Android, often seen as the much more open and flexible mobile operating system alternative to Apple’s notoriously strict iOS, is now being forced to open up even more, at least in Russia. A lengthy battle between Google and Russian anti-competition watchdog group FAS began two years ago has finally culminated in Google relenting. The company will loosen restrictions on Android’s built-in search engines to allow for Russian competitors a share of the pie.
Android’s heavy reliance on Google services is to be expected, but in 2015 the Russian antitrust group — officially the Federal Antimonopoly Service — ruled that Google was breaking the law by forcing users to lean on Google for search. The ruling was the result of a complaint filed by Yandex, a Russian competitor to Google that runs the largest search engine in the country as well as web mail, news, maps, and other services.
Google’s settlement of the issue comes with the condition that Android will no longer lock down the search engine to Google, and must allow users the ability to change it if they want from within the Chrome web browser. Google will also loosen its exclusivity of the default apps on Android devices sold in Russia, potentially allowing for Yandex and other regional competitors to muscle in and replace the built-in apps with their own versions, depending on user preference. Reuters reports that the agreement will remain valid for at least six year and nine months, and the settlement will still cost Google a whopping $7.85 million in various fines.