When you buy an Android phone, you’d normally expect it to have Gmail, Google Maps, the Play Store, and the rest of Google’s software suite. That may no longer be the case in Turkey, though. Following a dispute with the country’s antitrust regulator, Google has informed its partners that it will most likely stop licensing Google apps for phones in Turkey.
Turkey began the investigation after a complaint from Russian search and mail provider Yandex. Google’s problems in Turkey came to a head in September 2018 when the country issued a 93 million lira ($17.4 million) fine. That’s pocket change for Google, but the monetary penalty wasn’t the issue. Along with the fine, Turkey competition authority ordered Google to allow device makers to include alternative search engines.
Google made changes to the way it licenses Google apps in Turkey, but the country’s regulators decided that it wasn’t sufficient early last month. Google has been working with the competition authority to work out an alternative, but it hasn’t found a solution yet. As such, Google expects that it will have to stop licensing Google apps in the country soon. Turkey has imposed a fine equal to 0.5 percent of the company’s revenue per day until the issues are resolved, but it has 60 days to challenge the ruling.
While Android itself is open source, Google’s revenue-generating apps and services are not. Without a Google license, device makers can’t bundle the Play Store and Google Play Services, leaving users with little choice but to sideload software from third-party repositories. Meanwhile, a company like Yandex could swoop in and offer its services to OEMs that no longer have access to Google’s proprietary software.
The good news is that existing Android phones in the country will continue working and getting updates — Turkey isn’t blocking Google services a la China. Consumers will also be able to import phones from other countries that have Google apps pre-installed.
Google is still in communication with Turkey’s competition regulators, and it hopes to work out a deal. It’s possible Android device makers will be able to delay a few phone launches and then continue as if nothing happened. However, it’s also plausible that Google won’t reach an agreement with the country — in which case, OEMs will have to start launching phones without the Googley bits.