Android described as “open source in name only" as Google tightens monopoly grip

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A new antitrust lawsuit against tech giant Google aims to break the illusion of the open-source Android platform. Filed by a coalition of US state attorneys, the lawsuit accuses Google of abusing the Android app platform.

Just like the Epic v Apple court case, the main purpose of the lawsuit is to tackle Google's 30% cut on Android apps in the Play Store. However, the lawsuit claims that Google has acted in an anticompetitive nature, particularly towards rival storefronts.

Android is open source in name only

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One filing, Utah v Google (2021), argues that Android's open-source nature is a smokescreen. While there are forks of the operating system not created by Google, the lawsuit explains that Google's hold over the platform makes the open-source claim disingenuous. After Google's purchase of the platform in 2005, the company has increased their hold on every facet of its future.

The lawsuit reads:

“Android is now “open-source” in name only. The Google-centrified version of the Android OS powers nearly all current Android devices.”

Google's “99%” hold over the platform is described as a “durable monopoly" over what is thought to be an open environment. Despite the company's initial premise to keep the OS an open ecosystem, “Google has not kept its word".

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Google tried to buy out Samsung

In recent years, other storefronts have started to arrive on Android. For starters, Epic Games is highly defendant of their right to have a competitive Epic Games Store on mobile. Furthermore, phone manufacturer Samsung also hold their own storefront that comes preinstalled on Samsung phones.

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Despite the Google Play Store being preinstalled on most Android devices, Google reportedly saw Samsung's store as a competition. In retaliation, Google allegedly attempted to buy Samsung off as well as paying for exclusive apps and games for the Play Store.

The lawsuit states:

“Google understands that dominating the Android App Distribution Market is critical to retaining monopoly profits from app distribution... felt deeply threatened when Samsung began to revamp its own app store... Google saw any nascent competition from the Galaxy Store in Android app distribution as a threat it needed to preemptively squash.”

The lawsuit cites Samsung's Fortnite exclusivity deal and its preinstalled nature on first-party devices as a turning point for Google. Allegedly, Google attempted to pay Samsung to abandon relationships with developers and attempt to stop users from sideloading games outside of the Play Store.

PSX Samsung galaxy store on android
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The Samsung Galaxy Store is steadily building ground, but it's not as deeply integrated as the Google Play Store.

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Should you trust Google?

The full 144-page lawsuit goes into far greater detail on the severity of Google’s anticompetitive practices. While the Android ecosystem may never become quite like the restrictive nature of iOS it certainly seems close.

However, Google’s initial willingness to keep the ecosystem open and free is allegedly causing the company ire. It would seem that the freedom the OS had will make any future stripped freedoms seem even worse.

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