Google will let some Android apps keep their own payment systems
Spotify is the first app to use 'User Choice Billing'
The Google Play Store and Apple App Store both officially require developers to use their payment systems for in-app purchases, though the rule isn’t universally enforced. Revenue sharing requirements entered the public spotlight following the companies’ lawsuits with Epic Games, which has simultaneously caused a crackdown on third-party billing and lower rates for Apple and Google’s billing systems. However, Google is now opening the door for some developers to keep their existing payment methods, with Spotify as the first company to sign up.
Google wrote in a blog post, “this pilot will allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option next to Google Play’s billing system and is designed to help us explore ways to offer this choice to users, while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem. This is a significant milestone and the first on any major app store — whether on mobile, desktop, or game consoles.”
Instead of forcing all app developers to use Google Play Billing exclusively (which takes a cut of revenue, usually 15%), Google will apparently allow select partners to use both Play Billing and another billing option. This is less of a new option, and more just publicly stating what Google and Apple have reportedly been doing behind closed doors for years. Court documents from the Epic Games lawsuit claimed Google reduced its revenue cut for Netflix in exchange for keeping Netflix on the Play Store.
Spotify wrote in its own blog post, “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.”
It remains to be seen if third-party billing will eventually be available to smaller developers, or if it will only remain an option for large companies with enough influence to ditch the Google Play Store entirely. Meanwhile, legal pressure on Apple and Google to further reduce revenue sharing is ongoing — at least one bill that would regulate billing in app stores has been proposed in the United States Congress.