Two months ago Google removed every single third party App Store from Google Play. This resulted in an expulsion of notables including 1Mobile, Good e-Reader and Aptoide. Google cited new policies that did not allow any alternative app stores that competed with Play to be valid content and in one fell swoop nixed them all. Not everyone is taking this lying down as Aptoide filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission.
Aptoide is currently based in Portugal and boosts an active userbase of over six million monthly users. Their catalog of apps has reached over 200,000 and they have found their traffic has dramatically decreased now that Google Play has levied the ban hammer. According to Gigaom there are four main points to the Aptoide complaint.
Blocking: A non-compete clause in the Play Store terms and conditions means no fully-functional third-party app store can be found in the Play Store. The app stores that are in there are therefore “nothing more than catalogs” that then steer users to the Play Store mechanisms for downloading the apps they want, Trezentos said. Therefore, Aptoide can only be downloaded to a phone via the service’s mobile web page.
Installation obstacles: The firm claims Google has made it progressively more difficult to install apps from third-party sources. According to Trezentos, Aptoide’s focus groups showed that, in Android 2.1, 80 percent of users could easily find the setting that allows third-party app installation. But that option kept becoming harder to find on the relevant settings page, and after Android 4.0 “only 20 percent” of users could figure out how to find it.
Bundling: Google Mobile Services (GMS), the suite that Google-ifies an Android phone, is strongly coupled with the Play Store. So, for example, an Android-based Amazon Kindle device uses Amazon’s own store and also doesn’t come with Google’s services, while a standard Android phone will come with Google Maps and so on, and must therefore also include the Play Store.
Other Google services: Aptoide claims that Google’s Chrome browser blocked the page for the Aptoide installer on the premise that it was infested with malware. The firm’s attempts to show Google its clean bill of health over the last 4 weeks have allegedly elicited no response. What’s more, Aptoide says Google is making the inclusion of the Play Store mandatory in its search agreements with carriers.
Aptoide chief executive Paulo Trezentos said in a statement “We are only asking the Commission to restore fair competition in the market, so we can compete on our own merits.”
Google already faces antitrust complaints from Nokia, Microsoft, Oracle and more over dozen others about anti competitive behaviour over its use of Android to promote its own apps. They complain that manufacturers of Android smartphones are required to preload Google apps and give them prominent default placement on the phone. Google currently enjoys a 72.2% of the market in Europe and Google Play enjoys the lionshare of the attention.
The Aptoide complaint is considered significant because its stemming from a startup which is in direct competition with Google.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.