Earlier this year, Google announced a pilot that would allow Spotify (and eventually other apps) to bypass the standard Google Play billing on Android in favor of their own payment systems. Crucially, Google still gets a cut of those payments under this new User Choice Billing initiative, but in Spotify’s words, it still represents progress toward greater “platform fairness and expanded payment options.” And now, the streaming music service has begun actually testing User Choice Billing in select markets.
“Going forward, Android users will soon be able to choose how to pay for their Spotify subscription in the way that best suits them,” Spotify wrote in a newsroom post. “Google has taken a bold step to help level the playing field, but this is just the beginning.” You can see an example of the User Choice Billing payment flow in the below GIF.
Google has also shared more details on the User Choice Billing pilot. It’s running in over 35 countries (now including the United States), and dating app Bumble has joined in as the second major app to participate. “We’re working with their teams and we anticipate their users will begin seeing this choice in-app in select countries in the coming months,” Google product manager Paul Feng wrote.
But as we know, Google is still getting a slice of these payments — even if Spotify is processing them. According to Google’s FAQ on the pilot, “when a consumer chooses to use an alternative billing system, the service fee the developer pays will be reduced by 4%.” Spotify will continue to include the option of Google Play billing. Games currently remain ineligible for the program altogether.
The customer tests follow extensive criticism (including from Spotify itself) toward Apple and Google for their billing systems and what some consider unfairly steep commission percentages. Regulations have forced the two mobile platform leaders to loosen their payment structure in some countries, and dating apps have occasionally gotten special treatment. But Google likely hopes that User Choice Billing will be enough to assuage those concerns more broadly over time and ease some of the heat and scrutiny.