New, unrepaired parts of Epic antitrust complaint against Google reveals new information about how far Google has gone to weaken third-party app stores on the Android platform. According to the new text, Google launched the “Premier Device Program” in 2019, which gave Android phone manufacturers a larger share of search revenue than normal. In return, OEMs agreed to ship their devices without pre-installed third-party app stores. In particular, they followed a rule that banned “apps with APK installation rights” without Google’s approval, making the Play Store the only built-in digital marketplace for software.
As Leah Nylen said, Products classified as Premier would receive a 12 percent share of Google search results, compared to the 8 percent they would normally earn. Google further sweetened the deal for companies like LG and Motorola by offering 3-6 percent of what customers used in the Google Play Store on their devices.
“Google’s Premier Device Program was not publicly known nor to Epic until Google recently began producing relevant documents in this lawsuit,” Epic’s attorneys wrote in the complaint. “Google has tried to conceal its most restrictive anti-competitive practices, including by including in the agreements themselves a provision restricting signatories from making” public statements [the] Agreement without the written permission of the other party. ”
The appeal paints the Premier Devices program as an overwhelming success that has only strengthened Play Store’s dominance.
By May 2020, many of the world’s largest and most popular Android manufacturers had agreed on Google Play exclusivity for most of their new Android devices. Motorola and LG committed to almost all of their devices (98 percent and 95 percent, respectively) in the Premier program. The giant Chinese conglomerate BBK – which manufactures and sells a variety of Android devices under its Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus brands, among others – had named about 70 percent of its new devices Premier.
Here is Epic’s detailed information about the Premier firmware:
Other companies, such as Sony (50 percent) and Xiaomi (40 percent), were less committed to the program. Still, Epic claims in its complaint that the program effectively tilted the scale to third-party stores on Android.
Another recent part of the public complaint shows how rare it is for people to leave outside the walls of the Play Store. Epic says a 2017 internal report from Google found that “app installations through non-Google Play channels (including direct downloads and competing app stores) accounted for only 4.4 percent of Android app downloads in the U.S..”