Google is to appeal the record fine of €4.34bn (£3.8bn) it was hit with by the European Commission after a three-year investigation into its Android mobile operating system.
Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, said that Google had ‘cemented the dominance of its search engine, denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits’.
The search giant said in response: ‘Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition. We will appeal the Commission’s decision.’
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Why was Google fined?
Although Android is open-source and any mobile phone manufacturer can tweak or modify it and include it on any device, Google leads development on the platform. Many of the biggest hardware companies put the Google version of Android on their devices, including Samsung, Nokia, HTC, Huawei and Sony, among others.
Device makers that don’t want to pay to license the Google services are free to develop Android in any way they want, but they can’t include the Google apps. The biggest organisation offering its own version of Android is Amazon: its tablets run FireOS, which is a version of Android that doesn’t include Google Play, Chrome and the other Google apps.
The case arose because the Commission alleged that it was anti-competitive of Google to require makers of Android devices to set the Google search engine as the default and pre-install the Chrome browser as a condition of allowing them to install the Google Play app store.
Google denied these allegations, saying in response in 2016 that ‘distributing products like Google Search together with Google Play permits us to offer our entire suite for free – as opposed to, for example, charging upfront licensing fees’.
If you prefer alternatives to either Google Chrome or the Google search engine, it’s fairly straightforward to change them.
How to change your default browser on Android
Chrome comes installed by default on phones using Google Android (which is most of the Android devices used in the UK), but there are many alternative browsers available on the Google Play app store, including the big names familiar to most of us: Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera and the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser.
- To install a new browser, go to the Play Store on your device, choose the browser you want and click Install, just as you would for any app.
- If you decide you want to use a new browser as your default, head to Settings on your phone, and then tap Apps. Scroll down through the list of apps to the browser you’ve just installed, and then tap on it. On the next screen, tap on Set As Default.
Once you’ve done that, any links you tap on will open in your new browser.
How to change your default search engine on Android
You can also change the search engine in any browser on Android, including Chrome.
- The steps will vary slightly depending on the browser, but for Chrome, tap on the three dots in the top right-hand corner and then tap Settings.
- On the next screen, tap Search engine.
- On the next page, Chrome offers you three more search engines in addition to Google: Yahoo!, Bing and Ask Jeeves.
- Tap the one you prefer and you’re all set.
You can’t add any other search engines to Chrome, so if you prefer a more privacy-focused search engine such as DuckDuckGo, you’ll have to install another browser: for example, Firefox for Android offers Google, Bing, Amazon and DuckDuckGo, among others.
The new issue of Which? Computing features a round-up of all the main browsers – click here to find out more and subscribe.