Google today announced the expansion of its User Choice Billing pilot, which allows Android app developers to use payment systems other than Google’s. The program will now be available in new markets, including the United States, Brazil and South Africa, and Bumble will now join Spotify as one of the pilot testers. Google also announced that Spotify will start rolling out its implementation of the program starting this week.
The company first announced plans to launch a third-party billing option in March this year, with Spotify as the initial tester.
Since then, the program has continued to expand. Last month, for example, Google invited other non-game developers to apply for the User Choice Billing program in select markets, including India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the European Economic Area (EEA). The company also introduced a similar policy for developers in the EEA region in July, but the new guidelines increased the commission rebate from 3% to 4% for developers who opted in. With today’s expansion, User Choice Billing will be available in 35 countries. worldwide.
Google says it worked with Spotify to help develop the experience and now the music streaming service will start putting the new features into action in supported markets. The experience could still change over time, Google warned, as it’s still only the early days of pilot testing.
Additionally, Bumble has now joined Google in testing user-choice billing in its own app, with plans to roll out the options to users in select countries in the coming months.
Developers interested in adopting User Choice Billing should follow certain UX guidelines set by Google that detail how to implement the feature in their apps. These guidelines currently require developers to display an information screen and a separate billing choice screen. The information screen should only be shown to each user the first time they initiate a purchase, but the billing choice screen should be shown before each purchase, per the rules. There are other requirements for when and how to display screens and how the user interface should appear.
With launch, Spotify users on Android will see a new user interface that lets them choose how they want to pay for their Spotify subscription (see image below). For the first time, the two options – Google Play billing and Spotify billing – will appear side by side. If the user selects Google Play billing, they will be transferred to the regular experience and can track their subscription in the subscription center of the Google Play Store. If the user selects Spotify billing, then they will continue through the payment process and Spotify user experience.
This test will be available in a few markets first, then expand to others over the next few weeks, Spotify says.
“Spotify has publicly advocated for platform fairness and expanded payment options for years. We believe that fair and open platforms enable better, frictionless consumer experiences that also enable developers to ‘imagine, innovate and thrive,’ said a Spotify blog post.
While the terms and conditions offer a 4% reduction in commissions paid to Google when user-choice billing is used, Spotify will not comment on its confidential agreement with Google, but notes that it meets the fairness standards of the company. It’s unclear if the streamer was offered more favorable terms as an early adopter.
The changes follow a period when major app stores from Apple and Google have come under pressure from lawmakers and regulators in global markets to open up their app ecosystems. This includes pushing to give developers the ability to use third-party payment systems and allowing developers to notify customers of alternative payment methods, among other things.
Additionally, some developers have started to sue the app giants directly. In the United States, for example, Fortnite maker Epic Games sued Apple and Google over their alleged monopolistic practices over their restrictions on in-app payments and the right to distribute apps and games directly to end users outside official app stores. Dating app giant Match is also suing Google. (Which makes Google’s choice to invite Bumble into the program all the more interesting!)
Other companies have also lobbied lawmakers for more open app stores, through organizations such as the Coalition for App Fairness, which includes big-name developers like Epic Games, Spotify, Tile and others, including independent developers.
Google and Apple are also under investigation in various markets, with the Justice Department set to file an antitrust complaint against Apple and EU antitrust officials investigating the Play Store.
In a blog post, Google says the goal of its pilot project is “to understand the complexities of supporting User Choice Billing for developers and users in countries around the world while maintaining a safe and positive user experience”. The company has not yet said when it expects the pilot test to end.
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