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Google will test letting Android developers use their own billing systems, starting with Spotify

Google will test letting Android developers use their own billing systems, starting with Spotify


Google is piloting the new model

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is introducing a pilot to let “a small number of participating developers” offer a payment system in addition to Google Play’s. Spotify will be the first and will use both Google Play’s billing system and its own.

“This pilot will help us to increase our understanding of whether and how user choice billing works for users in different countries and for developers of different sizes and categories,” Google’s Sameer Samat said in a blog post. Google plans to share more information about the program in the coming months: “This pilot is still early days and we will have more detail to share in the coming months, but our aim is to have pilot developers live with user choice billing in 2022 in key markets,” Google spokesperson Dan Jackson said in a statement to The Verge.

Samat says the feature builds on its plans to allow additional billing systems in South Korea, which Google made in response to legislation passed in South Korea last year. Apple must also allow third-party payment systems in the country as a result of the legislation, and the company has committed to doing so at some point.

Spotify is calling its partnership with Google a “multiyear agreement”

Spotify is calling its partnership with Google a “multiyear agreement,” and we don’t know how the agreement may affect Google’s fees it takes from purchases made in the Spotify app using the Play billing system.

Apple and Google have come under intense criticism from developers and legislators over the fees they take from purchases on their digital stores and because developers cannot use third-party in-app payment systems.

Spotify has been a vocal critic of Apple’s App Store fees for years, even filing an antitrust complaint over the “Apple tax” against the company in 2019, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the company is the first known partner with Google on this new initiative.

In a blog post, Spotify detailed what users can expect from the new systems when they are available:

Users who’ve downloaded Spotify from the Google Play Store will be presented with a choice to pay with either Spotify’s payment system or with Google Play Billing. For the first time, these two options will live side by side in the app. This will give everyone the freedom to subscribe and make purchases using the payment option of their choice directly in the Spotify app. Spotify will continue to freely communicate with users about our Premium subscription service, promote discounts and promotions, and give listeners on our Free tier the ability to convert to Premium directly in the app. 

Over the coming months, Spotify will work with Google’s product and engineering teams to build this new experience, and we’ll roll out in countries around the world. Working together, the companies will test and learn, jointly exploring product innovations across the Android platform. We anticipate launching the first iteration of User Choice Billing later this year.  

Spotify plans to launch pilots of the system later this year in the markets where you can get a Premium subscription, according to TechCrunch.

Apple has also said that it plans to let dating apps in the Netherlands use alternative payment systems to comply with a ruling from a Dutch regulator, though the regulator has fined Apple repeatedly for, in the regulator’s view, not satisfying the requirements of the order. It’s unclear if Apple intends to allow outside payment systems outside of South Korea or the Netherlands in response to Google’s announcement made Wednesday. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.