Android users can choose from a staggering number of search engines… but only in Europe
Google plans to make a core change to its Android operating system this summer… but only for those living in the UK and mainland Europe. Setting up a new Android device in these countries now offers a choice of 12 separate search engines. Selecting one of these will change the default search engine for everything within the operating system.
Since the European Commission imposed a record $5 billion fine on Google in 2018, the company has been forced to offer Android users a choice of search engines when installing a new device. Previously, Google, which owns and develops Android, used its own hugely influential search engine to handle all voice and text searches in the software.
This was considered anti-competitive. Google agreed to list up to three other carriers as options during the installation process. Rival companies had to enter a sealed bidding process to have the chance to be listed alongside Google as an option for Android tablet and smartphone owners. The European Commission has now intervened again after competitors signaled their doubts about the approach.
According to a statement to TechCrunch, the European Commission confirmed that it has “talked with Google about ways to improve that choice screen to address those concerns”.
The result will be available for all Android smartphones in early September. A redesigned choice screen now includes up to 12 search engines, including DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, Bing and more.
Whichever option you choose, it will be used for all searches from the home screen and in Google’s own Chrome web browser. Of course, other web browsers – available for download from the Google Play Store – such as Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox or others can use their own default search engine. Only Chrome will be forced to use the new system default.
Google rolls out the updated choice screen from September 1, 2021
To be eligible for inclusion in the selection screen, the search engines now only need a free app available in the Play Store. Subject-specific search engines are not eligible for inclusion in the selection screen, Google says. Providers who syndicate their search results from Google will also not appear.
“Following further feedback from the Commission, we are now making some final changes to the selection screen, including making entry free for eligible search engines,” Oliver Bethell, Director, Legal at Google, wrote in a company blog post. “We are also going to increase the number of search engines that are shown on the screen. These changes will take effect on Android devices from September this year.
“We have always believed in giving people and businesses choice and competing on the merits of our services. And we know that people choose Google because it is useful, not because there are no alternatives. That is why we will continue to invest in Google Search and Android to make them the most useful products available, and we appreciate the open dialogue with the European Commission on these areas.”
The changes will affect all new Android devices sold in the UK and the European Economic Area from September 1, 2021. If you’ve already selected a search engine and want to make a change, you’ll need to do a factory reset on your smartphone. (lose all data that has not been backed up to a cloud service) and start the installation process from scratch.
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