Google to Fully Open Search Choice Screen in Android to All

Posted on June 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Android with 11 Comments

Google revealed today that it is making major changes to the Search Choice Screen that appears in Android in the European Union.

“We have been in constructive discussions with the European Commission for many years about how to promote even more choice on Android devices, while ensuring that we can continue to invest in, and provide, the Android platform for free for the long term,” Google’s Oliver Bethell writes. “Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the Choice Screen.”

As you may recall, Google was forced to comply with a 2018 EU antitrust ruling that forced it to separate its search functionality from Google Play on Android. The result was a Search Choice Screen that Android customers encounter when setting up a new device that lets them choose the search engine they wish to use by default. (Google was also forced to provide a similar choice screen for web browsers.) Google first outlined these plans in April 2019, but it then pulled a Google by creating an auction by which search providers could compete with each other for placement on this screen by paying Google for the privilege.

With that in mind, today’s changes are both important and overdue. It will make participation in the Search Choice Screen free to all search providers. And it will increase the number of search providers shown on the screen. These changes will go live in September, Google says.

“We have always believed in offering people and businesses choice and competing on the merits of our services,” Bethell continues. “And we know that people choose Google because it’s helpful; not because there are no alternatives. That’s why we will continue to invest in Google Search and Android to make them the most helpful products available, and we appreciate the open dialog with the European Commission on these areas.”

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Google to Fully Open Search Choice Screen in Android to All”

  1. MikeCerm

    I'm not a Google fan, but I kind of don't get the point of changes like these. If you aren't technically inclined enough to change the default search provider in Chrome, and you don't know how to replace the space-wasting Google search box on the home screen, then you're probably not going to know who any of the other providers are, and you're going to choose the one recognizable name: Google. A meaningful antitrust action would be to show the list of 3rd party providers, and leave Google off the list completely.

    • Paul Thurrott

      That's not fair. Google Search should obviously be a choice. It's the choice the vast majority of users will/do choose.
      • MikeCerm

        Yeah, but then the status quo doesn't change. The whole point is that this is supposed to be punitive. Currently, Google is abusing its ill-gotten smartphone OS dominance to funnel people into its search monopoly. How about putting Google under button at the bottom that says, "see more options," make people actually consider some alternatives before choosing Google. How about no "default" search engine at all? I mean, there's no reason to have a search box taking up a whole row on the home screen at all... unless you happen to be a company that runs a search engine. If I want to search for something, I open a browser and search for it there.

        • Paul Thurrott

          It's supposed to restore competition. Realistically, most users, Android or otherwise, will want Google Search, so removing that will only punish the audience this ruling was meant to protect.
          • MikeCerm

            EU trade law is typically more concerned with protecting the ability of smaller EU-based companies to compete with massive global monopolists, and less concerned with harm to actual consumers. US trade law is more concerned with harm to individual consumers. So, in the US, it's it might be okay if Amazon wants to put Barnes and Noble out of business by selling books below cost, subsidized by Amazon's AWS profits, because in the near term it means that consumers can buy cheaper books. In the EU, the European Commission might just tell Amazon, "you cannot sell books below MSRP, because independent booksellers need to make money and don't have massive cloud compute businesses to fall back on."

            • shark47

              I mean this move doesn't help consumers or EU-based companies. The problem here is that companies get so big, they start using one product to push other products and eventually drive competitors out of the market. Every big tech company (Google, Apple, Amazon) does this. Regulators still haven't figured out how to deal with this issue. Any other industry - you'd try to force them to spin one off a part of the business. With tech, the argument is made that you can't spin off individual divisions because of the shared code base etc., so they're left to implement these weird solutions.

              • MikeCerm

                Of course this does nothing, and that's why I suggested what I did -- make it difficult to choose Google. "The tyranny of the default" is what keeps a company like Google on top. So you make something else the default. You show 5 non-Google options, people will probably pick one of those before they think to choose the "show more options" button where they can then choose Google.

            • Paul Thurrott

              Yes, thanks. But the ultimate goal of antitrust is always to protect consumers. One way to do so is to ensure that there is meaningful competition.
  2. winner

    Little risk to Google as most people would choose them for search anyway.

  3. Pbike908

    I guess this is better than nothing, however, as an Android user that has tried both duck duck go and Bing on Android devices it isn't worth it to use anything else than Google search. Bottom, line is one can't use tech without being tracked. The only means of mitigating it is perhaps using a VPN, however, there is no guarantee the VPN isn't tracking you. No one really knows for sure who owns VPN companies. Common sense tells you that some VPNs are compromised by nation states -- some may even be controlled by nation states.

    The EU is butt hurt that no EU companies are major tech powerhouses. Nonetheless, its better than nothing to force Google to offer users a choice. I haven't checked but its only fair that the EU force Apple to offer users a choice in IOS as well.

  4. ben55124

    On the detail drop down for Google do they say "Yes, this is the one you want" ???