone manufacturers can do in Russia.

Google paid a US$7.8 million fine to Russia's antimonopoly agency, they have agreed to allow phone manufacturers to change the default search engine on devices.

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Google has also lost app exclusivity on new phones and will not be able to block preinstalled apps from other companies.

While Android is an open platform, core parts of the operating system aren’t, including Google’s app store. These conditions had allowed Google to dictate to phone manufacturers that want to build a phone with access to the Play Store's apps. The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service deemed those restrictions an abuse of Google’s dominant market position and for the past two years has been embroiled in a court battle with the company over the terms.

The suit followed a complaint from Yandex, a major Russian search company. Yandex will now be able to reach agreements with phone manufacturers to have its search engine preinstalled on Android phones, which can bolster the company's visibility.

Yandex's Arkady Volozh released a statement after the settlement was awarded, saying, it was “an important day for Russian consumers. Competition breeds innovation,” Volozh wrote. “It’s our desire to participate in a market where users can choose the best services available.”

Google has also agreed to offer a “Chrome widget” that will let Android users in Russia choose any default search engine. Any developer that signs a “commercial agreement” with Google can be included. Yandex was the first to sign up. “We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service, resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

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